The culture, lifestyle and mentality of hockey is unlike any other sport. Most other sports feature a singular player or a set of players that are absolutely crucial in the team’s success. Sure, each hockey team has their particular superstars, but in essence it is the epitome of a team sport. Take for instance the 2016 Stanley Cup Champion, Pittsburgh Penguins. They have guys like Crosby, Malkin and Letang who are the superstars. The supporting cast, though, they are the ones that really pushed that team to the pinnacle of the hockey world.
So what is the culture in hockey, what makes a hockey player so much different from the general population? Though I have never had the opportunity to serve in the armed forces (though I tried, but medically was not cleared) I would relate it to what you see in the military, in short, brotherhood.
Brotherhood is one word used to describe a multitude of things. What exactly is brotherhood? The definition is literally the relation between two brothers. The definition does not state whether these brothers are blood brothers, brothers in arms, or a community of people linked by a common interest. What is known, though, is the brotherhood in hockey culture runs deep.
Depending on the readership, some of you will have already acknowledged my next point and some of you will have yet to experience it. There will be a time when you meet someone who, on first take, you did not agree with. Then they will mention they play hockey and you all the discretions will be forgotten. Trust me. I have met the weirdest, craziest, nerdiest, most insane and different people from myself, but like most, I gave them a chance. The minute hockey was mentioned and we were able to reminisce on the ‘glory days’ all prior assumptions were thrown out the window.
The brotherhood and the culture grows and breeds a certain person. You learn what adversity really is. You understand pain. You know what it’s like to put your personal pride aside for the benefit of the team. You take shots for your teammates. You fight, grind, kick and push for your teammates. You understand what family really means. You know that this extends beyond the ones that sleep under your parents roof. You realize your family tree starts with the coach and ends with the players, you all sleep under the one roof of whatever rink you are playing in. You live for the name on the front of your jersey and die for the one on your teammates back.
Respect, self-worth, dignity, responsibility, risk, willingness, adversity, balls, the list goes on and on. You have to respect yourself, your teammates and your coaches. Without this respect you will quickly find yourself the odd man out. Self-worth. Value your contributions to the team. More importantly understand what you are good at and get better at the things you aren’t good at. That’s what a real team player exemplifies. Dignity. It falls along the same lines as honor and respect. Do not ask for respect, but present yourself in an honorable way in which people naturally respect you. Responsibility. Punctuality. Show up on time. When you get into the locker room, put on the big-boy pants. It’s time to train and gain or prey and play. Risk, willingness, adversity and balls. Simply put, every corner you go into, every goal mouth you try to stake claim in, you understand there is someone bigger, badder, stronger and tougher than you and they are ready for the challenge. The stick to the back of the leg or the small of the back are just love taps. Wait until you actually touch the puck and you see the red in your opponent’s eyes as he prepares to knock you into next week. How many times are you going to chase that loose puck? How many times are you going to battle in the corners? How many times are you going to bounce from ‘next week’ to the present? Only the strong survive. The few that do it religiously are the proud members of the brotherhood, the players that understand teeth are just there for looks, the bigger guys fall the hardest and seatbelts combined with speed bags reign supreme.
Lost yet? Stick to badminton.