by Mike McPartlin, Headmaster, Bridgedale Academy
In Part 1, I explained why I believe our nation needs saving.
In Part 2, I discussed the first reason why I believe that hockey players have the right stuff to help save our nation, which is that hockey’s nature as a sport breeds a certain “humility” in its players.
This Part 3 looks at my second reason, the fact that hockey breeds a unique “respect” in its players.
(Caveat: In these articles I am not talking about ALL youngsters who play hockey. There are “hockey players” and there are “kids who play hockey.” Any hockey coach worth his salt can explain to you the difference. Here I am talking about hockey players. In particular, I’m talking about hockey players who aspire to the higher levels, and who have demonstrated the commitment level required to really excel at hockey.)
Reason 2: Hockey breeds Respect
Hockey demands commitment.
And making that commitment requires something special of hockey players.
It requires them to develop a very healthy respect for what it takes to excel at hockey.
Advocates of other sports will surely argue that their sport’s athletes must also learn to “respect” what it takes to excel. And that may very well be true in many cases.
But if they try to argue that respect permeates their sport as it does hockey, I have three responses:
1) Hockey is more challenging to learn than most other sports
“Hockey is the hardest sport at which to become even marginally good.” [See my previous article.]
Most youngsters can become “marginally good” at most other sports simply by having played them occasionally as a child.
Hockey is different.
Even if the only reason is because you must be able to skate to play it, hockey is different.
But the reality is that there is far more to learning how to play hockey than simply being able to skate.
2) The “respect” factor developed by hockey players goes way beyond hockey
The respect I am talking about here goes beyond simply “what it takes to excel at hockey.” The respect a hockey player learns, through his commitment to developing his hockey skills, is not just limited to hockey. It is more wide-ranging than that.
Respect in hockey begins with self-respect and blossoms from there into a respect for other people and other things [see “One more unique thing about hockey players” below].
3) The modern culture of “dissing” and selfishness that dominates most other sports today has not taken hold in hockey. And in my opinion it never will.
I have never seen an NHL player [or for that matter a true hockey player at any level] show blatant disrespect for our nation, our flag or our national anthem.
Nor do I ever expect to.
Hockey, the ultimate team game
Hockey is, in my opinion, the ultimate “team” game.
And, to excel at hockey, players MUST respect that fact.
As great as some hockey players become with their individual skills, no one can succeed to the highest levels as just an individual - they must also be great team players.
As great as Sydney Crosby is, he is unable to dominate a game or a playoff series in the same way that a Michael Jordan did in basketball. The sport of hockey does not allow for it.
Every great hockey player is great team player. And every superstar hockey player is a great, great team player.
For all Wayne Gretzky’s marvelous gifts as a individual star player, it was his ability to read the play and pass the puck to teammates, that is, his team-oriented skills, that set him apart from everyone else.
And it was Gretzky’s incredible ability as a “set-up” man that forced opposing teams to give him just a little bit extra time and space, time and space that freed him to score a few goals every now and then.
Bottom line: the best hockey players ARE the best team players.
And they are the best team players because of what they learned to respect as youngsters.
A few things that hockey players learn to respect … and why
Here’s a short list [by no means complete] of what hockey players ultimately learn to respect within the game.
They learn to respect:
- 1) the sport of hockey, and also the processes involved in developing as an athlete and as a hockey player.
Why? Because if they don’t, they will never excel at hockey.
- 2) their coaches and teammates.
Why? Because, although they don’t have to like them, if they don’t respect them their team will not be successful.
- 3) the game officials.
Why? This is a tough one for sure, but players understand that referees and linesmen have a tough job to do and that they are trying do their best. And players know that if they show the officials proper respect, they will ultimately earn their respect in return.
- 4) their opponents.
Why? This too can be a tough one, because some opponents may ultimately prove they don’t deserve your respect. But most will, and there is, for the most part, an overriding mutual respect in hockey. Hockey players love to compete fiercely and respect opponents who do the same.
One more unique thing about hockey players
It is a fact that most hockey players, at a young age, must leave home to pursue their hockey careers.
Usually, this is to play junior hockey at a high level, either as a stepping stone to a professional career, or as a prerequisite to playing high-level college hockey.
But sometimes [for example if a promising young player lives in a “non-hockey” area], a young player will find himself in a billet situation several years before juniors, as young as 13 or 14 years old.
This means that most young hockey players, while they are still in their teens, must learn to live respectfully as a billet in another family’s home. They must be respectful not only of their “new parents” but usually also of their “new siblings.”
Young players who do not learn a proper respect for their billeting situation soon find themselves on the outside looking in.
Because no junior or college coaches want a player on their team who has not learned, and fully embraced, the “lifestyle of respect” necessary to billeting in another family’s home. [And of course no billeting family would, or should, tolerate a disrespectful teenager in their home.]
To continue advancing to the higher levels of hockey, a young player must develop an unusual level of respect.
It begins as a respect for self, grows into a respect for the sport of hockey and what it takes to excel, and then blossoms into a more wide-ranging, general respectfulness.
It is a respect that transcends the sport and carries over into the hockey player’s very lifestyle, becoming part and parcel of his character.
(Stay tuned for Part 4 of this blog series to learn more about why I believe hockey players have the right stuff to save our nation.)
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