Sophomore Strides.

Yesterday I went to my brother Mitchel’s game in Exeter. I only went because my parents begged me. False. It was possibly the last opportunity I had to watch my brother skate as a sophomore. With only one more regular season game and a playoff run that is unpredictable in its length; I was unsure if there would ever be another chance. Especially with the way this season at UNH has played out, all of our remaining games will be away and a great distance in length. I saw this as an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I loved watching Mackenzie play. I am now falling in love with Mitchel’s game. Their styles are becoming similar; both smart with the puck, always look pass over shoot, can surprise you with their speed and vision and both have some of the best hands for their age. Mackenzie was more of a presence on offense, Mitchel on defense. Yet they both play forward. Mitchel is a center who will beat you 9 times out of a 10 in a face-off. That one he loses– be ready to get tied up. He likes to play very low in the defensive zone and high in the offensive zone. His coverage of lanes, ability to cut the ice in half and taking away of passing and shooting lanes is impressive. I’ve become accustom under Coach Umile that hockey rides on two things; face-offs and defensive zone coverage. He’s small in stature, but can unleash a bar down one timer from the top of the circle. He’s small in stature but can become your worst nightmare if he targets you as his player he wants to be under the skin of all game. He isn’t afraid to throw around the body as well. That’s Mitchel’s scouting report. With his potential being endless and his effort being priceless his future is in no one’s hands but his own.

The only thing that is almost certain is that his last game will be 2 years from now. Because it is just a game. A game that’s meant a whole lot to our family. A game that has given us our character as a whole. Nearly every memory we have as the 6 of us together at one time is at a hockey rink. My brother has 2 years. Two years to only disappoint. He’s proven to us that he can play. He’s proven to us that he puts in the time and the effort. He’s proven to us his passion for the game. He has even proven to us that he has what it takes to win a State Championship. He has won 6 in total, 5 under my father for his travel team [Manchester Flames] and 1 last year for his High School [Trinity]. The next two years he can do whatever he wants with them. He can stride around on the ice instead of skate. He can play 1 way hockey instead of 2. Or the route I know he’ll take; because it’s the route he has taken his whole entire career. Continue to shoot pucks in the garage. Continue to treat practices as if they were games. Continue to develop as a better player both on and off and ice. And while this is all happening he WILL keep those grades up. He is a well-rounded kid. He doesn’t need to bank on hockey to make his dollar. He is working towards his education, he has a tremendous support system and he has the right attitude. Our parents have prepared us well for life after hockey.

Not one decision Mackenzie, Michaeli, Mitchel or myself has ever had to make was made up by our parents. They have let us live our own independent lives. Making our own decisions along the way, suffering our own consequences by ourselves. This has allowed us to be confident young adults. To learn through experience at a young age has instilled a higher maturity than most. At a young age they stressed responsibility, academics, and work ethic. That togetherness is foreverness. Growing up in such a strong loving family didn’t hurt either. This parenting strategy is bold. But this parenting strategy has worked. Allowing us to be whoever we want, become whoever we want, and do whatever we want with little influence is a blessing. I’m sure they are just as thankful that none of us turned out with bodies covered in tattoos and piercings dressed from head to toe in Hot Topic. Quite frankly, I’m glad Mitch, Mac and Michaeli didn’t turn out that way either.

Back to Mitch. I just hope he understands that he has a little over two year’s left, 3 opportunities to win another State Title. Who you are has always been in your hands, who you will become in these next two are still up to you. I hope you continue to work hard. I hope you continue to not cheat yourself or your teammates. Push yourself during every drill. Challenge your ability. Put your body through hell now, and you will be awarded later. That means stops and starts, that means sprinting over gliding, that means back-checking harder than you fore check. You cheat yourself now, you’ll cheat yourself later in life. Bad habits are habits and once you begin them it’s tough to get out of them.

You have had a wonderful two years. Play hometown rival Central with pride. Because what you are doing I never got to experience. You are representing your school, your town, your family, but more importantly yourself. Always have fun, always be a good sport about it. Every opportunity I get, I will be in the bleachers watching you with pride. Because in two years, it is all over for me too.

So what are you going to do Mitch? What are you going to do…

Photo Credits: Cyndi Beeson and Union Leader

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