Sunday, February 22, 2015

Senior Night

In life, there are moments when you feel like everything is coming full circle. I had that happen to me when I wore the Team USA jersey in my 20s just like the Mighty Ducks did when I fell in love with hockey when I was 4. But senior night was an entirely new kind of circle. The kind where there aren’t specifics like a Team USA jersey to focus on so instead you find yourself reflecting on your entire life. Because the reality is that Harvard Hockey is truly the pinnacle in each of our lives right now. I’m pretty certain I speak for all of the seniors when I say that Harvard Hockey has been the single most life-changing and rewarding experience for all of us thus far.

When you walk into the locker room on your recruiting trip, you can’t help but wonder about what it would be like to have your name on a stall. You can’t help but envision yourself as being a star player at the best university in the country. You create a dream world in your head where hockey, school, and life will blend perfectly together from the moment you step on campus as a freshman until the moment you graduate as a senior. And then when you make the call to tell Coach Stone that you want to play for her at Harvard, you smile (in my case you cry) as you feel the weight of 11 years of hockey and 13 years of school being lifted off of your shoulders as everything you think you’ve prepared for your entire life has finally come to fruition.

And then you actually step on campus for the first time as a Harvard student. “Where’s the dining hall? What’s the rink address? Wait, I was supposed to bring my gear… I thought we got all new stuff?! Oh crap, we had an eligibility meeting today???” These were just a few of the questions I had in my first week, followed my many more I’m sure. But the only thing any of us actually needed to know didn’t have anything to do with our questions nor did it ever actually need to be said aloud. It was simply that the second we began our freshman year, we became a part of a family whose core value was and still is “team first.” No matter what questions we had, no matter what adversity we faced, our teammates always had our backs simply because team comes first. Always.

And thank goodness for that because the reality is that nobody in this world can possibly prepare you for the inevitable and completely unexpected adversity that is going to happen during your time at Harvard. You never know when a blind side hit to the head will force you to take a year off with a concussion. You never know when your best friend from high school will get killed in a car accident. You never know when your Achilles tendon will turn in just the perfect direction to cause it to tear. And you certainly never know when you are going to be playing your heart out during your senior game and break your arm going into the boards. These are simply things no one can prepare us for, but they are things that we can get through. And that’s because we have Harvard Hockey. We have each other and we’ll always have each other to carry us through the most difficult challenges.

Senior day wasn’t exactly how I had pictured it. I think we can all agree on that. It still stings right now as I sit and write on this Sunday morning. My parents and my boyfriend have been doing an awesome job encouraging me and reminding me that this thing isn’t over, but for some reason there still seems to be something missing. And then I remember that all I need to hear are those words that go unspoken: team first. No one could have predicted the adversity this team has faced this week. Not me, not coach, not anyone. But guess what? This whole facing unexpected adversity thing is nothing new to us. As a senior you look back on your four (five, six) years of college and realize that the most important things are not the games you win or the grades you get. No, the most important thing you learn is how to work hard to overcome any challenge in life and to do it for the people that you meet along the way. Harvard Hockey and this senior class are far from finished with the 2014-2015 season. Stand up. Team first. ‘Til the end. 154.