Whatever the reason you play hockey, never take those moments on the ice for granted
By Allyson Tufts
The power of a teammate comes down to a few very simple things.
My brothers loved Saturday morning hockey. It was a ritual, a necessity, and the opportunity to hang with their teammates. My husband used to join them when he could manage to escape me and the kids on the odd Saturday. I honestly don’t think I ever understood how important those two hours a week were to a group of guys that used to live on the ice. As marriage and kids became a priority, they were now reduced to a couple of hours once a week to feel young again.
My brother and his friend Kitch met every Saturday morning. Kitch would pick him up with coffee in hand. He’d have a smile on his face like a 10-year-old kid about to play pond hockey for the first time.
The two of them looked comical on the ice. My brother on skates stood a whopping 5’8″ tall and Kitch, at 6’5″, towered over everyone. Although they looked like the odd couple, they were the best of friends.
They had met playing ball hockey. After their first game they went to a party, told stories all night, and laughed until their stomachs hurt. In that moment, in that kitchen, at a party in the middle of nowhere, these teammates became brothers. Off the ice he was always a gentle giant, but a force to be reckoned with on the ice. My brother tells many stories of how he got away with being mouthy as a little guy, because he knew nobody would touch him with Kitch towering behind him.
Kitch had played for our local Ontario Hockey League (OHL) team. At the ripe old age of 17, he moved to our hometown and started billeting with a family. After his stint with the OHL, he went out east on a hockey scholarship.
After graduation he moved back to our little hometown to set down roots. He wanted to come back to the town where he met all of his brothers, his friends, his teammates and his beautiful wife. They built a house next door to his billets and started a family. He literally built his life around the people he met through hockey.
One winter Saturday morning, as my husband and I sat around in our pajamas drinking coffee, I got a call from one of my brothers. I could tell by the trembling voice on the other end of the phone that something terrible had happened. Kitch had collapsed on the ice; unfortunately, he never got back up.
I remember hanging up the phone and having to break the news that Kitch had died on the ice, surrounded by his brothers and teammates. My husband had the pleasure of many skates with this incredible man; he was also his teammate. We both remained in our pajamas all day in utter shock of the news.
In the next few days, as we walked around in a daze, we all told stories of him. His friends all gathered at their favorite watering hole; they cried and they laughed as they spoke of this awesome individual.
I can recall one of the most impact moments on the day of the funeral was when a group of young Junior hockey players walked in, wearing their jerseys from the OHL team Kitch had played on for so many years before. Although they never played with him, somehow they were still his teammates.
Trying to decide on pallbearers became too difficult. He had played hockey with so many guys that they ended up having over 30 of his former teammates walking in a procession behind his coffin. It was one of the most powerful things I’d ever witnessed. I couldn’t help but think that this man had moved here for hockey at 17 years of age and didn’t know anyone, yet today he filled a church with family, friends, and teammates. That was a prime example of the power of a teammate.Gifts for your Boss Coach Gifts Best Manager Gifts – We Wouldn’t Be the Team That We Are Without You! Thank You.
The Power of a Teammate Moments
I don’t think you can ever underestimate the power of the moments in a dressing room shared with your teammates: those giggles as a 7-year-old playing mite, a 15-year-old playing Midget, or a 40-year-old playing on Saturday mornings. Those relationships are the ones that will carry you through your adulthood, your wedding, your promotion, your divorce; and perhaps those relationships will carry your family through when you no longer can.
Maybe it’s really as simple as, “They played on my team,” or it might come down to, “We started out as teammates and now we’re family.” Whatever the reason, enjoy your moments on the ice with these incredible friends. Never take them for granted, and most of all, never underestimate the power of a teammate.
Written by Allyson Tufts, Author, Speaker, and Passionate Hockey Mom. To learn more about Allyson Tufts or to purchase your copy of her book, “Lessons from Behind the Glass,” visit her website. This article is the property of Allyson Tufts and is not to be used or changed without her permission.