Growing up in New England we have cold winters with frozen ponds from late November to early March, therefore;. hockey didn't require indoor facilities for which there were none in my town. We laced up a pair of department store skates, grabbed a hockey stick at the local hardware store and headed out the door. We used tree branches for goals, and protective padding was unheard of.
During the 1970-71 season I saw the New Haven Blades play. It was their last year, and one of their last games. It was hard hitting, fast-paced game with a number of fights - truly exciting and inspiring! My brothers and I headed to the pond and imitated them as best we could.
About the same time one the neighbors joined a "real" hockey team and started to make us look pretty bad out there on Brock's Pond. In the winter of 1972 my high school started it's first hockey club which my brothers and I joined. It was unfunded by the town, so we sold candy bars door-to-door to make money for ice time at Wesleyan University. My team had some added encouragement from the New Haven Nighthawks, a new AHL team in our city; that's their logo on my jersey.
We practiced once a week at the rink before dawn and had games on Saturday afternoon. The rest of the winter it was the ponds, or we lost the last puck in the snow bank.
A dream was born!
North Branford only won a couple of games that season at personal cost of a dozen stitches and a lost tooth. My mother's response, and my father's were quite different....
The Johndrow' became a hockey family with practices at 5 am, a net in front of the garage door, and summers at hockey school with the big names: Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Billy Smith and a bunch of others. We watched every televised game of out New York and Boston. I would lay in bed under a photo of Bobby Orr dreaming about going pro one day. If I worked hard enough, I just new I could do it. To stay in shape I rode my bike to school 12 miles each day. I ran a few miles three times a week and weight trained on the Universal. And my favorite, I shot a few hundred pucks a day at the net in front of the garage.
I had a few successes as a defenseman: there was the slap shot from the blue line that beat the second best goal tender in the state, as we beat our arch rivals 3-2 in sudden death overtime. And then I beat the number one scorer in the state as he and his teammates descended on me in a 3-on-1 break, slamming him into the boards with with hip check and stealing the puck away. We lost 2-1, but we were ranked 35th to their number 1.
Every season there were injuries - I stopped counting stitches and chipped teeth - I only missed one game due to a concussion.
Eventually I had try-outs with a local pro-am team. After 5 hours on the ice, I got cut; it was disheartening. I did go on to play at college where we got beat every single game. It turned out to be more about the party, than the game. After 2 years I was done playing organized hockey for good. I stopped following the Boston Bruins, Orr was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks - hockey was never the same. As I run my tongue over 11 crowns; which are a constant reminder of those 10 years of hard work, it the back of my mind it still seems possible to play pro.
Today as I watch my old favorites in living color, but it bothers me that there are teams in the NHL from cities where the average snow fall is zero!
As fate would have it, about three years later after I quit, God gave me a new dream, one to serve the Kingdom of God. Again, I thought if I just worked hard, I could achieve it. I was wrong, I couldn't make anything happen. I couldn't practice harder or study more, I just had to wait on God.
Isaiah 40:31But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
And finally one night I awoke about 2 am, and the Lord asked me if I wanted the ministry he had for me, and all that went with it.
1 Kings 3:5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”
I said yes.
How about you, what is your dream?