A Short Essay On The Connection Through Sport Moments & Those Who Created Them.
Connection is the spice of life. Often we get a reminder of how precious life is and a reminder of cherished moments & experiences.
Our mortality as we get older hits us in waves. Our perspective changes. We don’t think like we did when we were younger. Our body changes, the miles start to pile up and folks of our generations start to pass on. While this is not the rosiest of topics, it is a reality of life gives us cause to pause and think, and often smile among the sadness of one chapter ending.
In the world of sport, experiencing the passing of those with whom you had a connection is one of those moments in time that remind us of the message: life is fleeting, nothing lasts forever. I also find it very powerful to layer that message with:
Enjoy today and the time I have while remembering fondly fun moments in our past.
It is a powerful thought that has allowed me to get through some bumpy rides. How about you ?
Almost like letting our past co-exist with excitement for the present without them colliding.
The passing recently of some of the great hockey legends that I enjoyed growing up highlighted these sentiments and took me down a path that I thought I would share.
Hockey legends Mike Bossy and Guy Lafleur recently passed. When you combine that with the passing of Gary Carter 10 years ago, they bring a somber realization of the reality of how time remains undefeated and things continue to change. Carter was 57. Bossy 65. Lafleur 70. Ouch.
These events stirred up some emotions, and it feels a little like it does when someone closer to us passes.
In thinking this through, maybe it is because they were close to us at some point? Not personally necessarily, but they were close in the moments they represented, the excitement they created and we associate those times as positive memories. They moments they created bring us back to a time where we may have needed that positivity and excitement. Fond memories of pride, emotional as they were with the natural ups and downs of competitive sport.
Each of us that enjoy sport have these people that trigger memories. They represent a time that meant a lot to us and perhaps to our families, that helped us become who we are. They became part of our journey and to a degree our identity.
Growing up in Montreal, listening the Canadiens and Expos on the radio, the voices of Dan Van Horne and Dick Irvin were part of my formative years. Creating pictures in our minds of the events that unfolded below them.
We created connections with the people in the those moments and many linger with us many years later.
Lafleur, Bossy and Carter were larger than life in the public eye, they were authors of great moments in sport and they lived in a time when they were a regular part of the community. They were out at about in the restaurants, gyms, rinks, malls and public places. They interacted with whomever and never seemed bothered by it. Bossy would come back from great accomplishments in the NHL, and present trophies in his minor hockey association in Laval for example.
Imagine walking into a dressing room for a summer skate at Bonaventure rinks on Cote de Liesse back in the day and seeing the great Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey (2 legends who played alongside Lafleur for many years) sitting there getting ready to go on the ice with the same group I was. It would have been about 1983 or 1984. We skated for an hour and they were just like anyone else, except for how skilled they were compared to the rest of us. All the fundamentals were smooth as silk. I often wondered how much of a workout it was for them back then, playing with a bunch of 18 - 22 year-olds, but it did not matter to us at the time. They were out there getting the “rust off” from the summer, while smiling and even giving some coaching tips if you were lucky enough to get on the bench in between shifts.
How about walking into a gym and seeing the great Gary Carter training over there on a Saturday morning with a few other Expos at the time? Carter was going about his business with the Nautilus machines (think a gym in 1981 or so), while holding court for whomever was around. Smiling, laughing and making everyone feel at ease. 1981 baseball was big in Montreal. They had very competitive team and we felt they were on the verge of winning it all. The entire city and country connected to what the Expos were doing and Gary was leading the way.
I connected again with Gary in 1998 in Florida. We received a contract to supply the spring training facility with equipment in Jupiter, Florida. When doing the install, who was the first one in the gym with the new gear? You guessed it, Mr. Carter, who was then coaching with the team. I sheepishly introduced myself and reminded him of the days in Dorval at Club 230 and his smile got real big. We had a connection. A 10 minute conversation with a hall of famer, and it seemed like he could chat for a while (at least that how I remember it). It’s been 10 years since Gary passed of brain cancer. Ouch on many levels.
Mike Bossy finished 5 plays the night (I remember 5 goals, maybe it was 4) I watched him with Laval National back in 1977. He was noticeable because he was not noticeable until putting the puck in the net. We had the good fortune of getting some special box seats up high on one end as part of our youth hockey team. 3 or 4 of those goals were scored by him on that end at the old Montreal Forum. Afterwards, we had a short meet and greet with this non-imposing young athlete not really knowing just how much of an impact he would have in pro hockey. He was very good, the start of the game, and very humble. He was smiling, engaging and signed every one of our requests for autographs (no pictures back then unfortunately as we had no cameras!). Only later did we realize that his beginnings were very humble. I had a connection. It was easy to cheer for him over the years.
In public places, there was an unwritten rule in Montreal. No one bothered these athletes at the restaurant or in the mall or at the bar, yet they were very approachable. It was a different time with special people. They were highly skilled, humble performers but also it felt like they were one of us, part of our community.
They created special moments We felt the connections. I remember these connections and how that made me feel like it was yesterday.
While I feel very fortunate to have had these connections as an average joe, we all have the opportunity to connect with someone of like mind, who is passionate about sport at any level. Either to people or moments or both. It is part of the power of sport.
The connection requires emotional investment, they don’t just happen. Connection requires putting yourself out there, having an emotional tie and often being disappointed.
This however, the emotion and connection is the essence of life is it not?
What about your connections? Hopefully a few ring true for you that bring a smile to your face like these few do for me.
Enjoy your Sunday!
Some additional resources around these good humans and different times.