As I write this, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final is about to get underway. Aside from the fact that it totally bugs me that people try to put their own spin on The Star Spangled Banner and sing it in a different rhythm so it's hard to sing along, I'm pretty darn excited.
I love hockey.
Good thing considering that we leave early Friday morning for a hockey tournament.
My point here is that to this day, Declan thinks he's going to the NHL. And I'm very glad for that because of something that happened on his first day of Mini Mite hockey. First day.
Picture this. About 35 or 40 kids, 6 and 7 years old. Declan was 6. It was his very first official day of hockey. He'd done all of the learn-to-skate, learn-to-play hockey, intro to hockey, and hockey camps that he'd been eligible to do at this point. This is a kid who, at the age of 3, told us he wanted to learn to skate. And pretty quickly after that, skating became hockey and hockey became playing as goalie.
By the ripe old age of 6, he has already started watching hockey on TV. He has already started playing hockey in the basement (mostly making up his own rules so that his little friends don't actually want to play with him). He makes comments like, "When I play for the Blue Jackets..."
It is beyond sweet.
So it's October 2006 and 6-year-old Declan is one the ice, stick in hand. The kids skate around and warm up. A coach skates to center ice and blows his whistle. All of the kids gather around. The coach gives a little speech. I assume it's some sort of motivational speech, welcome to hockey, yaddah yaddah yaddah. The coach is talking. I see all of the kids raise their hands. More talking. They start doing drills.
I was wrong when I thought the kids were getting a little "welcome to hockey" speech. And I found this out after the practice when I asked Declan what the coach said. There was no, hi, great to have you. Nope, it went something like this:
Coach: "Who here thinks they're going to the NHL?"
Of course, every hand goes up.
Coach: "Well, actually none of you are going to the NHL. There is no one here who is going to the NHL. And because none of you are going to the NHL, we're not here show off or let people be superstars. We're here to learn and have fun."
Now, his words are true, I'll grant him that. Statistically, it's unlikely that a little Mini Mite from a small rural Colorado mountain town will end up in the NHL. And I agree, overall, with his message. Kids need to learn the sport, have fun and not have all of the crazy competitiveness that comes, regardless, with kids' sports.
What I resent and despise is killing a child's dream by saying "You know those dreams you have? Well, they're never coming true." His speech would have been better served being directed at the parents: "Keep your shirt on, your kid isn't going to the NHL."
Anyway, right or wrong, from that second on, I despised that coach. And I still do. I try not to be a person who dwells on stuff for too long, but that has always bugged me.
And I probably should get over it because clearly Declan still has the dream. He still makes comments like, "When I play for the Blue Jackets..." Sometimes he'll say in a horrified voice, "What if I get drafted by the Red Wings?!?!?!" They're the Blue Jackets' archrival, in case you were wondering.
So tonight while I was cooking dinner, a player for one of the teams playing tonight (Vancouver Canucks--Finn's favorite team vs. the Boston Bruins) talked about how Game 7 is the culmination of a lifetime of dreams, the playing out of a fantasy since he was a child. He talked about how as a kid he played hockey in the basement, in the driveway, in the street, or on a pond with his friends and in their games, it was always Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Never Game 3, never Game 6. Game 7 is IT. It is THE DREAM of anyone who has ever played hockey.
Which wouldn't be me, of course, I can't even really skate. But I have heard that Game 7 scenario in my basement more times than I can count--coming up through the air ducts, floating through the house, whether it's spring, summer, winter or fall. Regardless of whether we've been away at hockey, camping or the pool. It is their dream and they replay it over and over and over again.
So I admit I got a tiny tear in my eye when I heard the player talk about what playing in the biggest game of his life tonight meant to him. Maybe a coach told him he'd never be in the NHL one day, and yet, there he is on my TV screen right now, living out his greatest dream.
And so really, is it so wrong to let kids dream big dreams? Do we need to be the ones to say to them, "You know, that's not going to happen, right?" I grew up riding horses and for a long, long time, maybe into high school, I had a dream of going to the Olympics. Now clearly, there came a point in my life where I realized I wasn't going to the Olympics, but I figured that out on my own and it didn't diminish the love I had for riding or my commitment to it. My point is I didn't have some jackass telling me I would never achieve my goals and dreams at any point, let alone when I was 6.
So go chase your dreams--whatever they are--and don't let anyone ever tell you they won't come true. And then look for me in the stands in 2018 or maybe 2022 when I'm watching Declan in the gold medal ice hockey game at the Olympics. Because when he goes, I'm definitely going, too.
Learning from Red Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard.