As coaches we are privileged to spend time with our players throughout the season. In some cases, for several seasons. Then a new group of players moves through and the process starts all over. For me it has been over 2,000 players that I have worked with as a coach. It is natural to perhaps not remember all of them as the years go by but I have learned in recent years that they do not forget. I have always tried to have a positive impact on my players as athletes and people. Sometimes I wonder how well I have done. Every now and then I get a report card.
Earlier this week, following the game of the high school team I currently coach, the father of an opposing player stopped to chat with me. His son is a high school senior that was playing against our team. He reintroduced himself to me and of course I remember coaching him in the USHL in the early 80's.
We chatted about players that were part of that team as he has kept in touch with many of them. We reminisced about one player in particular who made it to the University of Minnesota and had a great college career but over the years slid into drugs, alcohol and then sadly passed away. Poor life choices. Many of us were there to help but it did not slow the slide.
Then John looked at me and told me that he still remembers many of things I taught him about hockey and life. He credits me with being one of the most influential people in his life and helped him become who he is today.
I had to take a deep breath: not sure what to say. I was and am humbled that he felt as he does and that he took time to share that with me.
We hugged and then he and his son went home.