As we head into the final stretch of the season, January comes to a close this weekend with a home and home series versus the Catamounts of UVM. After a week of Terriers and Huskies, a pair of ‘Cats square off.
February arrives next week. Years ago when seasons began in mid October or later, the arrival of February wasn’t as significant in terms of seasons and timelines. However everything has shifted forwards over the past decade making the leap year month critical if you want to continue playing.
I’ve been struck of late by what this means to our seniors. Lindsey Minton and Emma Clark have been playing hockey since they were youngsters, no doubt dreaming about what next year would bring or what the next phase of their playing career would look like. There is something about human nature that prevents us from contemplating things we’d rather just deal with later. Perhaps it’s a built in defense mechanism or simply the denial that we all find ourselves embracing from time to time.
However for Lindsey, Emma and seniors everywhere in our sport, the reality is the clock is ticking and a chapter of their lives that once seemed like it could go on forever, will soon come to close. I feel for my seniors this time of year. I know the emotions they’re experiencing well. If something sticks with you for 35 years, then it’s safe to say it’s made a mark. I remember my last college game like it was last year or even last week. We were on the road at Brown and I can still see the locker room and where I was seated. A few tears were present as well. It was just hard to believe that it was over. I remember not moving for a long time and pulling that jersey over my head for the last time was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I just didn’t want to take it off.
I shared a moment with our upperclassmen today
after practice watching Kenny Chesney’s “Boys of Fall” video. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it by clicking on the link: The Boys Of Fall
Now just substitute the ‘Girls of Fall’. (since we’ve essentially become a fall sport!) Here in the USA, high school football is religion in most parts of the country. But I’d venture that hockey is as well for many of our Minnesotan’s and Canadians and New Englanders. It’s deep in our blood. And so the parallels are striking.
Sean Payton, the current Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints, is the visiting coach speaking to his old high school team of 27 years ago. He talks about how he would give anything to jump into one of their uniforms for the night. Those game night feelings come to an end and as he says, we don’t get them again except when you have a life event like marriage, children, etc. “You’ve got plenty of time for tomorrow. But these tonights, they’re going by fast.”
So while we’ll be playing hard over the next three weeks to keep our season and dreams alive, we’ll really be playing for our seniors. I’ve always kept a special place in my heart for our seniors. Whether they’ve been All Americans or not, doesn’t matter one bit. What matters is that they’ve fought the battles, risen above the setbacks and disappointments that are simply an integral part of sport. What matters is who they are and what they’re all about – the Team. I never doubt that as their careers wind down, they’re prepared for the world that’s waiting for them. The lessons, the ability to persevere and stay the course is in them now. And it never leaves.