By Wes Bolin
Published in "Let's Play Hockey" (Nov. 2014)
High School Hockey: A Privilege and a Process, not a Business
Winter is in the air and so is the most exciting part of hockey. For the next four months the “State of Hockey” will focus… not on college hockey, which is still trying to create it’s new identity… not on Junior hockey... which is but a distant image to Minnesota fans…. and not on the Wild, for the true excitement of the N.H.L. will be generated six months from now…. But Minnesota hockey fans will now focus its attention on the part of the game that defines our state…the high school hockey season!
It is a tremendous thrill, and a privilege, to play high school hockey. For the next four months you will get a chance to play hockey the way it should be…as a game that we love, with the friends that you grew up with. There are the after school practices and team dinners that will solidify these friendships of your youth. The true rivalry games that mean something to your community and in which you will get to play in every on-ice situation and allow you to maximize your skill potential in front of scouts at every level and fans who are passionate. The classrooms and halls of your high school will allow you to develop educationally and socially in a secure environment while your own home provides the love and comfort that cannot be found anywhere else. This is the last time where you will feel this true camaraderie, this importance to your team, this security, and the closeness of this love.
When you leave high school hockey the game becomes a business. Your teammates are competing for the same opportunities that you are so your new friendships are not always as sincere. The child-like competitiveness of your Pee Wee hockey days to determine who will be the leading scorer on your team becomes cutthroat competition in the business world of hockey. The results of games determine the fate of coaches and general managers who will not be so quick to allow your mistakes. The sincere care that your high school coach has for your social, academic, and athletic growth and development is overridden by wins and losses in the business world of hockey. The school you will attend may seem distant and impersonal in your new city, or it actually may be distant and impersonal in your new on-line school. The place where you sleep…will never really be your home in the business world of hockey.
So enjoy the last time in the game where the game is a game. For the next four months you and your teammates will try to achieve the ultimate goal for everyone in the State of Hockey, the state tournament. If your team does make the state tournament it will be a thrill of a lifetime. And even if your team does not make the tournament, you will never regret these next four months. The regret is only to those who have chosen not to be a part of the excitement and challenge. Obviously, you will not all make the state tournament this year, but perhaps the greatest thing about the Minnesota State High School Hockey tournament, is not the tournament itself, but it is the process of trying to get there. What a privilege to be a part of high school hockey.