Because. It’s the Cup.

Posted: June 12, 2012 in Hockey

Hard work and determination.  Blood and sweat.  Common clichés.  It seems a bit oxymoronic, doesn’t it?  Having clichés to describe life when no two lives are ever alike.  Even if two people meet at the same end point, their paths there were very much different.  World class skier Chemmy Alcott has – in my opinion anyway – said it best, “We don’t all have to take the same journey to reach the same destination.”  Those destinations when they are premeditated are what become our goals.  Goals that you try your damnedest to achieve.

Tonight, the world got to watch the culmination of those goals being reached when the Los Angeles Kings skated around the rink with Lord Stanley’s Cup hoisted high above their heads.  It was the moment every single one of them had been dreaming of since the first night they knew about the Cup’s existence.  Whether that was when they were two, three or five it didn’t matter.  They knew they wanted it and thus began the years of endless effort and sacrifice.  They willingly threw away what remnants of a “normal” life they would have had in order to do whatever they needed to make it all happen.

It’s not just the players.  It’s the parents and the thousands of hours and miles they spend driving – to practice at 5:00 am, then to school, then back to the rink at 3:00, home by 8:00, homework done by 9:00, bed by 9:30, up at 4:00 to do it all over again.  Factored in there amongst it all are the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on new equipment as the old gets used up; as the old is still perfectly good but Junior hits another inch-and-a-half growth spurt.  You can’t overlook the basic aspects of parenting, either.  The long car rides home trying to explain to their teary eyed kid that not making the team is an unfortunate part of it all.  That they can’t always be the best player on the ice, but if they keep trying they can make certain they’re the best more often than not; that life lessons are the hardest lessons of all.

As the player grows and matures they can begin taking matters more so into their own hands.  They drive themselves to practice, they make sure they’re in school on time and hitting their grades, they get back to the rink for practice and games, they skate their asses off just to rush home for homework, a quick meal and an all too short night’s sleep.  They try to become their own psychiatrist as to not allow problems with friends, girlfriends, siblings and/or school interfere with what they do on the ice.  There is no time for distractions, there’s a Cup to win.

From mite to midget to junior to pro.  It seems like a simple, four-stop journey.  It’s not.  There’s nothing simple about being 15-years old and leaving home for the first time to go live in a strange town they may have never heard of before.  They have to live with a new family.  They have to go to a new school and make new friends.  They have to start over with the only constant being their love and passion for lacing up the skates.  Then, just as they finally acclimate to that, they (hopefully) get drafted and have to start back at square one.  This time all alone.  No family, no friends, no host family.  They are surrounded by a group of men who may be old enough to be their mom’s little brother; some who are young enough to be theirs.

It takes a while to gain a welcomed feeling, to feel okay in that new life.  That moment is built up by the recognition of what’s around them: hard work and determination.  Blood and sweat.  They all grow into a family, a band of brothers who would do anything for one another.  They all just want to succeed.  They want to light the lamp more than anyone else, to fill up the win column to absurd levels, to make the grown men on the other teams fear them like they’ve never feared anything or anyone else.  They want to pass the Cup to one another.

Then the calendar slowly turns to mid-June every year.  As much as those players on the ice, we fans look forward to it as well.  When we get to witness every day of every month of every year finally payoff for a group of 20-some-odd men.  We have our favorites whom we root for, the ones we would most like to see get their names engraved on the Cup.  But in the end it doesn’t matter.

Once the final horn has sounded and sticks and gloves litter the ice, the hockey world becomes united.  After the final handshake line, after the Conn Smythe get awarded it’s time for the moment each one of us lives for.  When the Stanley Cup finally gets hoisted nothing else seemingly matters.  The logo and colors on the sweater fade.  Any bad deeds are momentarily forgiven.  The country you’re from or the nationality you feel most deeply rooted with becomes meaningless.  It doesn’t matter what language you speak or what heritage runs through your blood.  It certainly doesn’t matter what color you are because only one color matters: the shiny silver floating above the heads of grown men grinning like a 7-year-old on Christmas.

It’s a moment, a sensation, a life defining moment that needs absolutely no attempt at explanation as to why it affects us so deeply.  It’s just because.

Because it’s the Cup.

— JRD

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