June 4, 2009
I have filled entire rooms with my trophies and warehouses with my awards. Each one of them is more meaningless to me than the next. The AAA National Championships Tournament MVP, the Art Ross and the Lester B. Pearson awards are all consolation prizes as far as I’m concerned. They are road signs on my quest for the only trophy I have ever wanted: The Stanley Cup.
It has slipped away from me before. Last year at the Mellon Arena, I saw my first real glimpse of the Cup that I have coveted since I was old enough to remember being held up by another Captain. It dominates my memories.
I don’t remember much of anything besides hockey in my life. Anytime I think back to my childhood, I am unavoidably greeted by the specter of a lonely child holding a hockey stick enveloped in the icy fog of Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia. But my separation from the other children was of my own design. They were unpredictable and fragile. It was an inanimate piece of vulcanized rubber that I chose as my playmate. The puck was the only thing that ever really understood me. I never had to explain myself to it. I never had to care if it got hurt. And most importantly, I could make it do whatever I wanted.
When I was fourteen, at an age when most people are constantly red-faced with the embarrassment of adolescence, I was giving my first TV interview. I was signing multi-million dollar legal contracts when most people are worrying about whom to ask to the Homecoming Dance. I was selected to be the face of an NHL franchise before most people graduate from High School. I knew at that point that I was not like most people. I was better.
So you’ll have to forgive me if I appear to be laconic in post-game interviews or stone-faced at press conferences. I never wanted the camera’s attention. I never needed the commercial endorsements or the late-night talk show appearances or the celebrity girlfriends. All of those superfluous distractions were just flies attracted to a flame. All I have ever needed was a stick and a puck and I will set the world on fire, not caring one bit if it burns to a smoldering ash.
I’ve had my chance at the Championship before. A better team denied me it. The players I had decided to lead were not good enough as a unit. Most of the dead weight has disappeared since then. The corn-rowed brawler, the Scandinavian super-pest, the Hometown Hero all needed to be excised from my squad. And as for my former Slovakian winger, a formidable talent in his own right, I consider his turncoat actions against me to be dishonorable. He will be punished for his mutiny. And I will punish him with death of a red light swirling behind his goalie’s glass.
I was told after the loss in the Finals last year that I might not ever get another chance, that I might never get that close again. Yet, here I am. How could anyone doubt it? It is my will to win that shall overcome any challenge.
But if I never win that Cup, my life will have been meaningless and my childhood made hollow by an insignificant game: a stick, a puck, and a sheet of ice. I will not let that fate befall me. I owe it to the lonely boy on the frozen pond in Cole Harbor, surrounded by nobody and speaking only to a friendly puck, to win the Championship and lift the only Trophy I ever wanted over my head.
I will bring the Cup to Pittsburgh.