What motivates you?

Shelly’s Blackhawk game.

In the fall of 2010 my wife, Shelly, and I jumped on a plane to Chicago. We met my father and walked to the United Center for the first home game of the season. The Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup in June, and they were raising the banner that night. It was Shelly’s first NHL game. My wife later told me Jim Cornelison singing both anthems with twenty two thousand fans cheering was one of the most beautiful moments of her life. Shelly was hooked on hockey, and I was one lucky guy.
When a young boy or girl is introduced to hockey in Canada, the USA or Europe there is known formula for success. Kids advance through the age groups (mites to midgets) and get segregated by ability. In general the better you become the better coaching you get. USA Hockey and Hockey Canada have age appropriate training and skill development down to a science. Young players are inspired by their heroes like Zach Parise or Angela Ruggiero on TV, or they try to copy the skills of the more advanced high school, Junior or college players in their area.

Family is integral to all of this. I have childhood memories of Bobby Hull, The Golden Jet, and Stan Mikita. I would listen to the original six Chicago Blackhawks on the radio with my father and occasionally go to old Chicago Stadium to watch a game with him. I have great memories of hockey road trips with my youth hockey travel teams. We would stay in Holiday Inns with indoor pools in Chicago or St. Louis when the comedy show Saturday Night Live first aired. Every Sunday morning in the locker room the jokers on my team would mimic what they had watched the night before: Belushi, Ackroyd, Murray and Gilda Radner. Later on many players have the memories of going off to play in juniors or college – new traditions and cultures with more pressure. Then it is beer league and old knees, but still having fun, and recounting the hockey memories all over again.

Hockey got me and a million others at an early age, but how do women fit in with this model? Yes, there are thousands of girls now playing youth hockey. But what motivates an adult woman to play recreational hockey? For a kid there is this tradition. Why are women drawn to hockey when they begin to play as adults?
At the beginning of every season I tell my high school team what I understand to be the stages of hockey:  When you are young you play for your parents. Then you progress and you play for yourself. (Although the retention rate with teenagers is not very high for any sport.) The next level is playing for the guy or gal sitting next to you in the locker room – your team. For some there is a level where you play professionally and for the money. But the highest level of hockey is playing for the love of the game.

What motivates most young competitors? For some it is parents and coaches. Some kids would never want to let their fathers, mothers or coaches down. For others deeply felt religious beliefs motivate them. Ambition, personal pride and competitiveness and a sense of excellence are the motivators for many. Some people do not want to let their teammates and friends down. Some are driven by fear. Many times we use a combination of all of these to motivate us.
At the U.S. Olympic Training Center a motivational speaker was giving us some tips. “What do you do when your legs are burning and your lungs are screaming and your heart is going to explode (dramatic pause)….. Just Quit!  Just stop and those sensations will go away!“  Of course that anti-climatic tactic had never crossed any of the 16 year olds’ minds in that room. It was the last thought to come to mind. We were anxious for secret words from an expert about how to achieve success without the hard work and perspiration, perhaps, and that is the point of the story. Do you ever achieve success without hard work?

Many other questions remain. Why do we do it? Why does anyone want to achieve and excel? What can we take away from our athletic experiences and use in the rest of our lives? Why do athletes at the pinnacle of their careers like Sydney Crosby continue to work so hard to improve and perform? Why do you hear so often that the best player is also the hardest worker in practice?

I have asked the Divas to contribute some statements about what motivates them and statements about why they play:

“I am motivated by milestones. I was born into hockey a little late in life and that has me eager to learn and progress before my body wears out. So far, memorable milestones include the first time I could tell my skates were dull, when I first lifted the puck, my one and only back hand goal (three weeks ago). While I’m still learning the basics, I’m especially excited to make plays with my teammates- I think I’m ready for the another milestone in hockey- a bit of strategy! Well, maybe I should work on patience or seeing the whole ice. When I think about it, maybe I have a while to go before I reach the strategy milestone, but I’m super excited to get there someday…before I’m 45??”
Alaska Diva
“This fall I decided to try two things that I couldn’t do – hockey/skating and piano. Its been such a fun autumn and slide into winter, learning and getting encouragement for my efforts. I never thought seriously about hockey until this year, I’m the last person who you’d think would enjoy team sports and especially one with a physical reputation like hockey. Several friends who play hockey encouraged me to try Hockey 101, and the promise of an atmosphere for beginners lured me in. Admittedly a couple of months isn’t enough time to see my future in this, but I’m hooked by the camaraderie, experience of learning something from zero, a fun way to exercise, and the wish to improve enough that I can try to be a part of a team. My view of the contrast between ‘lifelong’ vs. team sports has been turned on its head.”
“I think adult women play hockey initially because of the socialization.A friend suggests it, it’s fun, they get to laugh a lot  and they get to hang out and talk with other women. I am constantly raving with random women about how much fun hockey is. Some look at me as though I am a bit mad while I can see others are curious and would like to give it a go. Women aren’t drawn to hockey to be superstars it is like a night out with the girls…I [however] am motivated to play hockey by my desire to be really good. I love playing it so why not good at it also? When I see my teammates improving it definitely motivates me to improve also. I also think that if I didn’t have a coach that I respected and who didn’t push me to perform better I probably wouldn’t be so motivated. I also have to say that smirking and being cocky after you have scored a goal really fires me up. This probably sounds childish but if someone like this tries to score, I will  do just about any crazy move to try and stop the puck from going in the net. Having another goalie is also good motivation as there is always a competition going on to some extent.”
Alaska Diva
“I first started playing hockey the year the arena opened. .It was the year I turned 50…I had never ever played on a team sport ever or been on ice skates!  I am not aggressive or competitive. I am not a sports fan of any manner.  I was assured it would be fun.  I was in for the fun.  Had a lot of fun “playing hockey” the first year.  As Crashman says today, the first year we did not play hockey.  I thought we did. Then I moved away for 4 years and did not skate at all.  Convinced my husband to move me back to Homer, first thing I did was sign up for hockey.  Being gone for 4 years did not help my playing and the rest of the team had improved.  Plus, the original 12 Spit Sisters had grown in size.  I have improved the last 3 years, I still am in it for the fun and team spirit. .  the locker room is hilarious! Our coach has given me the skill and knowledge to improve, I still need a lot of practice to implement it. The team encouragement is heart warming and by the end of the scrimmage I feel like a hockey player!!  I love being a Homer Diva.”
Alaska Diva