Anyone who has played hockey remembers their first goal.
Mine came in a house league clinic when I was probably 5. I scored during a goal-mouth scramble and afterwards was awarded the puck by my coach. I treated that puck like it was the Stanley Cup.
Ryan had been attending a hockey development clinic for some time. The format of the one-hour, early morning Saturday sessions was always the same: warmup, followed by skating drills, puck drills, and finally a 10 or 15-minute scrimmage.
These scrimmages were very informal. Usually half-ice, coaches or cones for goalies, an indeterminate number of kids per team. Ryan loved this part of practice. He would skate around in the group of kids trailing the puck like a swarm of mosquitoes. As he learned the game better, he would sometimes break from the pack and find and open space in front of the net, whereupon he would immediately begin banging his stick on the ice in a long, exaggerated motion to call for the puck.
The puck didn’t often come. This was more like a game of Nok Hockey, will kids taking turns banging the puck in the general direction of the goal and then chasing after it. Passing, if it occurred at all, was usually an afterthought.
And then it happened. The puck found its way to Ryan. Ryan smacked it towards the empty net. The rest, well, just watch:
Where have I seen such raw, unbridled joy before? A friend suggested this. I think he’s on to something:
That’s what I love most about Ryan’s participation in hockey. The moments when I can see his smile right through his facemask. Even two-plus years later, he still celebrates every goal in every drill as if he’d just clinched Game 7 of the Cup Final.
We should all take such pleasure and joy in something so simple. Thank you, Ryan, for reminding me to enjoy the little victories.