Posts Tagged ‘lifestyle’


As I sat down for Christmas dinner a few days ago, I had an interesting conversation with some of the elder relatives. My injury history is storied and I was asked the question of “Why do you still play?”

 

I wish that question was easy to answer. However, during this conversation I had a chat about the elder relatives’ career in another contact sport, which I think is even more brutal and demanding than hockey (physically). Where we have been fortunate to both have had great experiences in sports, but one thing that transpired that the reason we play was relatively common.

 

For guys there are many reasons why they play hockey. It can be that they enjoy the game and want to spend some time in a team environment and hangout with guys, exercise and getting fitter, or winning (or a combination of all of the above). What drives me to play hockey is hunger to win. If I didn’t feel hungry to win, I doubt that I would put in the effort and I would seek out something else.

 

I’ve been fortunate enough to play on teams that have won a couple of championships in different leagues and countries, but I still have that same hunger for some more. There simply quite isn’t another feeling that comes close to achieving your goal and winning. (Well there are a few, but this isn’t that type of blog people)

 

Winning is a moment that is shared by players, whether it is the culmination of a weeks work in training to get the win in your next match, or the ultimate pay-off at season’s end. If it is a championship you celebrate, the trophy is a nice thing to have as a reminder of that unbelievable feeling at the end, when all of the sweat and hours you’ve spent away from home have finally paid off. I actually feel quite sad for making this reference, but winning is one of the best highs you can experience.

 

Where it has been a few years since I’ve won a championship or something big, I want to win something before my time is done within the sport (Not for a while yet, but nothing is a guarantee in hockey). The something big might not be the Stanley Cup as that ship has sailed a long long time ago, but I am hungry to win. Every game, every shift. Like I said, if I didn’t want to win, why would I turn up. If I didn’t want to win, I’d stay at home and knit.

 

But what big do I want to win. As for me, in my own little microcosm, it would be unbelievable to win the NIHL title, even Div 2 south would be a big thing for me in the microcosm of hockey. I want to be able to have that feeling again.

 

Winning takes a lot of work and you have to stay hungry for it. In Finnish there is a saying of “Nalka kasvaa syodessa” (Loosely translates into: The hunger grows as you eat) and I think it’s a pretty apt description of what I feel now. After winning 3 games straight, I feel the hunger for more wins growing.

 

That is why we play; In an effort to satisfy the hunger for at least a little bit. 

 

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The air cool and cold. Should be used to it this time of year. Saturdays on the road, couple of hours in the car, prepping your mind to what lays ahead. The 60 minutes, broken into fragments of 45 seconds of explosiveness where everything you have in your body, your legs, is revved up to compete with five others who share a sheet of ice with you, fighting along with you are a group of guys that have come together for the same cause, a cause that has been drilled into our psyche for years upon years.

 

Saturdays, on the road, couple of hours in a car. There might not be fragments of 45 seconds where you explode on the ice against five other players, but with a group of guys, who have grown to be a second family. We get put through our paces in a section of drills that have been designed to improve a teams’ game.

 

Regardless of the scenario, the mentality is the same. We turn up and we leave the world as we know it, on a day-to-day basis, behind. Once we walk into the cool and cold embrace of an ice rink, we know what we are there to do, be it a game or training. It is an escape, an exhilarating ride that pushes your body to its limit.

 

What I love most about the whole hockey life style, which is something that I have grown to appreciate as I’ve become older, is the moment when you first step on to a fresh sheet of ice. It’s in that moment that you truly understand what a great game you are able to be part of, and the special group of people you share that ice with. There’s nothing quite that compares to it. Well I can think of a few things, but this is not that kind of blog.

 

The reason I started to ponder all this was after I spoke to a colleague of mine was whether I could live a life without the game. Where I eventually have to face up to the fact that this body wont hold out forever, I honestly could not see myself living a different life and I hope that I can pass the lifestyle on to the next generation of Virtanen’s when the time is right.

 

60 minutes. Funny, how we sometimes take days to prepare for 60 minutes. The preparation for those 45 second fragments, the concentration required for each shift, each different from the last. The bounces, the missed opportunities, the successes all come together for an entity that creates a wholly unique experience to the fan and the player.

 

Hockey, for the player or the fan, does not end once the final buzzer goes. Fans analyse the game, discuss the chances and the win or loss of their team, while the players gather round for the post game briefing from the coach which depends on the outcome and the way the 60 minutes unfolded.

 

The Saturday night lights finally go out, the players drive home, reliving those segments of 45 seconds and the overall 60 minutes. After all those moments, all you can do is count the minutes, hours, days to the next time you will be stepping onto the fresh sheet of ice and for the Saturday night lights to come on once more. 

 

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