It’s not news that we’ve taken a beating this summer. The death toll since May for our little "corner" of the world stands at 41. Forty-one of our own taken before their time. You know who they are, their names, their careers. Husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, heroes, teammates. Part of our community, all of them. We expected to be watching them. We expected to be hearing their voices on our televisions, radios, computers. We expected them to be going home to their families as often as they could.
A few months ago I wrote a piece about why I love hockey. One of the important parts to that was the sense of community that hockey fans share, regardless of geography or life experience. Things have changed since I wrote that article. I’m not saying that I mean any of those things less, but rather that there’s a new dimension to them for me. For the first time, in the middle of the excitement and joy, hockey hurts.
We will miss them all.
The mantra "summer sucks, drop the puck" has never been said with more desperation than it was the week before yesterday’s start of preseason. Just let it end. We can’t take any more.
But dropping the puck didn’t really stop the pain or the grief or the anger at fate for taking them all from us so soon and so rapidly. The games were fun, but it seemed like there was a hole still there, a lingering sense of things not being as they are supposed to be. Hockey, that pastime that has given me a sense of community and joy and occasionally wonder, hurt me. Too many of the boys were so obviously not going to be there. As the game ended I felt bruised, saddened, and so very tired. And the reality of loss struck me once again.
My love for the game can’t be innocent anymore. I’ll heal--we'll heal--in time. But I’ll always have this summer as a little scar on my heart. Today I turn to the strength of hockey, the character and the resiliency to see me through.
And today I will remember forty-one young men.