Mar 3, 2006
All I ever wanted to do was be Wayne Gretzky. When you are young and dreaming and playing hockey at an ATOM level and other parents are upset because you're not good and taking their son's ice time and saying it five feet from you... it's something you'll never forget. And I haven't, and it fueled me to never be that guy that people sit around talking about negatively again.
I knew I was always going to be the small kid, but nothing could stop me from being the strongest and most determined, and that's what I focused my life on. My favorite player became Chris Chelios. He was a defenseman on the Montreal Canadiens who played the game to win. He didn't care what he had to do, he just wanted to win. Whether he had to throw a hit, sit on the bench or get into a fight, he wanted to win. And so did I.
I played everything to win and along the way made many friends and some enemies. I knew that if I wanted to get to the top, the place where every kid dreams of, I would have to do whatever I had to: eat a certain way, sleep at certain times, work out harder than the next guy, miss the party, move away, travel long hours on buses, play in small towns, study on a treadmill... whatever it took.
Along this path I learned to respect myself for the sacrifices I had to make to get to where I wanted to go, but even more so I learned to respect the guys that were already there. I watched Chelios battle bigger people for the puck using whatever part of his body or stick to help him. I watched Mats Naslund compete at 5' 7'' 165 lbs in the NHL. I watched Tie Domi (5' 10") fight Bob Probert (6' 3") until no one could stand. I learned to love these guys and respect them for what they had to do to get to where they are and mostly for what they do to stay where they are. If you wanted the puck, you had to get the puck -and to get the puck means you have to go through Chelios or Domi or Naslund or Probert... "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog" and that's what hockey is. Hockey is not about how skilled you are or how nice you can skate in circles; hockey is about winning and what it takes to be a winner.
I fell in love with hockey at a young age, not because of the game itself, but because of the way it was played and the people who played it. When you think of hockey, you think of Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux or Bobby Orr or Gordie Howe and the passion that these men played the game with. You think of the endless wars these guys went through every night just to win a hockey game. You think of the sacrifices that these guys made to get to where they were and the sacrifices they were making to do what they did. All that for two points in the standings...
I wrote this hoping that some young stud with all the talent in the world realizes that there is more to hockey than a shiny stick and an expensive car. Players now earn more money with a signing bonus then some of the greatest players ever made through the course of their careers. Take pride in what you do and be thankful for guys like Naslund, Gretzky, Probert, Domi, Richard, Chelios... for hockey is more than a game... it's a way life!
P.J. Stock, a former NHL winger, is currently the host of The Stock Exchange on Team 990 in Montreal, and is also doing color commentary for the Hartford Wolf Pack on FSN New England.
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