The game has already gone into overtime. The seconds tick away. The whole arena is filled with nervous tension. No one shouts. It’s eerily silent.
A player on your team brings the puck down the ice, sweating, panting. He crosses into the other team’s territory. Taking a shot, the whole arena gasps.
At first, it seems the goalie has it, but it strikes the back of the net. It’s in.
The referee throws his arms up. The crowd erupts with jubilation. The scorer’s teammates practically attack him, throwing their sticks and gloves haphazardly onto the ice with beaming smiles. A sense of pride and accomplishment runs through the team, the coaches, the parents, the fans. They’ve won the championship and worked like hell to get there.
If any sports fans are out there, we’ve all felt this type of joy when a hard-fought game is finally won. I witnessed it at my school’s final game for the honorary cup last Saturday. Everyone was filled with pride. The boys had a great season and for it to end this way was icing on the cake.
But that was not the only feeling that I had after that game. The other was respect.
You see, with every game there’s a winner and a loser. I felt so bad for the losing team, who had been winning up to the third period. I especially felt bad for the goalie, who had so many great saves but just could not save that one in the end which went right between his legs. He was crying and, oh, how I wanted to shout across the ice that he had done so well. But what my teammates did spoke for me and everyone else in that arena.
They were lined up to do the customary handshake and “good game” chant. The opposing team’s goalie was bent over in the back with tears. Our star player was in the front of the lien. Once he got to the goalie, he gave him a hug. The exchange they had you could tell was genuine and utter respect for each other. He stood there for a solid twenty seconds talking to the goalie. And once the star player stepped away, the rest of the team hugged the goalie, too.
The celebration continued after that and two more of our players went over to the goalie and some of the other players to shake their hands and tell them how good they were.
Despite what I’ve heard in the hallways about these boys, I had a new found respect for each and every one of them. And in sports (and life), respect gets you a long way.
You could be the most skilled player to ever play the game and be a total asshole. It happens all the time in professional sports, and guess what? They don’t stay. Assholes don’t get respect from their teammates, their coaches, their fans.
Skill is what earns you a spot on the team, but respect keeps you there.
Featured photo credit to Joe Lippincott. The other is a stock photo I edited.