In May 2013 I had the privilege of hearing Clara Hughes, one of the greatest Canadian Olympians, speak at the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Olympic Excellence Series. Hughes is one of only 5 athletes ever to have medaled in the Summer and Winter Games in the sport of Cycling and Speed Skating, respectively. She spoke of how the Olympics changed the course of her life from being a teenager who was more interested in getting into to trouble, partying and a poor student who rarely attended school, into an “A” student and an elite athlete pursuing her dream of becoming an Olympian.
Who knew that a chance viewing of the Olympic Speed Skating competition on TV in 1988 could inspire someone so much? In fact, Clara’s inspiration, followed by countless hours, weeks, and years of perspiration, training in her sports, allowed her to become one of Canada’s most decorated athletes.
The Olympics are a special thing. Once every four years the world pauses to watch an event, which goes beyond the mere competition but shows the best of what nations and individuals have to offer.
The Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, and Stronger” is not just about winning medals but the aspiration and inspiration to be better than we are now. Our women’s Olympic Hockey Team has the great opportunity to inspire tens of thousands of young boys and girls to follow their dreams in sport. In fact, after each of the previous Olympics since Nagano in 1998, Women’s hockey registration has grown by about 35%.
Not everyone can become an Olympian but like the Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius, sport can be a catalyst for positive change in our self, our communities, our country, and the world. Hockey has definitely been that vehicle in my life.
As a young boy, with an immigrant father who had never skated and never played the game, I was captivated by hockey. I begged my parents to put me into the local house league. After some hesitation, my parents signed me up. I fell instantly in love with the game. My dream as a young boy was to play in the NHL. While I was a good hockey player, I was never great. When my playing career finished I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to coach and I was able to continue with my passion for the sport and give back to the next generation of players. In fact, I think I found my true calling…I’m a much better coach than I ever was a player.
Randy Pausch in his famous “Last Lecture” book and YouTube video talks about the importance of pursuing your dreams, because you never know where they may lead you. He says that, “experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” One of the biggest things I took away from his talk was that “the brick walls we face, the obstacles, which appear in pursuit of any of our goals, are not there to keep you away from your dream, but rather, to show you how important they are to you.” If they are truly important we find ways through, around, over, or even under the wall to achieve those goals. We stick with them and regardless of the outcome, and they make us better.
While I never achieved my goal of playing in the NHL, what a great life I’ve had by following my passion for hockey. What a great gift my parents gave me by enrolling me and supporting me throughout my hockey career. My hope is that everyone reading this article will enjoy the gift of hockey given to them and they will be able to pass along the gift of hockey to someone else as a coach or a volunteer.