An unseen hit, drove a knee into the boards and a leader to the ice. One player out for the tournament in the very first game. Unable to even stand on it, teammates carried his gear. He left for home before the second puck dropped.
The second game dropped another player, this time a defenseman. This hardy player went down and stayed. Out for the duration, he donned a jacket and supported from the bench.
Where fortunately, he was able to relay information about the third player downed by a vicious hit. Once down, he didn’t move. His mother feared it was his head. Offending player ejected, the bench reassured it was an ankle instead.
We hurt ourselves with penalties. Four games played. Three 2 and 10s served, plus various minor penalties setting us short handed for the equivalent of one whole game. Nothing like playing with one hand tied behind your back.
We lost the first three games we played. Gave up a goal within the first minute twice. And scored one measly tournament point.
Two little brothers invited to play up made contributions to the team. They played with heart against players years older and sometimes twice their size. These Bantams played heads up hockey–attacking the puck, making clean passes, creating space, and setting up plays. One was awarded player of the game the first night. The other scored two of four goals in our only win. Bantams in stature, midgets in spirit.
The boys supported each other in all the ways teammates can. They carried each other after injuries. They skated each other’s shifts. Buoyed each other up after mistakes. Backed each other up in the plays. Set each other up for passes and shots. Took care of opponents who took cheap shots. Bonded over pizza and pool.
The team walked away with a win in the final game of the season. Battling back and forth, trading the lead. Clinched it with an empty net goal in the final minute. And walked out with heads held high.
These boys grew tremendously this year. Stronger. Faster. More certain. But most importantly they grew…together.
They learned to keep their heads–mostly.
They learned to rely on themselves and each other, rather than just one superstar.
They learned to be a team.
So although all the boys are a little banged up (and some more than a little), they’re also standing taller. And while the weeks of rest ahead will help to heal their bodies, no doubt they’ll miss being a team.