2017Oct 31

Dear Hockey, Thank You

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Thirteen years ago I stepped on the ice for my very first time. If you ask my dad, he will probably tell you that teaching a four-year-old to skate is no walk in the park.

Growing up in Northern Ontario I think most Canadians can relate their childhood memories to staying up late on cold winter nights to break out a scrimmage on your homemade backyard ice hockey rink. I couldn’t even tell you how many nights my dad spent out there flooding that rink with a hose so it would be ready to play on. Just a young kid strapping on my skates to tear down the ice, I had no idea that this sport would change my life so much.

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Photo by Laurentian University

I remember my older brother Myles was just learning how to skate where he joined a hockey team shortly after. I have never seen someone enjoy something so much, so I decided to give it a try. I started out in tyke and didn’t get the chance to play a ‘real’ game until the following year in novice. Over the years I bounced back and forth between the boy’s league and girl’s competitive. I made my final switch to the girl’s competitive league after having both positive and negative experiences in different leagues and here I am today playing in my second year as a centre for the Laurentian Voyageurs Women’s Hockey team. 

Thirteen years of hockey. Believe it or not, this is not how my sports career started. With help from the rest of family, my parents had this crazy idea that I should be a ballerina, so they put me in ballet. Anyone who I am close with knows I hated it. I mean, like most people I enjoy casually dancing, like when a killer song comes on in the dressing room before a big game, but to do it every day of my life it just wasn’t for me.

Photo By Esso Cup

Photo By Esso Cup

I was born to play hockey. Getting a chance to play in the Midget AA Nationals, The Esso Cup, in my second year in Midget AND winning gold confirmed that.

Nothing about this experience was easy but playing this sport my entire life has taught me how to deal with any challenge thrown my way. We only had one week to prepare for our flight to Red Deer where every other team finished provincials earlier. Most of us girls never played three twenty minute periods before and to play like that once a day for a solid week straight was an obstacle. The entire thing was very nerve-racking but that’s something you just have to put aside in the back of your mind. You have to stay focused on the game, or you’ll never be happy with how you played. 

Photo by Esso Cup

Photo by Esso Cup

We pulled out a huge 7-2 win against the Red Deer Chiefs in our third game at Nationals, who would’ve thought they would be the team we’d be playing in the finals. Looking back at that final game it was extremely exhausting. We started to worry as the game went on and we were still tied 1-1 close to the end of the first period with our captain (Karli Shell) scoring our only goal. With 3 minutes left on the clock in the first, I was put on the ice for a long shift. One of our defensemen passed me the puck to finally break out, and all I was focusing on was to get the puck deep in their zone and change because I was dead tired. I dumped the puck and headed off to change. As soon as I got to the bench I saw my entire team jump up, and in that moment I realized that we just scored. Little did I know my captain scored our game-winning goal from a pass by yours truly but if you check the stats I never was counted for that assist. It’s frustrating but any player in the league knows it happens too often even in the OUA and CIS.

I’m still in disbelief today that this all happened. It’s dreamlike now. Almost too good to be true. Everything was all really well organized, we were treated like professionals. We had an itinerary to follow, provided meals and Coach bus transportation. There was an opening and closing banquet, two of my teammates even sang in front of everyone by request of the entertaining singer.

There are so many things I have got to do because of hockey and many more open doors for me to come. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Thank you, Hockey. Without you, I would have never known I could love something other than my friends and family so much.

Thank you for teaching me how acting on aggression doesn’t always lead up to the results you want, how you have to put in the time and work to be the best you can be, and that you don’t have to stop when things get tough.

Thank you for allowing me to build relationships with teammates and coaches, and to learn more about myself as an athlete and as a person to a greater extent than what anyone else could have ever taught me. You helped shape me into the person I am today and I couldn’t be more proud of what I have accomplished.

As long as you are a part of my life you will continue to teach me things about myself that I would have never had the opportunity of knowing. I know what I want and who I want to be thanks to you. One day I would love to play for Team Canada but even if I can’t make that happen just know that I will always be keeping active and involved in this sport.

I will continue to learn whether it is from watching, hearing, or experiencing the game. I will work hard to play a physical game like Martin St. Louis, to be a playmaker like Sidney Crosby, and who doesn’t want to be hammering pucks into the net like Alex Ovechkin or John Tavares.

You drive my competitiveness, you keep my life exciting.

You are intense. You are engaging and all-consuming. I love every part of you and just being able to go out on that ice to try something new will probably never get old for me.

At this point in my life, I can pretty much say that hockey will always be a part of me.

Who knows where I’ll end up when I’m done playing for Laurentian that is still two years away, but for now practice is over, it’s game time.

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MYLA MCCORMICK / CONTRIBUTOR

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