Hockey Weekend Across America

As part of its annual “Hockey Weekend Across America” celebration, USA Hockey and the NHL are asking people to use social media to say what hockey means to them, marking their posts with the hash tag #hockeymeans

Since there is no way I could confine my answer to 140 characters, and since I’m sure USA Hockey doesn’t want me filling up its timeline with a novella’s worth of responses, I’m posting mine here.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, add them to the USA Hockey or NHL Facebook pages, or tweet them using the special hash tag.

Skating at the Rock
Sharing an NHL rink with my kids. Does it get any better than that?

When I was four years old, my father took the family to an NHL game on a whim, and I was instantly hooked. The next day I announced my intention to become a professional hockey player, prompting my ever practical mother to point out that I couldn’t skate. I began lessons immediately, and was playing the following year. The sport gave me my first passion, one that is still burning strong. #hockeymeans

Due to two moves and one school closure, I attended four different elementary schools. Never the most outgoing child, making friends in new schools was greatly aided by seeking out the other kids who either played or cared about hockey. #hockeymeans

Hockey was the first sport I followed, bringing me instantly closer to my father, who had grown up a huge sports fan. He took the family to games, and we would watch and listen to games together. He would share stories of his own childhood fandom of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Having sports to share has brought us closer together. #hockeymeans

Hockey has given me some of the most amazing moments of my life. When I was seven or eight, we had tickets to see the Washington Capitals play the Hartford Whalers one weekend afternoon. Our car broke down that morning, but my dad was determined to get us to the arena. It was Gordie Howe’s final NHL season. At age 52, he was playing for the Whalers and skating on on a line with sons Mark and Marty. I distinctly remember my dad — while we were waiting for a loaner car at the dealership — telling me that “someday you’ll tell your kids you saw Gordie Howe play.” When I had a chance to meet Gordie Howe 30 years later, I told him that story and he smiled and shook my hand. And I have told my kids I saw “Mr. Hockey” play. #hockeymeans

In high school, I played baseball and football but I was not very good at either. In my junior year, my school added ice hockey, allowing me to represent my school in a sport I was actually good at (by public school league standards, anyway). I was the team captain and one of the better players. This served as a tremendous confidence boost to my awkward, teenage self. #hockeymeans

Carrying my hockey bag and sticks in to my freshman college dorm on move-in day, I instantly met the other hockey players. Within a couple of weeks I was on an intramural team and had and instant group of hockey buddies with whom I played and attended games. #hockeymeans

Later in college, I had a chance to cover Michigan’s hockey team at the NCAA tournament for the school yearbook, thereby earning my first post-high school bylines. This sparked an interest in a sports media career that carries through to this day. #hockeymeans

Speaking of careers, hockey has provided me a livelihood more fulfilling and rewarding than I could have ever imagined a job being. I have worked in sports media for nearly two decades, the last 12-plus exclusively in hockey. Doing so has taken me all over North America and brought me in contact with quality “hockey people” everywhere I’ve gone. There’s something about people who spend their life devoted to this game: a passion, a knowledge that they’re part of some sort of insider’s club (in the U.S. at least) that understands what a truly wonderful sport it is. #hockeymeans

Hockey has not only given me a bond with my son Ryan that I wasn’t sure I’d ever enjoy, it has brought our entire family closer together. Riley was a fan before Ryan (a fact she loves to point out) but once he came on board we discovered that attending a hockey game was an activity all four of us could enjoy together. I’ve taken my son to numerous birthday parties. I had a pit in my stomach at every one of them, wondering how he’d fit in. Ever since we hit the turning point in Washington a few years ago, I have never thought twice about taking him to a hockey game, not even one a plane flight away. #hockeymeans

More times than I can count, hockey has allowed me to feel like a kid again, whether it’s the opportunities I’ve had to skate on an NHL rink, the weekly adult league games I play in, the emotional ups and downs of following my favorite team through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, or just the joy I get from having an activity to share with my entire family. #hockeymeans

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