Last week, I had to make a hard decision and decide to not play hockey. My Heartland D-League team, Blades of Steel, was going to play for our league's championship for the first time since June 2014. After earning a first-round bye as the best team in our division, we had to claw our way back from a 3-1 deficit in the semifinal game. With six minutes left in the third period, we scored two goals to force overtime, played a scoreless overtime, then won in the fifth round of the shootout. For the third time in four seasons, we were going to the finals. And by we, I mean my teammates. I had to sit this one out.
The day after our semifinal win, I started feeling sick. No big deal -- I normally get sick when we have a drastic change of season, as Chicago normally experiences in March. Usually, a little bed rest and some over-the-counter drugs do the trick.
Five days later, I was feeling worse, and not better like I expected. I was coughing like crazy and hadn't slept well all week. I was an endless fountain of snot
. I finally went to the doctor on Saturday, with the unrealistic hope that he would prescribe some miracle cure that would get me back on the ice for our Sunday night showdown. It turns out that I had a sinus infection. I did get a prescription for some antibiotics. I asked the doctor if I'd be well enough to play the next night, or if he thought I should sit the game out. He told me to see how I feel and decide for myself. I couldn't even "blame" the doctor for sitting this one out; I'd have to make that choice myself.
And having to make that choice sucked. As of Sunday afternoon, I still felt sick. I was well enough to walk around and talk, but felt chilly and clammy. Something that should not be strenuous, like walking up a flight of stairs, was enough to give me coughing fits.
Man, I really wanted to play. Sure, it's a beer league, but it's nice to win something. It was awesome to be a part of a championship team last year. I wanted to be a part of that again.
At the same time, I knew that I couldn't skate at a even moderate pace without coughing my lungs out. I knew that pushing myself would make me sicker, which would be especially terrible since I had a busy week ahead of me
with work, school and family commitments.
I also knew that if I played, it would have been selfish of me. I may never be the best player in any given game, but I owe it to my teammates to play to the best of my ability. If I cannot do that, then I am cheating myself and my teammates. I may have been overanalyzing things (as I am prone to do), but if I "half-assed" it and skated a few shifts just to be a part of the game, I would be a liability, and not an asset, to my team.
I did not want to be a liability. I did not want to be selfish. And, after five days of poor sleep and feeling miserable, I wanted to feel better.
So, I sat the game out. I still came and cheered on my team from behind the bench. It was an awesome game. Blades of Steel scored two goals in the first period, and held the other team scoreless for almost two entire periods. Our opponents scored a goal with four seconds left in the second period, then another two quick goals early in the third period. Although they were now down 3-2, my guys didn't crack. They tied it with a power play goal, then took the lead 90 seconds later.
During the last seven minutes, Blades of Steel shut down the other team in what was a close, tightly-played game. The clock hit zero, and everyone at the bench jumped up and then mobbed our goalie. Our goalie then skated to the bench and gave me a hug. The rest of the team came back to the bench and high-fived me. I guess they weren't too worried about catching my sinus infection.
I was happy for my teammates, but a little bummed that I didn't play in that game. That's OK, though, because the ends justify the means. Had I played, I would have gotten sicker and probably would have coughed up some snot -- and the puck -- which wouldn't have helped anyone.
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Filed under: Hockey Games