The alarm clock goes off. You have a runny nose and a bit of a cough. You’re coming down with something. You stand over your coffee maker as it bubbles wondering, “should I call in sick today?” After all, those meetings you have on your schedule and phone calls you have to return at the office are quite demanding. Finally, you decide to drag yourself into the office, even if you don’t quite feel up to it today.
You have broken ribs. Torn cartilage and muscles. A separated shoulder. The last time you were at the “office,” you left in an ambulance. But you showed up for work the next day. And unlike that office worker debating with himself over his coffee maker (among which we include ourselves), you work for a living. Your body is your tool set. And it’s broken. When asked to describe the nature of your injuries, whether they are, in the code of your profession, “upper body” or “lower body,” your boss merely says, “body.”
You are skating a shift in the late stages of the first period. You just turned the puck over, but you jump back into the play to try to defend your mistake. A shot caroms off your stick and hits you square in the cheek, frozen rubber striking skin, flesh and bone. It rips a streak of red across your face, leaving you face down bleeding onto the ice. It is your last shift of the period, because it takes time to stitch up a cut. You are back on the ice for your first shift of the next period, still feisty enough to take a penalty to end that shift.
Your job description includes some items that jeopardize your physical well-being. Going into places inhabited by large men with malice on their minds is among them. But to succeed, there is where you have to go sometimes. One of those times, you are plastered to the ice trying to do your job, left woozy and uncertain on your feet. It’s all in the job description, the risk you take. But you’re back at work the next day, and the next time you show up at the office, it’s your goal that blunts the momentum of the other team, at least for a while. When your team finally takes control of the game, you are on the ice in the last minute to defend your lead, to defend the championship you are about to win.
The term “heroes” might best be reserved for those who toil on the field of battle, but there really are not very good synonyms for the term. Leave to say that Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Shaw, and Jonathan Toews are special.
Then again, perhaps not. They are hockey players, and this is what hockey players do. They just did it on the biggest stage of all in their profession. And that is one reason why hockey fans might be the most rabid of any sport (well, there are those World Cup soccer fans…). Because hockey players are, if not heroes, then very special individuals. It puts in stark relief how stupid, silly, and petty all the nonsense was that left the NHL dark for four months. And how much smaller those were who brought it about.
The game of hockey is in good hands with young men like Bergeron, Shaw, and Toews – and dozens like them. They, and the game, deserve celebration this morning.