In a world where the news is so often horrifying, sports have a rare ability to help heal and bring people together. We all cast our problems aside and are locked in when the puck drops, the ball is kicked, or the ref tosses the ball for the opening tip-off. The pain of our team is ours when they fall, but so is the joy and ecstasy when they prevail. Then every now and again, a moment can transcend sports and unify a country, a city, or even change an individual’s life. Though all sports possess this almost mystical power, this story, my story, is about hockey. Hockey not only has some of the greatest stories in sports history, but it is also the turning point in the story of my life.
Let’s start with the big picture first. When entire nations rally around a team, a moment, a championship; Lake Placid, NY 1980, do I need to say more? I’m sure you know the story by now, but it’s worth retelling.
Going into the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, the international powerhouse Soviet Union had won four straight gold medals in 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976. They were overwhelming favorites to make it five straight. They were Alabama football; they were the Golden State Warriors, only more consistent.
Picture that, insane right?
The first match-up just before the Olympics went as expected, a 10-3 U.S.S.R. victory. When it counted in the medal round, the U.S., coached by the late great Herb Brooks, got 36 saves from Jimmy Craig, and Mike Eruzione netted the winner midway through the third, and a scrappy group of kids defeated the best in the world. Al Michaels asked if we believed in miracles, and all of America said yes!
It was the midst of the Cold War, a time of high stress and fear of nuclear war. It was during the Iran hostage crises when 52 U.S. diplomats and citizens were held captive for 444 days from November 1979 -January 1981. The morale of the average citizen was at a historic low, then a group of kids performed a miracle. It was a true turning point in American pride throughout the land, all inspired by a hockey game.
From a young age, I wanted to play hockey, watch hockey, talk hockey. I was obsessed, watching every game I could. I would pick up as much info as possible from the announcers and over time, developed the ability to see the game through their eyes. I would take my younger siblings to see the Tulsa Oilers any chance we had. It’s our tradition together, a love for the sport I’m proud to pass on. Sometimes, I thought I spent too much time and money on it, but I could not have known at the time just how crucial the time I spent would be. I was about to hit a very rough chapter in my life. A section filled with pain, of doubt, and of questioning my ability to contribute to society.
Throughout high school, I struggled mightily with fatigue and felt like I was on empty every single morning. I had no energy at all, and my joints were always on fire. I had to fight to keep up really. When I tried to go to college, it only got worse until we finally got a diagnosis, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). AS is a severe form of arthritis and it greatly limited me physically. All of a sudden, I felt like my future was gone.
How would I graduate in this state?
With no degree, how would I find a job I could do?
I couldn’t know it then, but there was another reason I had struggled so bad, I had yet to find my calling.
In the last decade, I’ve had several treatments and tests, but I was still physically unable to work most jobs. That was terrifying, how would I support myself?
Then everything changed.
Hockey came to my rescue.
I began posting articles and videos on Instagram and rediscovered a knack for writing I hadn’t used since high school. After one season, I could not have been happier; I found something I could do. What’s better is that I’m writing on my favorite sport. My demeanor and hope for the future took a complete 180 from where it was just a year and a half ago. The fear, the anxiety about long-term ability to support myself, the hours of doubt, all but gone.
Now I am writing for The Sin Bin, covering the Texas Stars, working to build a career that I thought I had lost the opportunity to have due to my health. Lifelong dreams of working in hockey are coming true, and it couldn’t be more surreal or exciting. I’m not exaggerating; hockey has saved my future and given me the chance to live my dream.
The moral of this story is don’t give up, life throws curveballs at us, and it’s up to you to swing and miss or wait for your pitch. When you think you have no chance to meet your goals, remember Craig, Eruzione, and Brooks, and keep fighting. It’s never over when you have breath in your body. If you feel overwhelmed by pain, be it physical or mental, know you’re not alone. Know someone cares, and that you can still do reach the unreachable star. My health doesn’t define me, and neither does yours. Have faith and believe in yourself, and know I believe in you too.
Should anyone feel down, or if you are going through something difficult, please know you have a friendly ear. Contact me @osucam, @SinBinStars, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com, don’t hesitate to message if you need to talk.