I took a bit of a break yesterday from the rigours of summer training and the heat and went to watch a beginners recreational game that I knew was on. Well I knew it was on as my wife plays for the team I was watching. I didn’t really know what to expect from the game, after all what could a group of “beginners” (playing against other beginners) offer me. To be honest I was pleasantly surprised.
Sure I wasn’t watching hockey at its fastest, but I actually found myself getting really into the game and before I knew it, I was watching with bated breath as each scoring opportunity unfolded and the goalies at both ends of the ice were jumping in front of the puck and battling through traffic.
What I found great about the game was something that I think I often forget in hockey and in the midst of a game or, in fact, the season is that it should be fun. The smiles, the high fives, the encouragement that was shown to each other on the bench was something really great to watch. More to the point, the players on the team were living and breathing every moment of the game. For some it was their first game of their lives, for others it was the first game of their season. It’s not often you see players coming off the ice after a shift with a smile on their face, even if they didn’t score. The reason why they were smiling was because they were having fun.
My wife actually said to me when she joined the team that “I know I’m not going to be a superstar in hockey, what I really want is to enjoy it and have fun with it.” I think that sentence and statement epitomises what the game essentially is. We all got into hockey, either playing or watching, because it is fun. I think the fun is what drives us to the rink again and again to play the game, or to watch our teams. For some players at the top of their game, the fun has turned into something serious, a bread winner, a profession and sometimes it is difficult for guys to remember that we need to have fun with the game and enjoy every moment within the game.
Hockey can give us so much, whether we are spectators or players. It can give us some of the greatest memories that we have and friendships. It is the achievements, seeing your team do well or your personal skills as a player come forward in leaps and bounds.
However, at least with me, sometimes we forget the fun of it. We play the game to win and we rev our minds and our bodies to do whatever it takes to win. When the big W’s come, hockey is a lot of fun and we are smiling, but when the string of losses come round we forget to have fun and things become tense. We often hear professionals in the midst of a losing streak say “We just got to go out there and have some fun with it”, and it is true. If you’re not having fun, things are not working.
I know I’m a bad loser as I always want to win and everything, mentally, is geared towards doing anything it takes to win, but when all of that turns into a loss, the disappointment can be too much to take and the game you fell in love with can start to feel like a chore.
Even if my wife’s team lost yesterday, I didn’t see a single disappointed player on their team. I know I would’ve been grumpy for days after a 5-6 loss. However, these guys were happy with their performance, despite losing the lead late in the game. They had fun. They came together to enjoy the game and I think (as a spectator) that they were overjoyed by the fact they scored five goals. The smiles they had on their faces after each shift made me wish I could do the same.
In-fact, thanks to these guys, I have now added another emblem on my gloves. I have for years played with the word SISU written on the palm of my left glove, but it’s now accompanied by the word SMILE, to remind me to enjoy and have fun with the game.
Thanks Basingstoke Raptors for reminding me of something that I sometimes forget and take for granted.