Chasing the dream

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My son makes an observation. He asks, “Dad, why are you watching Montreal so much?”

My answer to him was, “You know my boy, as a Bruins fan, I love watching the Habs lose and lately they’ve been losing a lot!” It’s true, as much as I love watching the Bruins play (win or lose), I particularly enjoy watching their arch nemesis lose. He just shook his head in disgust and walked away.

We as fans, just love watching the demise of rival teams.

My third oldest son just started playing last year and enjoys the game. He also knows his hockey, as he has chosen the Bruins as his team. But I had to wonder, “Would I cheer for the Habs if my son ended up being drafted and playing for them?”

You better believe I would. As a proud father, yes I would cheer for the enemy to cheer on my son. Who wouldn’t? I’m sure a Habs fan would do the same if their son got drafted by the Bruins, Leafs or Pens. Some diehard fan reading this may be thinking, “Never!”

Well, we’ve been waiting decades now for our first NHL player from the Quebec Cree. No disrespect to Jonathan Cheechoo from Moose Factory, he made all of us Cree proud. But, we are still anxiously waiting for an NHL player from our nation on this side of James Bay.

In my years of playing, I encountered about a dozen Cree players from everywhere who could have made it. The talent was there, the smarts, size, speed… you know who you are.

Somewhere along the line, our players get sidetracked. Motivation disappears, a new job, they miss the girlfriend back home, or they get homesick, discouraged or simply made a decision to pursue a different dream.

These days, by the peewee level a promising player has to begin preparing by attending the best summer training facilities and hockey camps. Keeping them focused throughout their minor hockey lives is a tough challenge for parents and is a huge financial strain.

We all see future greatness in our children when they play the game. The passion in their eyes and the pure joy of never-ending play makes us work hard in helping them go far in their quest to some day play on the biggest stage on ice.

The questions remain: How can we motivate our players to continue pursuing their dreams? Why or when did this not seem as important?

I’ve always wondered about this and I know everyone has their own thoughts as to how this passion was lost. We could point the finger at other people of influence, also known as peer pressure, but then we could look back at ourselves and ask if we did enough to prepare them.

Today, we have a handful of young players out there pursuing this dream at the elite level. The number of players grows every year. We are able to see their progress, their achievements, as well as their setbacks. We must continue giving our young players as much support as we can. They must be encouraged by all of us as a family, a community and a nation.

For you young players, don’t give up, don’t miss home and especially don’t come home if there is a chance for you! The only thing here will be regret and the never-ending thoughts of “What if.”

I still believe that one day we will see one of our Quebec-born Cree players skate on NHL ice. When that day comes, 10,000 fans from up north will cheer so loud that it will be heard at that rink.

The road is narrow, tough and will most likely be lonely. To all our young hopefuls, keep chasing that dream and be our first NHL player. I just hope you will be wearing a Bruins jersey.

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