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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Something Beautiful From Something Kind

There was a benefit tonight for the Hurricane victims at thy local comedy club. It was nice. People were in such good spirits. Much of that was the spirits themselves, but something special seems to happen to people when they work together for the greater good. Doing good deeds makes you feel good. Makes me wonder what makes me feel bad sometimes. It was nice. I have an uncanny ability to find the the dark spot in the sun, but no such blot appeared tonight. It was good vibes and good energy for a good cause - somebody else. Much enjoyed from this perspective and perhaps amplified by the fact that I didn't perform. It couldn't have been purer or better.

I feel an explosion of creativity churning within. I want to paint, make music, write and continue with the comedy, which is my first love. I'm learning finally to do it at the level and proficiancy that I expected from myself making it all the more fun. So much more to do. In so many ways, I have just begun.

My creative passion now reminds me of a love from another time in my life. Hockey. I used to play. I was even good at it. I stopped at 16 becuase I ceased to enjoy it. I found girls, cigarettes and pot which as a 16 year old are pretty good discoveries. I wish I never met smokes, but hockey was bound to lose anyhow. I left my hockey heart in Winnipeg.

I moved to Calgary in mid-season 1994, also known as January. I was on what was to that point the best hockey team I'd ever been on. Up to that point, I'd been on average teams where winning was a treat, not the norm. I never really enjoyed that. I loved playing the game, but winning is why I played. I was the best player on some of those teams, but it meant nothing because the teams as a whole were not champion calibre teams.

My last team - the team who has my heart still - was the Lord Roberts Terriers. I was 14 and on top of the world. It was the first time I had made the 'A' team and the promotion to the 'Big Time' was one I took seriously. The thrill of playing in that league paled in comparison to the concept of excelling in it. We had a wonderful coach, Mr. Bodnarchuk, who instilled in us the belief that when we were on our game, nobody could beat us. At 14, I was part of a gang of world--beaters. He was right, too. We were unstoppable when we showed up, which was almost every night.

I was not the most naturally gifted player on the team. I was not the fastest skater, nor was I the most popular guy on the team. What I was, though, was the heart of the team. For all of our intense desire to win, mine was foremost. Nobody wanted to win more than I did. Without being aware the time, I was the glue of the team. I was centering a line of far more talented hockey players, but I was leading them. Mr. Bodnarchuk coached Mike Keane, an NHL'er, and informed me I had all the same tools as he did and that I was very reminiscant of him at the same age. We were in the hunt for the division title and a run for the Manitoba Provincials. We were, even in youth, a great hockey team. Maybe I could have made it if I didn't leave Winnipeg. But I did, and with that, my life path changed forever; Maybe it became what it should.

Once I moved to Calgary, I didn't care. My team was my life. I wanted to win the championship with them. They were my team, not my new one. I was on the SouthFour Rebels or something like that. I didn't care. They had their unit and I was only on the team because of geography. Lord Roberts selected me. The Terriers were one and SouthFour were spare parts. And violent. It wasn't hockey anymore. It took me a year and a half of Calgary hockey to find women and things I could smoke far more interesting.

My father, who remained in Winnipeg for employment reasons, kept me abreast of Lord Roberts progressions, and a funny thing happened. They started to fail. They plummeted. It hurt me to see. My team needed me as much as I needed them and there was nothing either of us could do. As they faltered down the standings, I fell into a world of darkness. It was a terrible experience to experience.

Then one day the phone rang. It was my Dad. The news was not good. Marcel Sousa, a teammate of ours on Lord Roberts, was killed. He was at a crosswalk and was hit by a car. Died on impact. The question was asked if I could go to the funeral. It was not something to think about - it was then that I was back with my team, the moment when we all needed each other the most.

We were pall-bearers. All of us. 15 heartbroken 14 year-olds wearing our hockey jersyes in a funeral that caught the attention of the entire city. Seems Marcels' death struck a nerve with all of Winnipeg. Front Page News. There were on-lookers and some media. It was as sad a time as I can recall. I can't say I lead my team through that, but I was as much a teammate at that point as I ever was. We were there for each other, just as we were on the ice.

At the wake after the funeral, spirits were lifting. Pizza and catching up can do that to young people. I was told of how the season just went wrong after I left. Sad as I was to hear it, it was nice to know I didn't suffer alone. They scraped into the play-offs and were eliminated in the first round. I stopped trying and didn't care for hockey anymore. We needed each other.

It was then that a strange coincidence was realized. It was April and the team was in the midst of the seasons wind-up tournament - the biggest one in Winnipeg. In a twist of fate, they had managed to pull it back together and found themselves, to the surprise of all, in the finals the following day. Only one problem - they were now short a player due to death. It was realized that in fact they weren't, because one of them returned, and the ball began to roll to dress a full roster for the finals.

It was frantic. An elbow pad from Bens' older brother. An extra shin pad from Geoff. Skates from Jamies' dad. It all came together quickly. As rag tag and tinged with tragedy as it was, it was ideal - the final game of the year and I was back to help get us the win.

Life is sometimes so perfect. All the shared pain that we experienced over the course of the previous days, weeks and months was now cast aside. There was a task at hand. Win. The arena was electric. Marcels family showed up, along with his little cousin, who was wearing his jersey. I was back in my proper uniform - the only one that ever fit. We were cheered by fans who never existed until that point. Our little story had become known to all in the community and there was a feeling of redemption in the air.

We won. Ironically, we beat the city champs, a team we once owned, and the team that elimianted us from the play-offs. It was syncronicity in it's finest form. I remember the uncomfortable equipment and my tired legs - I hand't played in over a month and hadn't used my heart in any capacity since I left the city. We won. We did it, and for a brief moment in the history of all us, all the pain we had felt was wiped away; it was wiped away with the lifting of the trophy; it was wiped away with the hugs and smiles; it was wiped away when Marcels cousin, in Marcels jersey, took his rightful place in the heart of us at center ice for a picture I'll treasure more than you can imagine.

It stands as one of the best memories I will ever have. It also stands as a motivator. As I enter now into my new love, my new passion, one which finally rivals my days as a Lord Roberts Terrier, I make this vow: I will raise the trophy again. I will win. And I will remember everything that took me to that place. I have the heart once again.


Anonymous Al Rankin said...

Great story Brett, I had chills running up and down my spine. You need to expand this to a screenplay for a movie. You can play the coach.

2:24 PM


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