I received a copy of Bobby Orr's new book for my birthday, and I'm about 90 pages in.
So far, so great.
One of the things that's stood out for me so far is the difference between how a player approaches the game as opposed to the average fan. The older I get, the more it becomes apparent that fans seem to take the game a hell of a lot more seriously than the players, and by that I mean fans seem to get more emotionally invested and even damaged in some ways by the results of a game or by things that happen off the ice.
Here's a bit from the book that speaks to that.
All the practice and training athletes go through over years of playing their sport helps to combat feelings of pressure or fear. I have been told by friends and family members that at certain points watching a crucial game, many of them had to turn their heads away from the TV. They found it that difficult to deal with the tension. But for a player, those are the moments you live for. It's not really all that hard to understand. Although the stakes may be high when you're in the middle of a game, you're in control. You're doing the thing you're good at, the thing you have trained to do and love to do. It may look nerve-racking to an outsider, but that is only because he or she hasn't trained for years, day in and day out, to do the things a player is called on to do during the course of a game.
For the average fan, hockey is a release, a distraction. It's something to get invested in apart from the daily realities of life, to get swept up in, for better for worse. That's why some fans lose their shit when their team *ahem* drops a 6-1 decision to the Red Wings on a Wednesday night in November.
But for the average player, this is their job; something they've trained for and worked for and have experienced for years.
A loss strikes me as being akin to a bad day at the office. It stinks, it's hard, but you brush it off, learn from it, and head home to the family or out for a beer.
Of course they're emotionally invested and want to succeed, just like we all do in whatever we've devoted our lives to. But players have put in their 10,000 hours and it's become second nature to them. They're used to the winning, the losing, the getting injured, the trades, all of that.
Sure there are times where emotions are ramped up, like Game 6 for example. At a time like that, the dichotomy between player and fan is probably way smaller, and a win or a loss in the Cup Final can manifest itself in different ways, both positively and negatively, for years to come.
But even when it comes to winning and losing, Bobby has a wise take. And while it may not fly with the advanced stats crowd, it shouldn't be discounted because, well, this guy's been around the block a few times and knows the game pretty well, even if he played in a different era.
Sometimes you do everything right and the puck bounces the wrong way. Sometimes you play poorly and get lucky. But on the whole, if you play the game the right way, you'll get the results you are looking for.
Hockey is big business these days, as our friends at Rogers reminded us this week. There's a lot riding on the games, and we all get wrapped up in the outcomes. But at the end of the day, it's a game for the fans to enjoy and a nice little job for the players to have (and, by extension, a nice little job for those of us lucky enough to cover it.)
The players are real people just like us, they've worked hard to get where they are and stay where they are, and have trained for years to do what's required of them out on the ice. These guys are pros, and as such (and for the most part), they handle all the ups and downs of the game much better than the majority of us on the outside looking in.
The funny thing is, these bits came from Bobby's account of growing up in Parry Sound and playing junior in Oshawa. Just imagine what's in store during the Bruins days ...