Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

Youth only comes once, enjoy the ride

This weekend was supposed to be exciting, what with the Portland Winterhawks kicking off their season with training camp and the Neely Cup and all. And it was, for the most part. But it was also the first time I realized that while I spend much of my free time reporting on the hockey comings and goings of young people, I myself am not in the prime of my own youth. Case in point: on Saturday after attending the Neely Cup I drove down the street to my 25th high school reunion. Because apparently, I need a reminder of my age, lest I forget. But that’s not likely to happen, seeing as how the next morning I was sitting next to some dude at the Neely Cup finals who asked me “is one of these boys your kid?” Now, I can lament this unfortunate situation or I can deal: I am choosing the latter. So here’s the deal: we know what the coaches and scouts and NHL GMs are telling the boys about what they need to develop to make it in the NHL. But what if we, as humble fans, gave them advice about their future? What would we tell them?

Embrace moisturizer. And a treadmill. And salads: There were many people in my high school class who had done so and, well, let’s just say there were some who had not. I realize that moisturizer may be a foreign concept to young male hockey players, and probably isn’t something they’d do. Fine. But let me say this - at least put some sunscreen on when you’re out on those golf courses you love so much. You’ll thank me later.

This too, will happen to you one day: Sunday, I went to the grocery store after the finals, thinking I’d grab a few quick things and then grab a nap. That’s how I came to be standing in the bread/doughnut section, contemplating the raspberry filled powdered doughnuts vs. 7-grain english muffins, and humming along to the overhead music, which happened to be Duran Duran’s “Rio.” And I was happy for a brief and shining moment, until I realized that song was on the radio when I was the same age as the 15-year-old players at camp. And that led me to this epiphany: if an elevator-music version of the anthem of your youth is playing on the overhead speakers at Safeway on a Sunday, you are done. Your time, if ever there was one, is over. Own up and move on.

Therefore, enjoy the ride: Because once youth is gone, it’s gone. You can’t buy, beg or steal it back. No matter what the future brings, you are young and you have time to choose your own fate. Choose it wisely.

Never be afraid to make mistakes: The biggest risk in life is not taking one at all.

Plan for the unexpected: No matter how big the NHL contract or how quickly you signed it after the draft, the one thing that’s true of all players is that it won’t all quite turn out like you thought it would. Even those big, fancy NHL dreams may lose some of their grandeur coming true. Accept this now, and it will sting less when it happens.

Don’t forget where you came from: When I asked Brendan Leipsic which team he’d like to be picked by in the 2012 Entry Draft (for which he is eligible), he said the Winnipeg Jets, obviously. Winnipeg is his hometown, and it’s clear every time he mentions it how proud he is to be from there. The NHL is taking some of its future players far from their homes (Sven Bartschi will come to Calgary all the way from a little town in Switzerland) and some will be hanging out a little closer to home (like Mac Carruth, who hails from Minnesota and will hopefully be minding the net for the Chicago Blackhawks one day). But wherever you came from, don’t forget it. Home may change over time, but remembering where you came from makes it so much easier to follow this piece of advice:

Don’t get caught up: In hockey, in life or any other distraction. It’s easier than you think to lose sight of what’s important and why you started playing this game, so don’t.  Therefore:

Always remember why you do this: When I asked Sven about his summer and the upcoming season, goals, etc. he told me something that is deceptively simple: No matter what, “I’m here to have fun.” So may I suggest you take your cue from the 13th overall pick and always remember that you’re here to have fun. Playing in the NHL is a privilege. Being able to do what you love and get paid for it is a privilege few people enjoy. Appreciate every day that you get to do so, in the NHL or wherever else you may go in life.

And whatever you do, remember this: Youth only comes once. Enjoy the ride.




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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