ALLEN, TX – I have been contemplating what to write about on Christmas morning for over a week now and have been struggling between being thankful and expressing that sentiment or talking about a few things that have been on my mind lately which may be a downer on this glorious day. I woke up this morning still not sure what to do but as I checked social media, which I always do to get the latest news before writing, I had a private message. That message informed me that a close childhood friend had just lost her son, who fell in the bathroom, struck his head and died. He was 45 and left his wife and two young children behind.
That message was a signal that said to me to say what was on my mind. So today there will be no stats, no charts, no quotes and no keys to the game. I want to cover two topics. I want to say thanks and also talk about something that has been on my mind recently.
– This isn’t going to be a laundry list that covers everyone but there are a few groups of people I wish to thank:
1. Thanks to all of you that take the time to acknowledge what I write each day. It probably talks to my insecurities but a like, a share or a comment on Facebook, a retweet, a quote tweet, a like or a comment on Twitter is like a pat on the back. The emails, text messages and comments are all read with great interest and much appreciation.
2. There are a large number of people just like myself that devote a great deal of time to the Allen Americans because of their love of hockey and the team. They are by and large an all voluntary army that are overworked and underappreciated. Writers, photographers, fan club members, broadcasters, interns, coaches and fans that help make the organization successful. Whether you are a fan that takes a player to lunch or dinner, a fan club member that takes players to and from the airport, a photographer that stays up past midnight on game nights to send images of the game, an intern that writes game recaps, a writer that spends many hours writing a feature about the team, a fan club member that tends to the fan club table at the game, a fan that cooks a meal for the team or many other examples too numerous to mention, your effort is both noticed and appreciated. I salute all of you.
3. The players and coaches are the reason this has had whatever success there has been. Access is the key to providing useful information when you are writing new content seven days a week. I have said this before but it bears repeating, I have never had a player say no to a question, an interview or a request for information. They are all great ambassadors for the Allen Americans. It goes without saying the access I have been given by coach Martinson is what is unique. Between his duties as a coach and general manager and a dad with two teenagers playing elite level hockey, he is very busy. He is always willing to return a phone call, answer questions and share information on and off the record. And he does this win or lose. My thanks to all the players and coaches.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
– I read a story the other day that reinforced something I have been thinking a lot about lately as it relates to players and fans.
– I have always taken an interest in the social sciences and what makes people tick. I am certainly not an expert but my undergraduate degree, thanks to the University of Minnesota, is in social work. Jack Gulati and I were classmates as we found out when he bought the Allen Americans. I say we were classmates but what that means is we attended the school at the same time along with over 40,000 other students. We actually never met in college.
– What I am about to talk about is not intended to engender a debate but merely to share my opinion and I am an expert at my own opinion.
– My premise is that for as much as fans think they know players, they really don’t have much of a clue. Each player has a unique story that has shaped them as a player and a person but fans don’t know that story and don’t have a right to know it. Everything from culture to country has a big impact on how everyone develops. Did a player grow up poor where they couldn’t afford equipment? Were they from a broken family? Small town or big city? How many siblings? Who were their role models all play a big factor in who they are today?
Can you imagine the trials and tribulations of moving away from home, many times far away, at 14, 15, 16 years old? That has to be difficult for the most well-adjusted kid even with great hockey talent. For many, the hockey dream ends while they are still teenagers and many drop along the way. A very few make it to the professional ranks and are lucky enough to end up in a place like Allen, Texas.
– Fans don’t know the disappointment that all of these players have felt along the way. Rejection has been a way of life as skilled as these guys are and rejection is never easy. Can you imagine what it would be like in your job to get a promotion and then sent back to your old job because you weren’t good enough and have that happen over and over again? Can you imagine at your job breaking your hand or suffering a concussion and when you return your boss says sorry, I gave your job to someone else? Can you imagine if your boss could say you are out of a job with no notice and for any reason?
– Fans don’t know what struggles players have to deal with from financial responsibilities to substance abuse issues to loneliness from being away from family. Can you imagine what it is like to be one hit or one injury away from losing your livelihood and having a physical problem you will deal with the rest of your life?
– In the six years I have been writing, I have heard so many heartbreaking stories from players who couldn’t be at home when a close relative was dying or passed away, a player who was traded a week after his fiance joined him and the day she found a job, a player who was traded when his wife was six months pregnant and a family that couldn’t afford to travel to Allen to watch their son win a championship. Then there were those serious injuries that ended the season for key players.
– If you are still reading this I am sure for some of you the thought has crossed your mind of “give me a break.” These guys are not being forced to play hockey, they are making a living playing a game and have a pretty cushy job. You sometimes hear fans say if I pay my hard earned money to buy tickets that gives me the right to say anything I want about any player.
I don’t question anyone’s right to be critical. My opinion is to be critical of the penalty kill or defensive play or shots on goal allowed but if you are a fan of the team don’t be critical of a player and make it personal. You don’t know the impact that criticism has on the player and/or the player’s family when they see something negative on social media. The old adage, if you can’t say something nice best to not say anything at all, certainly applies here.
– If you question why the coach doesn’t trade or waive a player you are questioning the judgment of a guy with 22 years of experience and 10 championships. I learned a long time ago how little I know about hockey and what you see on the ice looks very different if you go through a play in slow motion video with coach Martinson, looking at every player on the ice and what they did and didn’t do.
– So my plea this holiday season is if you are a fan of the Allen Americans and more generally in life, be careful when you use social media and publicly put a player down, question their ability and wonder why they haven’t been traded because you don’t know their story. Leave that assessment to the coaching staff who knows what they are talking about.
– I urge you to read the story below and watch the video that is embedded in the story. It is what inspired me to share my thoughts on this subject. My point is you never know what each player has gone through to get to this point in their career and you don’t know what they are dealing with today. Love and support is what everyone needs and that is what I think each hockey family should provide for all of the players.
This article is just an example of one story and it has so many life lessons included. Remember, there are 24 unique stories on the Allen Americans team that may be just as compelling in their own way.
“Life, Hockey and Lessons Learned,” a story about Craig McCallum: https://thestarphoenix.com/feature/life-hockey-and-lessons-learned