Brookes' Mindset Journey - Chapter 8: Game Time
Updated: Mar 29, 2021
“So what are you gonna do?” Jessie’s question seemed to come out of nowhere and was so unexpected that it was difficult to respond. “You know, about the ultimatum Principal O’Malley gave you – are you going to keep playing hockey?” Brookes burst into laughter; hardly able to contain himself. Quit hockey? The thought truly hadn’t crossed his mind once since his mom read him the school’s email. Skating was like breath in his lungs or the sun on his face. Walking away from hockey would mean cutting off a piece of himself. No, there wasn’t a punishment harsh enough for Brookes to forfeit his life’s calling. He would get the grades needed to continue his season. He would do whatever was necessary to maintain his eligibility. Giving up hockey simply wasn’t an option.
Not only did Brookes need to maintain his grades, but he was also required to see a tutor twice a week. It was an understatement to say he wasn’t stoked about this development, and with the season about to be in full swing, time to himself felt like a luxury. But boy was the sacrifice worth it. Brookes was really starting to come into himself on the team, and even the most skeptical upperclassmen couldn’t deny his skill on the ice. Though success in practice was a far stretch from the real deal, and as the locker room quieted for the coach’s pre-game speech, Brookes felt those familiar butterflies take flight. He had grown used to them over the years, but the first game of the year – his very first Varsity start – added a special shot of anxiety to his stomach. Deep breath.
Again, Brookes was floored by the speed of the players on the ice. He was slotted in as a 3rd line winger, and at that moment, he couldn’t be more relieved. His mind replayed the last words his mom said as she dropped him off at the rink, “Don’t let them intimidate you. Trust yourself, I sure do!” But as the pace of the game picked up, being intimidated was all Brookes could do. Then, before he could take another breath, he was stepping over the boards and into the fray. For the briefest of seconds, Brookes wished he could have entered the game on a stoppage. In that instant, his man banked the puck off the boards and around him. The chase was on, and it took every ounce of effort to close the distance and knock the puck off the opposing forward’s stick. That was too close.
It wasn’t until his second shift that Brookes had a chance to handle the puck. The pass from Monty was a bullet, careening off his stick, deep into the opposing zone. Brookes’ hands felt numb in his gloves, and the botched opportunity cut deep into his confidence. How was he going to make a huge impact on the game if a simple outlet pass was too difficult to corral? A whistle sounded the end of the period. Down a pair after the first was not what Brookes had expected. More than the score, he was disappointed with himself for his personal performance. “Get your head up!” The harsh words were accompanied by a jarring fist on his shoulder pad. Coach Harrison briskly walked past, no doubt on a beeline to the locker room. Apparently Brookes’ dissatisfaction wasn’t as internal as he thought.
The sting of his coach’s words followed Brookes back to the bench. Not to mention the fiery speech given to the team in the intermission. There would be time to sulk after the game if he lost. IF. When the puck dropped this time, the focus was there. Still sitting on the bench, Brookes began to anticipate the movement of play. The pace was still breakneck, but his eyes just felt dialed in – like they were locked onto the puck. He itched to get on the ice. So much so that his skate lace got caught on the bench and Brookes almost completely biffed it as he tried to hurdle the boards. Thankfully there was a faceoff, and he had a second to compose himself. He sheepishly snuck a glance at the bench only to see a dozen chuckling faces staring back. As he skated to the hashes, he took a breath, and let himself smile. Now it’s game time.