You know, I use this blog to talk about referring in Canada and the Hockey Canada referees program. In fact, this week, I was planning on chatting about some of the new rule changes this year and how they were fitting into the game at the midpoint of the season.
That’ll be next week, but for this week, I wanted to do something a little different. If you’ll allow, I wanted to give my thoughts on a story of a team coming together through the game of hockey to mourn the loss of a teammate, and move forward together as a team.
I saw on Twitter a few days ago a story about a Toronto family who all tragically perished in a fire at their Peterborough cottage on Christmas eve. A young family with two boys who played for the Toronto Titans.
The Titans website has been redesigned with a homepage that simple reads, “with great sadness that we have learned of the loss of the Taber Family. Father Geoff, Mother Jacqui, Scott (15) and Andrew (13) all lost their lives in a tragic fire on Christmas Eve morning, at their cottage in Stoney Lake.”
Andrew was a budding young hockey player, playing with the Titans Minor Bantam club, wearing the #92 proudly for his club.
But fast forward to Christmas Eve, Titans coach Jules Jardine would have to inform his players, all just 13 years old, that their dear friend and teammate had passed away in a fire.
Imagine having to give that news to a team full of players that for the most part probably had no real concept of death and tragedy. At that age, you never think that a tragedy such as what happened to the Taber family would hit so close to home.
But it’s this whole situation that shows you how much the hockey family comes together in tough times like this, and also shows you why hockey is so special to so many people.
I’ll preface this by saying flat out that I won’t even pretend to know what it feels to go through a situation like this, from a player, parent or coach’s perspective. But what I do know, is that hockey brings out the best in people through tough times.
What really caught my eye though, was a story about how the Titans club dealt with the situation. Just four days after the tragedy in Peterborough, the club played their first game without Andrew.
Coach Jardine stood in front of his young club, visibly devastated, and told his players to go out on the ice and “give it everything you have.” The coach then went on to tell his squad simply, “don’t let anything get in the way of going out there and playing your hearts out.”
"You know what this game means.”
You could tell in the video, that the young squad were obviously upset, but instead of pain, there was a sense of determination, setting their sights on playing the game of their life for their fallen teammate. Imagine being 13 years old and having to deal with the hurt and pain that comes with a tragedy such as what happened, having to deal with the loss of your teammate not even 48 hours earlier, but yet having the courage and the character to go out on the ice and give it all you have. It takes a special team to be able to do that.
I was so impressed and quite frankly moved when I saw the young squad come together as one family, and go out and give it everything they had. That they didn’t stop to think of themselves, but rather, began to get through the grieving process as a team. That the whole Toronto Titans Minor Bantam AAA squad looked at their fallen comrade’s jersey dawning the #92 hanging high in the dressing room, and instantly had a fire lit in their hearts, all with the passion to honour Andrew by playing the game that he loved.
You never think tragedy will happen to you, and never think you’ll have to deal with a situation such as what the Toronto Titans are going through right now. But what’s reassuring is that hockey brings people together in such a special way through tough times.
Hockey is more than a game, it’s a way of living, a code to help your neighbour and reach out to friends and strangers alike through a game that unites us.
It’s interesting, I recently heard a saying that an institution isn’t a building made of bricks and mortar, or in our case, a rulebook or a team name. Rather, institutions are made of people, and the thing about hockey in our great nation is that the institution of minor hockey brings people from far and wide that come together and support one and other through thick and thin.
So let us as a greater hockey community across the nation, come together and honour our own by moving forward and uniting as one, just as a team of 13-year-old boys did in Toronto, playing a game that their fallen friend and teammate loved so very much.
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