Why Hockey?

November 14, 2017

Hockey has been one of the most important parts of my life.  Ever since I can remember, I have been playing hockey.  I started skating when I was two years old, and playing hockey at three years old.  I am so thankful that my parents introduced me to hockey at such a young age because it has brought me so much joy over my lifetime.  It has always been a dream of mine to play in the NHL.  This dream has pushed me to improve myself better each time I hit the ice.  There have been highs and lows in my hockey journey, but not every road to greatness is straight. 


My journey in hockey has been a roller coaster with ups and downs along the way, but why are roller coasters so popular?  They are popular because people enjoy them, and I’ve enjoyed every step of my journey.  Scoring my first varsity goal in the first game, on my first shift, and with my first shot was a high that I will remember as long as I live.  However, all roller coasters also have lows, and so does my career in hockey.  Losing in the State Championship game after such an amazing season, was the lowest my roller coaster has gone along my journey.  I expect there to be more highs and lows along my journey, and I hope there are more.  With every high comes a sense of accomplishment, and every low comes with a chance to bounce back and improve yourself.  


Hockey is a sport where the team aspect might be the biggest.  Yeah, you have to work together in baseball, football, and many other sports, but that’s not my point.  If you’ve ever watched an NHL hockey game, you might have noticed guys throwing off their gloves off and fighting each other.  This is a key way that players protect each other. If you play dirty and take cheap shots at players, you better expect you, or someone on you team to pay in one way or another.  In hockey, good teammates pass the puck; great teammates will protect their team with everything they have. To do this, they have to put their team in front of their body.  Players dive in front of shots, which can be up to 100 mph.  If you’ve ever seen a picture of the “classic hockey player,” you notice that they have teeth missing.  This if from protecting their team, either by fighting, or getting hit in the face with a shot while trying to block it.  Some of the best teammates will put others safety and well-being in front of their own.  They do this because they will do anything to help their team win, which includes putting themselves in harm’s way. 


In almost all other major sports, players can specialize in certain physical attributes, such as being fast, strong, and quick, but in hockey you need just about every athletic skill you can imagine.  There are players who do have a lot of speed.  However, they are also good passer, very smart with and without the puck, and strong.  If you don’t watch hockey or play it regularly, then you don’t know one major part of hockey, the small battles. In front of the net, in the corner, along the board, during every face-off; these are places where battles for the puck often happen.  The best players in hockey have speed and all the physical attributes of an elite athlete, but they are also some of the best at battling in the small areas. The countless hours of hard work, on and off the ice, prepare them for these battles.  There are players who are naturally more skilled than other player. However, the ones that make it the furthest in hockey are the ones who put everything they have into being the best they can be.  The average person can walk and run, but most people have never skated or cannot skate at a high level.  This means people don’t understand how exhausting it is to skate as hard as you can and battle with five people for the puck for up to a minute.  The grind doesn’t end there, you also have to do it again in about two to three minutes later, and in the NHL that lasts for three, 20 minute periods.


Moving at speeds of up to 30 mph, hockey is a sport where split second decisions can win or lose a game.  Hockey is definitely a physical sport. However, some may argue that it is even more of a mental sport.  Some of the top goal scorers are also the smartest players.  They know where to be to score goals, in every situation.  If you have never played hockey, you probably don’t know how easy it is to make a mistake that leads to a scoring opportunity for the opposing team.  You have the option in hockey to skate, pass, or shoot.  The hard part about making this decision is you have to do it in seconds or less.  When passing the puck, you have options. With four other guys to pass to, people might think this is a simple task; however, there are also five other guys trying to take the puck from you, and the easiest pass isn’t always the right pass to make.  You have to make the right decision every time, if you want to make it to the NHL. The thinking isn’t over when you pass the puck.  You also have to get open, and put yourself into the correct position to score a goal.


Hockey is unique compared to other major pro sports.  The thing that only hockey has is fighting.  Fighting in hockey isn’t legal. However, what sets hockey apart from other sports is the fact that you don’t get ejected from the game.  In the NHL, you only have to serve a five minute penalty, which the opposing player you fought also has to serve.  This makes the penalties considered “coincidental” which mean each team is still allowed six players on the ice, typically five skaters and one goalie.  This means that fighting doesn’t hurt your team on the ice.  Some players, who are called “goons,” make it to the NHL to fight and protect the more skilled players who score goals more often.  Sometimes players fight to gain momentum and get your team and the crowd excited.  In other sports, fighting is consider immature, stupid, pointless, and makes the player look bad.  In other professional sports, players won’t just get ejected from the game, they will usually, depending on the level of the fight, get suspended for multiple games and also have to pay a fine, but not in hockey. Some players are even told by their coaches to fight to gain momentum for their team.  Some people think that players shouldn’t be allowed to fight without a harsher punishment, such as suspension.  The way I see it, fighting in hockey has been around just as long as hockey itself.  Taking fighting away from hockey would be like taking away the forward pass in football or the three pointer in basketball.  So if you’re watching hockey for the first time, don’t try to understand why they are fighting, just enjoy the fight.


If you are a true hockey fan, you know how much people love hockey.  In a hockey game played at the Excel Energy Center in Minnesota, which has a maximum capacity of 18,568 people. There were people who were watching who didn’t have seats.  This means that there were around 19,000 people in attendance.  The funny thing about that is the game I am referring to was only a high school game.  Nineteen thousand people went to watch a bunch of high school kids play hockey.  Why?  They went because it was the Minnesota State Championship game, and they wanted to see kids who accomplished the dream that so many of the people in the crowd had before. That dream was to win a Minnesota High School State Championship.  Minnesota loves hockey so much that they have a day called, “Hockey Day Minnesota.”  I’ve never heard of a day set aside for sports such as basketball or baseball.


Hockey has taught me so many life lessons that I will use my entire life.  It’s taught me that if you want to be successful, you have to work to achieve it.  It’s also taught me not everything in life is just given to you.  You just have to accept what you are given to you and work as hard as you can to improve it, because you can’t control what’s given.  Hockey has brought me endless amounts of happiness throughout my life, and I hope it continues to for my entire life.
 






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