I remember the moment I scored my first goal in hockey. I’ll never forget it, because it was at that moment I fell in love with the sport. The goal itself was nothing worth remembering; it was the combined feeling of competition, connection, and personal achievement that would inspire me thereafter. Since that day, hockey became a significant factor in my daily life, and this continued for 12 years.
While I hesitate to say my role as a player defines me, I must acknowledge that many experiences associated with hockey have shaped the person I am today. By the age of 20 I have had more opportunities to meet people from distant places than some people have in a lifetime. At a very young age I was able to travel all over the United States and Canada for various hockey tournaments and showcases. At age 12 I travelled to Quebec City with my team and parents, and participated in the biggest youth tournament in the world. Teams arrived from 5 of 7 continents and over 16 countries. I remember playing the opening game in front of almost 7,000 people.
I was shaking throughout the three periods, and yet completely energized to be part of an arena of international competitors. The following summer I was selected to attend the USA national hockey camp in New York, where elite players from all over the country would spend a week competing. The friendships I made at this weeklong event continue even today.By high school I moved from home to attend a boarding school in Canada. I wanted to go to school in the country that made hockey a national pastime, believing that an understanding of the culture might make me a more intuitive player. While it is true that my experience there helped me to develop competency on the ice, this fact is less significant than the personal growth this engagement prompted. Being away from home as a teen wasn’t easy, but it moved me closer to self-reliance and resiliency. I was forced to find self-discipline, when my parents weren’t always there to push me along.
I also learned what it meant to be a part of a community, with a common working purpose and a legacy that affected those who came behind me. As a result, I forged bonds with a spectrum of people – representing hockey players, billet families, and community acquaintances- who eventually became some of my closest friends. I am currently in my fourth year of Junior A, the top amateur hockey league in the world.
At times I am treated like a professional athlete, as I can go out into town and people will recognize me or approach me by name. This makes me responsible for my appearance in public, but also provides me with the opportunity to make an impact in the local community. As a hockey player, I have been fortunate enough to read in schools to underprivileged children, feed the homeless, and visit and work with the special needs population. This may provide a service, but it makes my day as well. At the conclusion of my first year of Juniors I was awarded the Chad Johnson Memorial Sportsmanship Award, which reads “Outstanding leadership and work ethic, on and off the ice. Community service, mentorship to teammates and a professional demeanor at all times.
” I was honored and humbled to receive that award, because it stands for everything I value personally – and all of this results from my life around hockey. Now I look forward to my next step in this trajectory. Playing for a prestigious college fulfills the dream of playing college hockey while simultaneously advancing me towards a life profession. By virtue of personal competencies learned on and off the ice, I am confident I can make a strong contribution wherever I go.