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Gloria, Stanley and Theodore

It has been fun to experience St. Louis coming alive over the past couple of months with Stanley Cup fever as the Blues inch closer than ever to winning the whole thing. The “Play Gloria” theme will also help define this moment for us when years from now, we’ll be at a friend’s house, a bar, or a Blues game and that song might happen to come on and in that moment, we’ll be transported back to this one.

For the lifelong Blues fans this is a moment that cannot be underscored enough. A franchise without a Stanley Cup title and it having been 49 years since we last had a shot at it. Despite the excitement and anticipation I feel, there are moments I have felt on edge in addition to the high stress ones during the games. It happens when I feel fellow spectators overlook or don’t understand how hard this sport is.

I am a half-decent ice skater but if you put a stick in my hand and suddenly I needed me to pursue a moving puck, it would only be moments until I was face down on the ice. Cheering is a natural part sports as are the groans and boos when something goes awry. But as I sit here watching this championship, there is a level of frustration I feel when I hear people exclaim,

“How did you let that shot go in Binnington?! Anyone could’ve stopped that!!”

“The puck is right there O'Reilly!! Put it in!!”

Things I now know about hockey after a bit of research

  • According to one forum, the average slap shot is between 80-90 mph. Interestingly enough, the Bruins captain in 2012 recorded the fastest shot of all time at 108.8 mph.

  • In addition to puck speed, hockey players are often moving at more than 20 mph.

  • In addition to the speed of players and the puck, add in the fact that wooden sticks are flying everywhere and five of the people on the ice would love nothing more than to lay you into the boards.

These factors and more make for a complex and physically demanding environment.

When I feel like people are levying judgement against the players I feel on edge because that is when people transition from fan to critic, which Theodore Roosevelt described this way,

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly"

Brené Brown put this quote on my radar and I can’t help but realize when I’m watching a sport like hockey that for most of us, “the arena" is a metaphorical place where we engage in the hard work. But in hockey the players are in an actualone. It is natural when we are impassioned by something to cheer for it and despair when it falters but I believe when we criticize players like this specifically for their performance, we glaze over the difficult nature of this sport.

Go Forth Boldly and Let’s Go Blues!

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