“He not busy being born is busy dying.” Bob Dylan sings this in It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). This song takes me back to that pivotal year in my development (as a person and as a hockey player) when I moved out West to the middle of Montana after high school, chasing mountainous dreams and embarking on this path that I still walk to this day, some thirteen years later. Still chasing that puck. Still chasing that elusive destiny.
This one goes out to you, dreamer. This one is dedicated to the kid shooting pucks at a coffee can out in the back yard, while the rest of the world spins on. This is for that kid who they said would never make it. It's for the one they laughed at. It's for the one who wasn't afraid to be real, to be passionate, to be a hockey player. If you are reading this now, and thinking I'm talking to you, I am. This one is for you.
A long, long time ago in the middle of Montana, I played Junior hockey for a team called the Great Falls Americans in the now defunct America West Hockey League. I was eighteen years old, just a boy, and this is where I learned how to fight. The gap between an eighteen year old and a twenty year old was so vast and canyonesque during that eventful year out west, and so I learned to fight and compete against men. It was here in the middle of mountains that I found my courage, strength, and belief in myself as a person and as a hockey player. It was here where I became a man.
Thoughts run rampant `round the skull, day in and day out, during a hockey season. The weeks fly by. We practice and we play. We rest for a day, and then we are right back at it. We are here now, right in the thick of things. It's approaching mid-January, and we are well into the season. But we are far from close to that end goal, that prize waiting at the end, that elusive trophy, that shining silver brilliance.
Stanley Cup of Chowder ran an Article on their website called “Ask a P-Bruin: Submit Your Questions For Bobby Robins”. This gave fans an opportunity to fire away, and ask anything.
I wanted to treat this as a writing experiment and actually answer the questions in depth, as well as provide creative content. In a lot of Q and A articles with pro athletes, it seems like stale answers and surface topics are the norm. You end up hearing a lot of, "we gave it our best shot out there" and "the team played hard tonight", or sometimes even the dreaded self-gloating and self-references in the third person. And in rare occasions, you hear self-gloating, self-references in the third person, and a third person self-gloating reference using a nickname. Very rare, but I've seen it done. "The Robinator brought it tonight. The Robinator brings it every night. Cuz that's what the Robinator does. He brings the pain. Cuz he's the Robinator."
It seems that it is not only athletic folk who deal with maintaining consistency and the pursuit of excellence. I've received emails from many different people from many different walks of life, telling me how these articles on excellence have affected them. There is certainly a common vein that exists in all of us. We want to excel. We want to be great. But no one ever tells us how. I truly believe that each of us has our own path to greatness, and it is impossible for anyone else to understand it. We can begin to grasp the idea or the notion, or see the accolades of our peers and appreciate those accomplishments, but we don't get to see what's at the true core of someone else. And we don't get to gauge how different or similar our thoughts and ambitions are.
I think I'm on to something. Has anyone else tried these magic words?
“I'm going to be excellent today.”
I've been saying this to myself pretty much all day, every day for the past week. I've come to the conclusion that they are truly magic words. I say it before bed, and right when I wake up, and on the way to the rink, and in between drills, and any time the Doubt Demon makes an appearance. That's when I say it with the most authority. Any time the Doubt Demon breaks through that dimensional barrier and shows his fangs and claws, I now stand firm, and announce my excellence. I won't let that wretched worm influence me anymore. I'm stronger now. My words are stronger now. My words have magic. So do yours. There is excellence brewing, and no room for negativity or second-guessing.
We all have good days and we all have bad days. We have days where we are firing on all cylinders, clicking, buzzing, emitting vast clouds of potent energy out into the world. We know and embrace those special days, and acknowledge when we are lucky enough to experience that. We live out that day in the Zone, and go to bed, curious(or oblivious) to what the next day will hold.
We wake, and wait, and see what comes our way.
I'm trying to break this pattern. I'm tired of being on top of the world one day, and dangling in space at the tip of some Antarctic icicle the next, jutting out into oblivion at the bottom of this spinning orb. I'm tired of inconsistency. Aren't we supposed to be at our best every day? Is that even possible?
Now it's real. No more mid July workouts and crackling sun reflecting off bicycle handlebars, on the way to the gym. And on those rides, the thoughts and visions of the year to come, and what I would do. And visualizing it completely, seeing every crisp pass, every rocket shot, every bruising body check, and every missile fist. Riding that bike every day through Sail Boat City, while vacationers bask and bellow jolly sangria laughs all along the beach. I was always cruising by, on a mission, with one thought on my head. "I can make it to the NHL. I will make it to the NHL." Daydreaming about the masochistic routines I was about to perform at the squat rack. Riding, and training, and repeating that mantra, until I believe it and know it.
Wow, what a year.
Looking one year back from today, it was the middle of the summer, and I had no idea where I was going be playing for the upcoming season, or if I would be playing at all. Bakersfield had my rights, the ECHL team on the western shores of California.
How did it all end up to where I'm sitting today?
It started with Doll, and matters of the heart, and my own instincts and desires to be a Man, a Protector, and Provider. Frankly, we couldn't do it another year. I only saw her once in six months during that lonely year in Bakersfield. We talked on the phone religiously every night, but it just wasn't the same. It was a long distance relationship, and it felt long, too long.