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Thank You, Hockey: Featured Autobiography

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Thank You, Hockey: Featured Autobiography

Connor Martin is junior double majoring in Middle Secondary Education and English, and he is also a hockey player on Marian's ACHA team.

Connor Martin is junior double majoring in Middle Secondary Education and English, and he is also a hockey player on Marian's ACHA team.

Connor Martin is junior double majoring in Middle Secondary Education and English, and he is also a hockey player on Marian's ACHA team.

Connor Martin is junior double majoring in Middle Secondary Education and English, and he is also a hockey player on Marian's ACHA team.

Connor Martin, Freelance Writer

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I still vividly remember the feel of the cold crisp air rushing past my face as I walked into the rink at 5:30 am on a Wednesday morning. It was my first taste of morning practices when I was 13 years old. My mom woke me, dragged me out of my warm bed, and force-fed me Frosted Flakes. In a flash, we were in the car she already warmed up, driving across town to the Owatonna Four Seasons Centre. The thrashing of the ice in the morning was always my favorite, the world seemed calm and at rest, until we all stepped on the ice, the ripping of ice just seemed louder than any other time of day. I loved the laughs in the locker room with all the guys once we were all awake, after practice of course. It felt like we were all off in our own world, where no business from school or stress caused from broken homes could get to any of us. We skated away from all of it in those cold winter mornings when the rest of the world was sleeping and we just played hockey.  

Thank you, hockey, for teaching me the importance of an early morning. I learned the impact of getting a head start on the rest of the world, beginning my day hours before most people my age were even thinking about getting up. “The early bird gets the worm.” This gave me the chance to get work done in my day that would have congested my evenings, allowing me time for homework and family. I learned the stillness of a world that only moves with the few other morning risers. I got to see the beauty in a fresh snowfall where there was not even a tire track on the road, except for the ones that my mom’s Jeep plowed. They left singular trails along our path like twin jets cutting through the powder. I was able to share moments with some of my best friends, bonding over the absurd time we got at the rink each day, that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you for showing me how important and beautiful an early morning can truly be.  

Thank you, hockey, for giving me moments to escape from the real world. Despite all the drama I dealt with growing up, you were the one constant in my life. No matter how hard the practices were or the frustrations I had with coaching, you remained a place for me to vent frustration and blow off much-needed steam. I could get away from the deafening roar of my parents’ separation, and all the yelling and tears it accompanied. I could get away from dealing with my older brother fighting overseas for months or years at a time. You gave me an escape from constantly worrying if I was spending too much time with mom or not enough time with my dad. I could escape from the childhood ignorance of feeling like I, of all things, made my parents split up. Like somehow, I let them down. In these practices and games, I felt free from the internal questioning of who I should live with, who’s story I should trust, or why something like this had to happen to me. All the times on the ice gave me a chance to be myself and live free from the expectations other people put on me or that I put on myself. So, thank you for giving me an escape from a dramatic childhood.  

Thank you, hockey, for pushing me to travel the world. I grew up in rural Minnesota, playing hockey against other local communities with the same rural background. Every year we would travel to Duluth, Minnesota for a holiday hockey tournament. However, as the years went on and the skill level got higher, I traveled to places like Chicago for summer AAA tournaments. To me, that was an incredible jump to see what life was like in “the big city.” There, I got to experience festivals like the Taste of Chicago and check out renowned places like Navy Pier. Then, I got to play at the famous Shattuck-St. Mary’s; the hockey home for some of the biggest names in the sport, like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Nathan Mackinnon, Zach Parise, and many more. At this school, I met people from Dubai, Beijing, Moscow, Riga, Paris, Seoul, and hundreds more. I traveled the world just in conversation with these amazing kids. Learning, experiencing, and tasting their cultures each day I went to school there. At Shattuck, I also went to cities like Denver, Omaha, and Sarnia, Ontario for the first times. Denver at Christmas time is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The mountains were covered in snow-globe white snow juxtaposed with the desert landscape that surrounds Denver, clouded in crisp 50-degree weather.  

Thank you, hockey, for pushing me to live in a different country for two years. I mean, it was only Canada, but still, they use monopoly money, so it counts. But seriously, here is where you really made an impact on my life. First, moving away from home for the first time to a different country is a pretty big deal. My parents, divorced, lived two hours apart but I always lived with one or the other, never away from both. Yet, you pushed me into one of my favorite places on Earth, Steinbach, Manitoba. It was here that I really turned into the man that I am today. I was fortunate enough to meet two mentors of mine who graciously put countless hours into caring about me and helping me grow as a person. First and foremost, they showed me the meaning of faith and how to live as a man of such. They provided example after example of what that meant in terms of family, sport, and social life. In every aspect of their lives, they took me under their wings. I was invited to every family function, every guys’ night, and every bible study. It was truly incredible to see how these families functioned, so honest and imperfect, but never without love leading the way. In comparison to the broken homes I had lived in for so many years, I was able to see exactly how the family I pictured for myself would hopefully function.  

Thank you, hockey, for bringing me to Marian University. The place that I now can call home after living here for the last three years, the longest I have lived in a place and attended the same school for since I lived in Owatonna and attended elementary school. The place that introduced me to my fiancé, the one I get to spend the rest of my life with. The place that helped refine me into a person confident in my strengths, weaknesses, and need for others’ strengths in my life. Without you, I would have never heard of this tiny little liberal arts gem hidden on the southern-most tip of Lake Winnebago, 300 miles from the city I grew up in. Nor would I have ever heard the name of the woman I intend to spend the rest of my life with. There are so many amazing aspects of this university and this city that I love and value now. There are moments like ones spent at the Lakeside Park Christmas light show; or enjoying a thick frozen custard s’mores sundae from Gille’s on a steaming summer night; or walking through the farmer’s market that brings life to downtown every Saturday, all summer long. There are places like Ala Roma, where amazing food meets portion sizes that would drop the jaw of any true Italian looking for authentic cuisine, people like the teachers I meet in the school district who have such a passion for learning and teaching and caring for kids who need someone in their life to believe in them. At Marian, I met a host of teachers and students who always seek the greater good and push each other to make a difference in the world. The passion and courage that is bred at this school is underrated in the truest sense of the word.  

So, thank you, hockey. You showed me why the early bird gets the worm. You gave me an escape from some of the difficult realities that have cast shadows over different times of my life. You helped me travel the world, well the continent at least, but still more than this rural Minnesota boy ever expected. You gave me the chance to live in a different country and immerse myself in a different culture. You gave me a home and a partner in life. I know you will never be gone from my life, but your role is changing, and your immediate priority is fading. The time I give to you as a player is about over with one year left to play. But I will always miss being a player in your game, yet I cannot wait to see what other opportunities and avenues you still have for me.  

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Thank You, Hockey: Featured Autobiography