Gather around, all, as I will pass on to you an inspiring tale of adversity.
This past weekend in Guelph a hockey tournament for boys ages 10-12 was held. It was open to teams from all over Ontario. One of the teams that decided to attend was from Peterborough. The tournament was to start on Friday evening with a game between Peterborough and London.
On Friday afternoon there was a terrible accident on Hwy 401. (the main East/West Hiway through the area for those who don’t know). It kept traffic backed up for hours. Since the Peterborough team did not travel together on a bus, there were parents and players trying desperately to get to Guelph in time for the game. One father went north and decided to take a different Hiway until he got by the accident. He went north to the next Hiway and as he turned on to it he was side swiped by a transport. Both the 12 year old Peterborough goaltender and his father were killed instantly.
In Guelph, the rest of the team assembled in their locker room and wondered where their goalie and his father was. The father had been very involved with the team through his son’s 3 years on the team and it was not like him to not be there. So, they assumed that the two had gotten stuck in the gridlock on the 401 and would not make the game and would be there for their second game later that night. This father was so involved with the team, he had their game jerseys in his car with him so the team as also left without them. They were forced to play the first game in a local Guelph teams practise jerseys as league rules prevent a team from playing without distinguishing jerseys.
They played their first game with their backup goaltender and lost rather convincingly. At game-time for the second game, still no sign of the goaltender or his father so they played their second and last game for the evening without him and lost again, this time not so bad. The kids returned to their hotel after a tough night while the coach did what he could to find out where his missing team member and volunteer were.
The next morning the young boys grandfather got a phone call asking if he knew this name. He of course said yes and was told that the two had been in a bad accident and asked him to come down and identify the body. This was at about 4:45am. He drove the one hour from Peterborough to Toronto and identified the bodies to be his son and grand-son. He then got back in his car and drove another hour to Guelph to the arena where his grand-sons team was to play at 8:30am. As he walked in to the teams locker room as the boys were suiting up for their first of four games on the Saturday having already lost their first two and knowing that they wre all but out of the playoff picture.
The man told the coach what had happened and asked if he could speak to the team. He started by telling these 10, 11 and 12 year olds exactly what had happened in no uncertain terms. They were, of course, shocked. The coach suggested that the team tell the officials that they would not compete in this game as they were not emotionally prepared to do so. The Grandfather cut him off and continued to talk and said that he knew his son and grand-son would want the team, if they were able, to continue on and compete. The entire locker room sat perfectly quiet not knowing what to say. The grandfather said that he would leave it up to them and would understand either way and began to leave.
The 11 year back up goaltender that had played so poorly the night before in the absense of the starter stood up and said “Let’s win this for him guys.”. The boys all turned to him and did not let up with a cheer, but simply knodded in agreement and took to the ice to play their game. The Grandfather was later quoted as saying “I’ve never heard such devotion and confidence from a child as I did when this boy said that he was going to play.”
In something that seemed to be more of a movie than real life, the boys went out and competed with heavy hearts for the four games that they had to play that day. Amazingly, the unskilled, back-up goaltender put up 3 shut-outs and a one-goal against effort in the teams four games carrying them to 2nd in their pool and getting them in to the Sunday playoffs despite the two losses Friday night and the emotional burden they played with.
On Sunday Morning they beat their semi-final opponents in overtime by a score of 1-0 giving the team another shutout and launching them directly in to the final.
So there they stood on Sunday afternoon, with a second-rate goaltender in another teams practise jersey without one of their team mates ready to take on the tournament favourite, Toronto. The game proved to be uneventful as this Peterborough team rolled over Toronto quite easily winning the game marking the first time they scored more than 3 goals in a game during this tournament. Somehow these kids had done something impossible and you couldn’t help but be happy for them. However, even at 10, 11, and 12 years old they had no interest in celebrating. Following the buzzer to end the game, they shook hands with toronto and left the ice and went home. They simply had no interest in celebrating as what they had done was easily the most emotionally draining thing that had ever happend in their short lives and they simply wanted to be with each other, not with the cheering crowd. They saw nothing to cheer about.
While that sounds like something from a Hollywood movie or cheesey Disney production, it’s all very true. It really puts things in perspective when you think about. Even as kids, they understood the tremendous weight of what had happened and responded to it with maturity far beyond their years. A man I know was a parent at the tournament for the Oshawa team and he said you couldn’t help but cheer for them… and shed a teer as they left the ice after the championship game.
I just thought I’d share that with out as it touched me.