The Blue Jersey This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

March 21, 2008
Sweating from head to toe, I nervously made my way toward the bulletin board. From a distance, I noticed some boys in the front groaning and others jumping for joy. As I moved closer, I saw a tall boy turn from the list of names, clearly disappointed. He had hoped to make the A team as a defenseman.

Edging through the crowd, I could see some names. I closed my eyes and then took a second look. I read the last name again and again before I was finally convinced that I had made the A team. I returned home that day with a black hockey jersey.

That night, my mom cooked a big dinner. Everyone was delighted by the great food prepared in my honor. At midnight I was still not sleepy. When I finally fell asleep, I had the best dreams ever.

Then the day I had been waiting for finally arrived: the first game of the season. I was so excited. I would play center in the scoring line. The pressure on me to score was high, but I was not worried.

The first period started, and right from the face off, I burst out and decked all three forwards. My wingers were fast and it was three against two. We created a great play and I took the shot: it was wide. The play continued, but all I heard was the sound of the puck deflecting off the post. Then the opposing goalie made a save and our attack was over. For the whole period, I expended energy skating, decking with my stick, and shooting repeatedly, but the shots were all too high, too wide, or too weak.

We did not score during the second period either.

My wingers were dead tired by the end of the game. Although I tried my best, it was hard to get past the big body checks from the defensemen. In the last minute of the game, I skated wide and decked everyone, including the goalie, but then I missed the wide open net! The game ended with a score of 0-4 in the other team’s favor.

My coach was disappointed in my weak performance, and made it clear that he expected more from me in the next game. I was frustrated.

For our second game, I had different wingers and we worked well together. And as in the first game, I fired many shots, which were all easily saved by the goalie. One of my wingers scored the first goal with his strong wrist shot. Other players on my team scored during the second period. I had the most shots but none scored.

The coach benched me during the third period and shifted the centers twice. That strategy brought our team more goals. I should have been happy – we won 8-3 – but, on the contrary, I felt defeated and humiliated.

In our third game, I tried my best but still remained scoreless. I was fast and active, but all my shots were futile. After the game, my coach said, “I’d like to see you after you change.” I knew it would not be good.

He said, “This is the A team. We really need players who can score. Here, call this person when you get home …” He handed me a phone number. I went home with a heavy heart and dialed the number.

“Minor Hockey League … how can I help you?”

I gave the guy my name and asked, “Why was I told to call you?”

“To be informed that you cannot play on the A team anymore. You will be moved to the house team.”

“But I’ve only played three games! Please give me another chance!” I explained how hard I had worked to make the A team.

All he said was, “I understand, son. I am sorry.” I knew he could not change anything. Right before I hung up, he told me the schedule of the house team.

My mom gave me a hug. I could feel the tears running down her cheeks. That phone call ended my dreams of glory on the ice. All my hard work would go unacknowledged. Everything happened so fast, and the roller-coaster ride left me totally crushed.

Time did not heal me. I felt worse and worse. One day I told my mom, “I won’t play hockey ever again.” As the days passed, hockey indeed faded in my mind until it seemed a distant memory. Then I got a call from the house team manager.

“Kiddo, I know how you feel. I really do. But I want to say something. All NHL players and many athletes in other sports spend time in the minor leagues. It’s too early for you to give up.” He also told me that by playing on the house team, I would find hockey more fun. I would learn that there was more to hockey than just goals – skills, sportsmanship, and teamwork were all integral parts. Finally I decided to join the house team, and I received my blue jersey.

The first game was great. To my surprise, I scored six goals. I wondered if the team manager had done some magic on the ice. I felt encouraged, and I quickly figured out ways to improve. Here I had more opportunities to dribble, shoot, and body check. And so, I learned many different kinds of shots, angles, and checks. The games and practices became routine, and I perfected my skills. After a while, everyone could see my improvements in passing and playing as part of a team. My mom was always there to cheer me on.

Our team had started out low in the standing, but we reached first place by the middle of the season. One day, my old A team coach came to a game and spoke to me afterward.

“I’ve watched you play, and I am impressed. I’m talking about your shots, speed, and most importantly, your ability to be a team player. I know what you went through early in the season. No hard feelings? How about joining the A team again?”

I could not respond warmly to him, as one might imagine. I thought for a few minutes while the coach waited patiently.

“I’m sorry, Coach. I can’t.”

“Do you really want to turn down a chance at the NHL draft?”

“Things are just fine the way they are now. My team has players who trust me and play well with me. Our coach encourages us no matter what happens, and the spectators and parents do not pressure us. The color of the jersey doesn’t matter to me anymore. Hockey is more than just scoring goals,” I said. The coach smiled and congratulated me for my understanding of the sport.

That night, I recalled an experience my dad had a few years before. When he got an offer from the company he had always wanted to join, he thought about it for a long time. Finally, he decided to stay with his old company, where he had the empathy and trust of his colleagues. It was the right decision for him.

Much has happened since, but I have remained on the house team. I always pack my blue jersey on top of the hockey gear. From time to time, the blue jersey reminds me what is really important – in hockey and in life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Sadia123456 said...
Dec. 15, 2010 at 7:13 pm
I like how descriptive U was.Nice story to.
hellosunshine said...
Feb. 13, 2009 at 1:46 am
i liked it -- the idea of it and the ending.

just work on showing, instead of telling.

create a picture for readers to envision.
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