Stephen Harper wanted to change the channel on the Senate expense scandal. Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin made sure the prime minister wouldn’t succeed.
But by their antics, these and other parliamentarians have managed to feed a growing cynicism towards politics and the men and women who practise the craft.
To put it mildly, it’s not their finest hour.
If inspiration is at a premium in political circles these days, it may be a good time to “change the channel” to the Island’s other favourite pastime hockey.
Go to any rink and you’ll find young players who dream of going to the National Hockey League. Go to any bookstore and you’ll find the stories of seven Islanders who already have.
The names are well known Brad Richards, Gerard Gallant, Forbes Kennedy, Al MacAdam, Adam McQuaid and Billy and Bobby MacMillan but these are largely the stories of their early days in the sport and how they came to realize their dream of playing at the highest level.
Road to the NHL was written by Halifax journalist/author Philip Croucher. It also features seven NHLers from New Brunswick and 11 from Nova Scotia including Cole Harbour phenom Sidney Crosby.
The stories of their lives before they made it to the “Big Show” are fascinating and inspirational. Common threads among the stories are virtues that Islanders hold dear hard work and determination, commitment and sacrifice. Throw in a whole lot of talent and an equal mix of passion, enthusiasm and the courage to follow your dreams and readers get a clearer picture of what it takes to make it to the NHL.
For example, Islanders know Brad Richards as an elite player, a Stanley Cup champion who has never forgotten his roots. But few know how difficult it was for Richards to leave home as a young teenager to develop his career with a team in western Canada. In Road to the NHL, his father said he’s not sure if he could do it again. “It was terrible…but Brad was very mature for his age,” Glen Richards said. “If he wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t have let him go.”
Bobby MacMillan had to “suck up” the pain of an off-season injury before making it big in the NHL. After breaking his heel in three places, he scored 20 goals and 52 points in his rookie season. MacMillan was following in the footsteps of his older brother, Billy. Both future NHLers got their start in a rink in their back yard.
Then there’s Adam McQuaid, the self-described shy kid from P.E.I. who was named assistant captain of the Providence Bruins before being called up to the parent club in Boston. In his first season, he brought the Stanley Cup back to his hometown of Cornwall. Not bad for a kid who was introduced to the sport at age six to help overcome his shyness.
More than a half-century earlier, another future NHLer was just starting to hone his hockey skills. But Forbes Kennedy was already 11 and he only got into the game when his father brought him home equipment and sent him to an outdoor rink near his Charlottetown home. By the third night he didn’t need any coaxing. He’d go on to play a dozen seasons including stints with four Original Six teams.
In the book, Kennedy also puts an exclamation point on one other thing all 25 players have in common a love of the game before and after they made it to the NHL.
“It was a job that you loved, because you couldn’t play the game if you didn’t love it,” Kennedy said. “And I loved it.”
There are, of course, many other Islanders who have made it to the NHL and each one of them have made us proud. They’re role models for young Islanders who dare to dream of one day skating beside their idols with the Leafs, Habs and Penguins.
In the hail of he said-she said-who’s lying stories coming out of Ottawa these days, the inspirational stories in Road to the NHL are a welcome and refreshing change.
- Wayne Young is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.