After a 2-year career working in marketing and youth hockey development (international and local) for a professional hockey team, I was in a crisis. No matter the department, the ultimate goal of working towards selling tickets was unfulfilling and at times incredibly disappointing. The lingering feeling that I needed to do something more through the sport I love and make a true difference in peoples' lives was something I couldn't ignore.
At it's core, hockey is the most sportsmanlike game in the world. "Adam, what about the fighting and the checking?!", you say? Checking allows players to knock another player off the puck to gain control, as well as intimidate your opponents with your physical prowess, a trait that is as ingrained in mammalian behavior as reproduction. Fighting, outside of the sheer enjoyment or disgust one may have, is a way to keep honor and accountability to a game that sometimes can get emotional. If a player is upset because his team is losing, his emotions can lead him to go after the best player on the ice. It happens in sports without regulated fighting all the time. The difference is that a player who acts out on those impulses in hockey has to face a tough-guy on the opposing team who is sticking up for his teammate...honor and accountability!
Hockey is also the pure team sport. You can make countless examples for other sports, but at the end of the day, hockey requires a team to win. Gretzky and Crosby both had/have more assists than goals every season because if all they did was shoot, 5 guys could get in their way. A goalie can't stop every shot if nobody is defending in front, and a defenseman couldn't clear the puck out of the zone if nobody was supporting him in the defensive zone. If you do not have a deep sense of what it means to be a team player, you can't succeed at hockey...it's that simple!
As a result, in spite of people like Sean Avery, many people in the hockey world believe hockey requires an athlete of a higher pedigree than the rest of the professional sporting world...and they even use a different mode of transportation! What other sport tires you out after only 45 seconds of going 100%?!
I want to spread the true values of the sport...sportsmanship, teamwork, and fair, tough hockey. A sport that requires decent people to succeed, and can be embraced and respected across the globe.
Running hockey camps in China was an incredible experience for me. Not only did I get to see a country on the opposite side of the world, but I saw first hand what providing hockey can mean to people. The kids in Heilongjiang Province in Northeastern China were being given an opportunity to succeed through the sport, and get a chance to come to America. Seeing the kids the following year, it was incredible how much they improved from one structured hockey clinic, but one thing became crystal-clear...no matter what country you are from, no matter the environment you grew up in, the only language that is spoken on the ice is of hockey, with the set of values and principles that come with the sport.