When it is all said and done, most players who lace up a pair of skates and hit the ice will one day take those skates off without ever playing a college, junior or professional hockey game. Some may not even see the ice for their high school team.
Yet, in the end, none of that matters.
In today’s hockey climate, and maybe it has always been this way, there seems to be a false hope held by many parents of young players who yearn for their kid to be the best, to be elite, to go Division I. And when that doesn’t happen, fingers are pointed and blame is dispersed, and hopes come crashing down.
If we can learn anything from the tragedy that struck the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, it’s that none of that stuff matters.
Sure, we all get caught up in the hype when our kid scores a hat trick or posts a 35-save shutout. “Do we actually have something here?” is a question many parents ask themselves when their young player enjoys individual success.
We get too bent out of shape on wins and losses.
We care too much if our kid gets credit for the second assist.
We yell at referees too much.
We chastise other kids behind their backs because of their abilities or lack thereof.
We point fingers at coaches when we lose and pat the players (and ourselves) on the back when we win.
We blame the association when our kid makes the B team. It must be politics, right?
But the truth is these are all adult problems. We are the ones who are overly involved in every stride, every shot and every score.
And sometimes it takes the impact of a semi to remind us that none of it matters.
While we can learn from the Humboldt tragedy, we can also try and take solace in the fact that those boys and young men were doing exactly what they wanted to be doing. They were with the people they enjoyed being around the most and they were on their way to doing something they loved.
That is what hockey is about – the long rides, the locker room, the early morning practices, the late nights after games, the camaraderie, and all the funny and goofy things that happen along the way.
Sure, every season we are taught to chase that trophy, to do our best to win as much as possible. And that is good. It feels great to hoist that trophy at the end of the year. But trophies gather dust. Memories last forever.
As parents, as coaches, as members of the hockey community, we often get caught up with doing anything to achieve that final result, whether it be a championship or a jump to the next level.
As they say, the end justifies the means.
But it is the means that matters most.
It’s all about the journey.
Those Humboldt players were on their own journey. And now their journey can provide us with a valuable lesson – to make sure our kids enjoy the moment, celebrate their teammates and embrace the atmosphere that this great sport offers.
And when the day comes when they take off their skates for the last time, ask them one question: Did you have fun?
Because in the end, that is all that matters.