Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: We’re all on the same team

Terry Trafford’s untimely and tragic death is gut-wrenching news no matter who you are, where you live or which team you root for. At the same time, here in the Dub fans are praying for and thinking of Tim Bozon, who according to the latest reports is stable and improving and emerging from a medically induced coma that was intended to slow down the progression of meningitis. Get well cards and posters and words of support for his family are pouring in from across the WHL and beyond. The WHL has established a trust fund to help cover his medical expenses. Bozon’s current team, the Kootenay Ice, are considered an archrival to the Winterhawks ever since the 2011 playoffs and the Saginaw Spirit play in a completely different sector of the CHL. But the universal truth of hockey is that such dividing lines don’t matter at times like these. At the end of the day, hockey players and fans are all on the same team.

Hockey is family. There are many reasons to love this game and the players who commit their lives to it. Chief among them is that we all have each other’s backs. I remember the first time Tim Bozon played in our rink when he was still with the Kamloops Blazers. I don’t remember every detail of the game, but I remember paying attention because the hype about him turned out to be real. When I stopped by the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club table this past weekend to sign a get-well card for him, it was more like cards; piles of them. Simple blank pieces of paper with the Winterhawks logo on them were already nearly full when I got there 45 minutes before face off. I don’t know Tim Bozon personally. I’ve never even met him.  I don’t need to. What I do know is that he’s the same age as many of the Winterhawks, chasing the same dream they are. The boy lying in a Saskatoon hospital fighting for his life is someone’s son, teammate, linemate and friend.  That’s all I need to know. Boys like Tim Bozon give up the safety and comforts of home to chase the dream. They expect it to end in a battle for championship titles and NHL entry level contracts, not their lives. I didn’t even think twice about signing that get well card or retweeting the social media posts asking people to report any sightings of Terry Trafford in the community. The only thing I thought about was bring an extra pen to sign that card in case they run out and which Tweet has the most up to date information to share about Trafford.  Because hockey is family and family doesn’t care which team you play for or which jersey you wear.  We care about the person behind the player and that is why we sign cards, sent Tweets, and signed online Facebook cards.  I don’t know Tim Bozon and I didn’t know Terry Trafford, but I do know this: they're loved by fans, family, friends and people they’ve never even met. That is what matters in this life: if we all leave this earth knowing that we were loved, we lived a good life. I can see all the way out in Portland that one thing is true: Whatever mistakes Terry Trafford may have made, whatever his team did or didn’t do to punish him, he was loved.  And just looking at the short notes of support and signatures on those piles of cards at the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club table,  I can tell you without a doubt; ditto for Tim Bozon.

We all make mistakes. My hometown is home to a WHL team, which means we are the home to the NHL’s future. Translation: We are the place where the NHL’s future lives and learns about life as a professional hockey player. Bad boy with a heart of gold Brad Ross was once suspended from the team for what most of us believe was either a) Booty call or b) Party time past curfew. Either way, Brad was a good boy at heart who messed up. Nobody thought it would last forever and we all knew Brad enough to know he’d learn from it. I spoke to Brad after that incident and while details were not forthcoming, he learned his lesson and he moved on. I only wish Terry Trafford had been able to do the same. By all accounts that I’m seeing about the kind of person he was, he might have made a great broadcaster, coach or ambassador for the sport if playing hadn’t worked out in the long term. We all make mistakes and God knows life never works out the way we think it will. The junior leagues are full of stories about players who’ve dedicated their lives to one dream and nothing else, and who are cast adrift when things don’t work out like they hoped. They haven't lived through enough of life's storms to know that sometimes, Plan B turns out to be the better path.  The league, fans, family, and friends can all play a role in helping young players to understand that they are loved, there is hope and in the case of players struggling on or off the ice, there is help. We cannot change Terry Trafford’s fate, but we can do our part every day to make sure that this doesn’t happen to another player. The most important is recognizing that the emotional and mental health of players must be treated with the same importance as their physical well-being.  The players and families who entrust their health and safety to the player's team deserve to know that their sons are well cared for on all fronts. As for fans, it's like I always tell the teenage girls who are too nervous to meet the players and frequently ask me, "What's Chase De Leo like?": never be afraid to show your love for the players. I know for a fact it matters to them more than you will ever know. And they love us back.  The events of the past week serve as a reminder that the boys who give up everything to play in our towns before moving on to the next level are just that; they are boys. They make mistakes, like we all did when we were 16-21 years old. They deserve all the support we can give them to become smarter, stronger and better as they make the passage to adulthood. 

We cultivate championship habits. Unity, teamwork, trust, loyalty and sacrifice are all the hallmarks of a championship team. They are also the things that bind fans, players and their loved ones in times of great hardship and tragedy. These are the reasons we lay down arms and support a player and his family in their time of need, no matter which jersey he wears. Like I said, I don’t know Tim Bozon and I didn’t know Terry Trafford. I don’t need to; because when it comes down to what really matters, we’re all on the same team.

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com