This article was originally published in the Bristol Pitbulls programme in our match against the Swindon Wildcats. Bits in Italics are new additions to the post.

A while ago, I posted a picture on Instagram and lifting the lid on my mental health issues. To be honest, I have been wanting to do this write up for a long time, but haven’t – for one reason or another – had the guts to do it. When I initially posted the picture, I did not expect the avalanche of messages, “likes” or subsequent re-tweets – though I find it rather rather ironic that you have to ‘like’ someone’s status about mental illness. I did not post the picture to get likes or re-tweets, but rather to show people that there are those who deal with mental health issues within a competitive, semi-professional sports environment.  This was brought on by some comments I had seen on various social media platforms and club officials calling others “mentally ill.” This article has not been written so that I can go on some ego-trip, but to encourage talk around the issues of mental health in a competitive sports environment.

Where in “normal” society, the stigma around depression and mental illness has dissipated and it is better understood, it is still carries a stigma within sports. I’m not saying that everyone is understanding about depression and would rather people just ‘shake it off’. However, in sports it is often seen as a weakness and players can be seen as ‘damaged goods’ as depression can hinder the career prospects of a professional athlete, or a prospect. In the world of sports, specifically in hockey, chirping is part of the game. If someone publicly states that they suffer from depression, you can expect that opponents will make use of it to try and gain a mental edge.

I have been dealing with depression and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) since November last year, or at least that’s when I sought help, while in honesty, I’ve been probably dealing with these problems for a lot longer. Rather than confront my issues I started to spiral downwards and I had come to the point where I felt that ending it all would be the best option. I was unable to talk about how I felt, because at the time it would’ve felt like admitting defeat. Though I now realise that I should have sought help sooner.

Before then, it was a real struggle at home, at work, at hockey and at the gym. I was having anxiety attacks before I could walk into the office or any other public place and always wanted to be the first one in the changing room so I could get settled. I felt I had to put a face on to be in any situation that required any form of social interaction. In truth, I would’ve rather been curled up in a ball on the floor.

It was – and still is at times – an emotional drain to go to a social situation, but at least I am not at a point where I feel like people (people that I don’t even know), are talking crap about me. I was getting really paranoid about things, even when going to town, I would think that people around were constantly talking about me or judging me. The same would go on at the gym, where normally, I would listen to my own music, but had to start taking my headphones out to make sure some meatheads weren’t talking crap about me.

So why speak out? I feel that there isn’t enough talk about mental health in the world of pro-sports. While there are several noble causes, like #BellLetsTalk, I can’t remember than an active professional player would have spoken out about their issues. There are a number of cases where athletes have come forward post career to talk about it and it is admirable. But to have an active player stepping out and saying “I suffer from depression,” would certainly highlight the issue and to show that it is possible to succeed.

Am I worried about potential backlash from other players? No. During my career, I’ve had opponents/opposing fans say they wish “I’d die”, I’ve been called pretty much everything under the sun, but I try and approach it as part of the game and nothing personal. Besides, the beloved child has many names. My worst enemy on the ice is myself and it is something that I am working on. I set myself high standards and if I don’t meet those standards, I will get angry at myself and start to resent the whole game.

Why keep this from my teammates and coaches? To me this was a personal issue and not a problem the team had to deal with. I didn’t want any kind of special treatment from coaches or conversely (wrongly) that my ice time would be reduced because of this. Additionally, I didn’t want my teammates to act different around me or watch what they had to say. They don’t and it was the group of guys in the room that kept my sanity.

But won’t that be true now, I hear you ask. Well, it might be, but I am in a good place now where it doesn’t affect me in the way that it did in the past. There was a time when I had to block certain social media channels (such as @NIHLNewz on twitter) because the stuff, where intended as a joke, was really getting to me, even though I only received two tweets from said account. It is all well and good to joke and to have a laugh in the team environment and with the fans, but when it comes to the online realm, it is always worth remembering that there is a person behind the joke you are making, and you can never truly know how they might feel about it.

There has been a lot of talk about mental health of late and some media outlets have stigmatised the issue in the aftermath of the GermanWings tragedy. “News” outlets such as the Daily Mail have made a big splash about it, reporting on its front page “Why on earth was he allowed to fly”, implying that any depressed person should not be allowed to operate machinery of any kind. There was also a tweet from a professional Twitter troll Katie Hopkins saying that “all depressed people need is a pair of running shoes and fresh air,” or that all depression is, is like standing in the rain with a Primark paper bag. To this I can only reply that Katie: I work out 5 times a week at the gym, I run 5 times per week and I play hockey at a competitive, semi-professional level and yet I am still struggling with mental health issues.

 

Where I do agree with the sentiment that exercise helps with mental health, it is not the only solution. I should know this, I went years without medication or seeking help and spiralled deeper and deeper . I find solace at the gym and weight lifting as well as hockey, but like I described above, when you are in the grips of depression, it is really, REALLY, difficult to actually get going and start moving. The threshold that you need to step over is monumental and if you haven’t experienced it yourself, it is difficult to understand. But to say that depression is something that is a minor nuisance (standing in a rain with a paper bag or your public transport running late) is just ignorant.

The reason why I wanted to lift the lid on this was to show that I am in a good place where I feel comfortable about talking about these issues and to show that even when the world drop-kicks you in the face it is possible to go on.  It is always worth carrying on. If me talking about it will help just one person, then it was definitely worth opening up about.  At the same time, whilst I’ve reached a ‘comfortable’ place mentally, I know I am not out of the woods yet, but every time I talk about this, or write about it, I feel better. So with that, if there is a reader out there that needs help, I’m here with open heart and ears.

A rant about supermarkets

Posted: February 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

Something really started to piss me off since Christmas and has carried on to this day. We’ve all seen that stores go all out for special events and seasons. Some stores had their Christmas goodies up before Halloween had come around. At the time of writing this (started in December and dragged out till 23.02.2015) stores have already started stocking chocolate at special rates for Easter.

What has really gotten my goat is the BOGOF, or buy one get one free, deals that we tend to get in abundance. We all love a good bargain, but lately all I keep seeing is that these bargains are for the things that are ‘not good’ for you. It’s the ready made pasta/curry sauces, ready meals, frozen pizzas, alcohol, yogurts, confectionery items etc.  It just seems like all the best BOGOF deals are for the shit that’s really bad for you and wouldn’t belong in a human body.

Just looking at the offers in Sainsbury’s website (on 8.12.2014), they include things like Save £10 on bottle of Russian Standard Vodka (what better way to spend Christmas but pissed out of your head and maybe argue with your spouce), buy any 2 for £2 on 1.75l of Coca Cola (because kids aren’t getting enough sugar as it is). In fact of the 18 offers on the site only two have any real nutritional value (and that is after skimming some of the fat off).  At least under the “Fresh & Bakery” section on the offers, you can get a deal on chicken breast fillets and fine green beans. Finally some vegetables on offer!  Hooray! Admittedly, it doesn’t get much better for the other stores either. Their front offer pages are filled with similar crap.

Come to think of it, I have not seen a BOGOF offer on things like broccoli, sweet potatoes – or any of the so called super foods – in ages. There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about obesity and countless of reality shows being done around it. Even though a report that was published at the end of January saying that childhood obesity is down, however it (obesity) is still a problem. Many health experts tell us that we need to eat more organic foods, but the problem is for most people the cost of your weekly shop would double if not triple if you went all organic. It’s all well and good to tell people to eat healthy, but if the food industry – including the supermarkets – are not on board with lowering the prices then it’s a pointless exercise. People, in the current economic climate, make purchasing decisions on price, not the health factor. Even if it means that they’ll ply themselves and their families full of sugars (without checking the labels on the jars of pasta and curry sauces they buy).

Whilst I’m on about the above topic, do many people actually understand what the nutritional values are and how much of what they’re supposed to be eating? There needs to be a lot more education around food in general. I remember back in Finland home economics classes were a real drag, but looking back on it, at least the schools made a concerted effort in teaching us what was good for us and what wasn’t.

Then, whilst I don’t doubt that their causes are noble, Tesco has teamed up with the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK to promote healthier life styles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people getting healthier as some heart problems and diabetes can be fought by easy lifestyle changes (note: they are easy if the person is committed to making those changes). However, what I find a bit hypocritical is that – apart from Tesco’s charity page – there is very little advice, let alone offers on the stuff that they say you should be eating. I remember when I decided that I needed to change my eating habits, I struggled with the nutrition side of things i.e. what to eat and more specifically, when to eat. There is literally no advice, there are no leaflets in store (that I have seen) promoting healthy recipes or examples of meal plans and when to eat and what to eat.

Retailers are a devious bunch. They lay out their stores in such a way that they lure you to buy stuff that you don’t really need and the stuff that’s supposedly good for you is hidden in the shelves. Recently I found that a UK retailer had started to stock protein quark, a nice low fat, high protein snack. Firstly it was nigh impossible to find it on the shelves as it was hidden in the midst of other yogurts that ‘pretend’ to be healthy. A 200gram pot of the Arla protein quark has less sugar than a tub of regular yogurt, it has more protein and less fat compared to the normal yogurts. But yet, the shelf space is relatively minor in comparison to the shit that Danone and Nestle want us to buy.

Countless times I’ve overheard people talk about buying “fat free” yogurts or “fat-free-fucking-whatever”. OK excess fat is not good, but looking at the nutritional facts, there is still huge amounts of sugar in “fat free” yogurts. But because we have created such a taboo over the word fat, people are going for the ‘fat free’ options thinking that those are the healthy choices, where in many cases they are not as healthy as they would seem. A pot of Activia yogurt (supposedly good for you) still has 16.6 grams, or approximately 64 calories worth of sugar in it (that’s  7 cubes worth of sugar, though admittedly  only 3% of your daily allowance of carbohydrates). Let’s not forget that ‘good’ fats are still an essential for humans and you can get the good fats from various healthy choices.

I don’t claim that I am a nutritional specialist, or that I am all goody fucking two shoes about what I eat.  I do, however, look through the nutritional facts about everything I buy and put in my mouth. Yes, I do have weaknesses for certain things that aren’t good for me. I have no problem admitting that my favourite cheat meals are pizzas or doughnuts. Or Skittles. But just because I like those above unhealthy food items, doesn’t mean that I eat them every month. In my opinion it’s about moderation.

The worse culprit for excess sugar that your body will turn into fat is soda and fucking energy drinks. I am the worst when it comes to energy drinks. I have managed to cut down the amount I consume, and I am trying to kick the habit for good, but it really pisses me off when I see kids that are under ten years old buying up-to six 500ml cans of the shit for themselves and the people at the checkouts in stores not doing two shits about it. But at the end of the day, it’s all money in their registers isn’t it?

I realise that the modern society is a busy one and that it can be a real drag to start cooking dinner after hard day at work and while your kids are demanding your attention. I know, I’ve been there more times than I care to think, but it is through these little choices of eating protein from healthy sources and getting the right amount of carbohydrates complemented by greens. It’s easy to make a few adjustments in your diet and you’d be surprised how quickly the weight will start to drop off. It is also about eating like an adult. Like Brandan Schieppati said in one of his pod casts, if you’re over 20, Lucky Charms and Chunky Monkey ice cream should not be a part of your diet.

That’s it, I think my rant is done.

Eat healthy, train hard and dirty.


  photo 8Stick specifications

Flex: 75

Weight: True A6.0 400 grams, True A5.2 425 grams

Blade Pattern: TC2 (similar to Nugent-Hopkins, Backstrom, Hall and/or Kopitar)

Grip coated

Price: A6.0: $259.99 (On Hockeymonkey.com) A5.2 $199.99 (On Hockeymonkey.com)

More information at: http://www.true-hockey.com/

True Hockey is a relatively new player to the stick market, even though the company behind the sticks has a long pedigree in golf (True Temper). True Hockey supplied us with two sticks to try out -its top of the range A6.0 and A5.2  – and to see how the sticks stack up against some of the more established brands in the market.

The True A6.0 is the top of the range stick within the True range and the True A5.2 stick is a high level stick that is packed with a lot of the features of the A6.0, though it weighs a fraction more than the A6.0.  Both of the sticks we are testing are 75flex and come in True’s TC2 blade pattern, which is similar to Bauer’s Backstrom, CCM’s Nugent-Hopkins, Easton’s Hall or Warrior’s Kopitar blade patterns. The blade is a toe curve, with round toe and open face, with a 6.0 lie.

The A6.0 is the lightest stick in the range, with the senior stick weighing just 400grams and the A5.2 weighing in at 425 grams. Where the sticks are – and feel – incredibly light, the Sher-Wood Rekker EK15 is still the lightest stick on the market. Having said that, the True A6.0 and A5.2 are sticks that are within the industry average when it comes to weight and beat a few top-end manufacturers on the weight front, meaning that the new comers can compete with the big boys.

Lookphoto 11

The True sticks look great. With a black/grey finish to the shaft of the stick, the product name is included on the shaft in electric blue, which makes it stand out. The design is really no-nonsense. It is slick but effective, whilst ensuring that it will standout at the stick racks at a store.  The other aspect that might make the True series of sticks standout in the stick rack is that the sticks are longer (out of box or rack) than most of the top marquees in the market.

 

 

Feel

photo 9 When we first started to play with the A6.0 and the A5.2, we felt that the sticks had a great feel to them. Even when first holding the sticks in your hands they feel super light and have a feel of a high-end product to them. The grip coating is not too heavy as it can be on some other sticks, where the coating can feel overbearing on the gloves.

When stick handling, both of the sticks give great feedback to your hands, meaning that you know at all times where the puck is. This has been achieved through True’s patented manufacturing process (Axenic Technology), where the blade is seamlessly co-molded to the shaft, creating a true one piece stick. This manufacturing process is different to the spear process used by some other manufacturers and we feel that the Axenic Technology is one of the real strengths of the True sticks.

The manufacturing process has allowed True Hockey to create a well balanced stick. In terms of balance, the A6.0 and A5.2 are on par with Sher-Wood’s sticks which are some of the best balanced sticks on the market. Both of the sticks are mid flex sticks and are maybe a touch softer at the top of the shaft than other sticks we’ve tried, but still provide you with incredible responsiveness to shots, particularly wrist shots during game play situations, when you need to get a shot off quickly. If the softer butt end will have you worried, we wouldn’t. The tip of the stick provides players with increased stability and accuracy for shooting.

Wristers and snap shots are easy to get away, we felt that with slap shots we got a bit more behind the shot as well. The stick produces great pop and you don’t have to do much work to get the stick loaded for the shot. Just as with the wrist shots, the slap shots are quick off the blade and thanks to the structure of the blade, they don’t turn into knuckle pucks either.

photo 10

As you move down the shaft and get to the blade, this is where the real beauty of the True sticks are. Both the True A6.0 and True A5.2 feature True’s Active Bond Technology II. This technology ensures that the blade maintains its original stiffness for longer periods of time. It is something that we have noticed that the blade will provide you with great pop on the shots. The blade also features 100% carbon fibre rib structure to provide additional durability of the blade. Much like the Sher-Wood Rekker EK15, the True A6.0 and A5.2 sticks will give you that new stick feel for longer, which will keep your shots crisper and accurate. Throughout using the sticks, every time we’ve hit the ice with these sticks, it feels like a stick that we have only just taken out of its wrappers and cut down to our liking.

We noticed that the sticks do improve your accuracy somewhat. Usually our shooting can miss a barn door, but with the True sticks we have been able to usually hit the net where we have wanted.

Durability:photo 5

Durability is always something that players look for in sticks. We want to be sure that the money we spend on sticks means that we will get a product that will last a long time and that we are not back at the retailers getting a new one within two months. After using the stick both outside to do shooting practice and in on-ice training and scrimmages, the stick has proved to be durable. In a hack and slash type of environment, the stick has only ‘suffered’ a few scuff marks on the shaft, which is normal for any hockey stick in active use.

With 75 flex sticks we really want to make sure that the sticks are capable of handling slap shots and one timers as often times, sticks at this flex range (and depending on manufacturing quality) have a tendency of breaking easily and earlier. Both the True A6.0 and A5.2 have held up well and only boast a few scuff marks on the shafts and the flex profiles on both sticks are still in original form, meaning that despite abusing the sticks on the ice they feel like new.

photo 6The drawbacks?

Despite trying to pick holes at True’s own literature and the stick to try and find something negative about them, we are quite pleased to say that despite being new to the market, True Hockey have created a product that is difficult to fault. There are great features built-in to both of the sticks and both A6.0 and A5.2 provide players with great levels of responsiveness, shooting accuracy and power.

Overall

The True A6.0 and A5.2 sticks are both high quality products. If we had to compare them to any of the existing manufacturers out there, we’d say that the True A6.0 is like CCM’s Tacks stick in terms of feel and performance. We are huge fans of the rigidity of the blade and the accuracy of the stick, which was something we noted when having a quick play on the Tacks. The A5.2 would be comparable to CCM Tacks 5052. That’s not to say that the True sticks are like for like for the Tacks (in our opinion the True sticks are better), it’s just a reference as True is a new player to the market.

True Temper has created a truly wonderful set of sticks that have quickly become our favourite sticks to use. We have had other players test the sticks True provided us with and the feedback has been nothing but positive (though some guys prefer a stiffer flex), so we are confident to say that these sticks are going to be a huge hit among players. The one thing that we did wonder was the price tag. True’s top of the range sticks (the A6.0 and A5.2) are priced at the levels of some of the top brands on the market. The sticks deserve that price tag due to the performance and build quality, but will that deter people from buying a stick from one of the new guys to the market? We hope it doesn’t because these sticks are simply AMAZING!

True hockey is expanding rapidly into the European market as well and any retailer picking up the True range will be making a great investment to their business as these sticks will become popular among players very quickly.

Pros:photo 4

  • Lightweight construction
  • True one piece stick
  • Responsiveness
  • Provide great pop for longer
  • Durable construction
  • Accuracy of shooting
  • One of the best blades on the market

Cons:

  • Price – May turn customers to more established brands

For years the UK inline hockey scene has been a total mess. We are not sugar coating it. It was a mess where you had a whole bunch of different leagues being run and all seemed to bicker amongst each other on who does things right and what the other leagues did was completely and utterly wrong.

 

But that has all changed today. All leagues that were affiliated with the IIHF will be merging to create Inline UK. Former regional leagues will be grouped together in new leagues (see below). A source has told us that there are plans for a nationwide – top-flight – league in the works for the future. The planned top-flight league structure would mean that each purpose built rink in the UK would have one ‘home’ team each, thus forming the league. There is still work to be done around the set up of the top league, but we do hope that this will happen.

The new leagues are as follow:

  • British Rink Hockey Association (BRHA) will become Inline UK South
  • GBHI North Wales will become Inline UK North Wales
  • GBHI Midlands will become Inline UK Midlands
  • GBHI Yorkshire will become Inline UK Metal Monster Yorkshire
  • North West Inline Hockey League will become Inline UK Northwest
  • New regions include Inline UK Isle of Man and Inline UK West

 

This now leaves UK with Inline UK league, governed by IIHF rules and regulations and with FIRS  leagues such as BIPHA, bringing the UK inline hockey structure in-line with format seen across Europe. Each region will run their regular seasons exactly as planned ahead of the Inline UK launch and league winners will advance to national finals in the summer of 2015. 

 

The move is most welcome and will certainly allow UK inline hockey to grow and means that there are now better opportunities for competition and player development as opposed to in the old, fragmented format. The change is something that players have been begging for, for a number of years.

 

Our source told us that majority of the Inline UK games will be played in purpose built rinks, as opposed to sports halls. This gives inline hockey in the UK a better chance for growth and for people to access the sport. Playing games in rinks as opposed to sports halls will mean that players will learn the dynamics of the game for international tournaments and will serve as a good learning curve for those that take the inline hockey route to ice hockey. Additionally, playing the game in a purpose built rink is safer than it is in a sports hall setting.

 

The problem with independent, regional leagues was that there was low interest in the sport, except for the local areas. The nationwide competition will surely increase the visibility of the game a little bit and if nothing else, it will give team GB Inline hockey a greater pool of prospects to tap into, that may have flown under the radar in the fragmented old system.

 

Additionally all Inline UK games will be streamed online, with live statistics appearing online as well, which is likely to improve visibility and  interest around the game and bring in sponsors for the league and teams, which is vital for the survival of the game.

 

There is still the chance that some teams may not join in with Inline UK and may defect to FIRS governed leagues, or set up new leagues on their own, however our source said that this is unlikely as players have demanded the unification of leagues for a long time. Additionally there was speculation that some FIRS/BIPHA teams might defect and join Inline UK.

 

Now if only ice hockey would do the same and move to a unified structure, instead of mess around with the whole IHUK and EIHA situation and brought live streaming to all games, across all leagues.

 

The full press release from Inline UK:

 

Introducing INLINE UK

We are pleased to announce the start of a new and exciting chapter for inline hockey in the UK. The sport has been played in the country for over 30 years in various regional leagues run by dedicated volunteers. The sport has given so much to so many players, officials and fans, but it has always been fragmented. Players and fans want and deserve better.

 There have been repeated calls from the hockey community that the leagues should join together and league managers have heard these calls. It is with great pride that we, the Inline UK national committee, are announcing that we have reached an agreement to join forces under a new brand, Inline UK.

Founding members of Inline UK, and the new Inline UK regions are: • British Rink Hockey Association (BRHA) –> Inline UK South • GBHI North Wales –> Inline UK North Wales • GBHI Midlands –> Inline UK Midlands • GBHI Yorkshire –> Inline UK Metal Monster Yorkshire • North West Inline Hockey League –> Inline UK Northwest • New region: Inline UK Isle of Man • New region: Inline UK West

The above league executives have agreed to be founding members of Inline UK, subject to league member approval where constitutionally required. Inline UK games will be played following the IIHF rulebook. Each region will run their regular seasons exactly as planned ahead of the Inline UK launch and league winners will advance to national finals in the summer of 2015. United Kingdom will finally have a true national champion. Any questions about Inline UK can be directed to the regional league executives or to the national executive through our website and Facebook page.


One of Finland’s biggest hockey stars, Saku Koivu has called it a career today. Koivu, during his NHL career was a huge inspiration for me as a player and that I wanted to model myself after. I wanted to be a reliable two-way player, just like Koivu. The reason why Saku Koivu became such an inspiration to me was because we were both the same size and stature. Koivu proved that he could play like a big player, night in, night out, sometimes at a high cost, which lead to his injury history.

 

Koivu’s stature made him an extremely hard worker off the ice, which is how I wanted to model myself as a player. His dedication for the sport, despite battling difficult injuries or cancer, was immense and it was largely thanks to Koivu’s return from cancer that inspired me to take up the sport again, after I had fallen out of love with it. I remember thinking to myself: “If he comes back from cancer, what’s stopping me from coming back from a knee injury.”

 

As the Captain of the Canadiens, Koivu taught me a lot about leadership. Watching him in press scrums during the Canadiens’ woeful years, he conducted himself with class, despite carrying the hopes of an entire province on his back. Koivu always lead with example on the ice, whether it was for the Habs or for the Finnish national team, which I always aspired to do for my own team. It was leaving your heart out on to the ice after every game you played.

 

Where Koivu may not have reached the heights of the NHL’s scoring charts, he was a widely respected player across the entire league. One of those players that no-one had nothing but good things to say. Koivu was never a big fan of being in the spotlight, despite shouldering the C for the Canadiens for the better part of a decade.

 

There was a story about the Koivu brothers in the Finnish media which said that they absolutely hate losing and the reporter – whose name escapes me – said that Saku and Mikko are the types of players that hate losing so much, that the loss will eat at them for months and will fuel their desire to succeed. It is exactly what a great leader should be all about. Hating losing so much, you push yourself and your team to the limit so that you can win again. And again. And again.

 

Whilst Saku may not read this, I wanted to – in some way – acknowledge and thank him for the inspiration he provided me with for my own career, how you need to prepare as an athlete of a smaller stature and how to be a leader.

 

Kiitos, Saku


Yaro3It has been three years since the tragic loss of the entire Yaroslav Lokomotiv hockey team and most of the flight crew when the teams’ Yak-42 plane crashed shortly after take-off. Though there were two initial survivors, player Alexander Galimov and flight engineer Alexander Sitzov, Galimov sadly passed away in hospital due to the injuries he sustained in the crash

 

There were several known players and legends in their respective countries lost in the disaster, leaving the hockey world with gut wrenching pain and sadness of the loss. The hockey world pulled together with emotional tributes pouring out to the team, its fans and the victims’ families. The summer of 2011 had been tough for hockey fans before that with the loss of Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak. All lives lost too soon. Every year, the world wide hockey community comes together with tributes to those it lost in the summer of 2011. Every player and team member is remembered and their memories live on. 

The Yaroslav air disaster is an incident that most hockey fans remember where they were and what they were doing. So here is my account of the day, 7th of September 2011:

I was at work and I remember it was a relatively quiet day, which was unusual. I was monitoring news feeds and I came across a news alert on one of the international news feeds and on Slava Malamud’s twitter feed that a plane carrying the Yaroslav Lokomotiv hockey team had crashed after take-off. I started to scour for more information and as more information came available, the bleaker the news. I remember that there was confusion whether Ruslan Salei was on board the plane, with some tweets and news outlets saying that he had been in touch with his family, or that he had traveled to Minsk ahead of his team. 

When the news came through that most of the people on board the plane had perished, I just stopped. I went into a state of shock and disbelief. There were players on the plane I had watched play, met (Karlis Skrastins while he played for TPS in Finland) and whose hockey cards I had in my collections. When the televised images from Yaroslav came through with the fans in mourning, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I had to excuse myself to the bathroom and I cried. I felt for the families of those who were lost and the fans of the team. 

The rest of the day was a blur, watching and reading the reactions and the overwhelming support that fans of the sport andRussia Crash beyond showed their condolences to the victims and their families. 

I remember that my team had a game the weekend after the disaster and rightly, as most games across the world, held a minute of silence in respect to those who the hockey community lost. I remember tweeting that the best way to remember those who perished was to play and enjoy every game you play, as those aboard the plane did. They made their childhood hobbies into a job and loved every minute of it. 

Three years on and the pain of the loss – I can only imagine – is still intense for the families, but on the 7th of September, millions of players and fans world wide will spare their thoughts and condolences to the families of those that were lost. 

We will remember them. 

 Yaro2 


SuccessisbuiltFans always expect that their teams perform well – and ideally win every game – and fans have the absolute right to want success. There are expectations that teams and players need to meet, week in and week out. There are the expectations for the entire team from the fans and on an individual level, the expectations from the coaching staff.

 

Success is something that every player wants. For their team and for themselves. Otherwise, why play the game if you don’t want to succeed and not feel the elation of winning a game. Success is something that doesn’t magically happen on a game night. It is a long, drawn-out process throughout countless hours of work, sweat and pain. Success is built when there are no eyes on you. It happens at the gym, it happens on the roads, it happens on the bike. It even happens on the trainers table or with the physiotherapist. Success is built when you are on the ice with your team. It is built in bag skates, flow drills, set plays. It is built by countless and countless of repetitions of weights, drills, shots, jumps and miles pedalled on a bike.

 

Success is not something that is achieved overnight. Players can’t expect to be successful just by turning up to training and have the expectation that their effort on the ice will guarantee them success in the long run. The hockey season is a gruelling ride, with all its bumps and bruises and frustrations. What the fans see, is the culmination of all the work that has been taking place out of sight.

 

Success requires commitment. It requires hard work. It requires sacrifice. It requires discipline. It requires a goal, something that unifies a group of individuals to come together and work for that goal. It means leaving personal differences aside and playing for the logo on the front of your jersey and for the goal of becoming a champion.

 

The commitment fuels motivation and success, that success will player through a rock when it comes to crunch time. But all this underpinned by the work that each player does on and off the ice when the stands are empty and when no one is watching you.

 

The signs of success, are not seen on the ice in a 60 minute game. It is seen in the sweat dripping on to the gym floor and on to the ice.