Admissions Essay 2011-2012
Tell a story from your life that emphasizes community. How has this experience shaped your character?
I don’t have to look far to find my community. While it would be easy to say that my time in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League allowed me to build a once-in-a-lifetime rapport with my teammates, or that my very-public disqualification from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft showed me that my support system always has my back, neither of those things really explain who I am anymore - just how I got here. Undoubtedly, the most important part of my life is my role as a AAA peewee assistant hockey coach in my hometown of Montreal.
This became clear to me in my first year of coaching.
We always start practice with stretches. Leading 11-12 year olds through warm-ups can be a challenge, but today was an exception to the rule. We weren’t at our home rink; instead, we were preparing for a qualifying game in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Everyone was both nervous and excited. It was the kids’ first game outside of the province, and we had to be gone overnight. It felt like a big deal, especially to their parents.
When I played in the QMJHL, I did cross-Canada roadies all the time. I never thought anything of it, because that’s what it means to play elite minor hockey. But, for these families, it meant that there would be an empty chair at their dinner table that evening and an empty bed in their house that night. Reflecting on my own time in youth hockey, it dawned on me just how much trust my parents had placed in the team staff to get me where I wanted to go: not just whatever city we were shuttling off to, but also towards my future NHL career. From my new perspective as a coach, I felt the weight of that trust.
That’s why it was so terrifying when, in the middle of the second period, one of my kids collided with another player in our defensive zone.
I saw blood.
Normally, I would have panicked. I’m not always the greatest under pressure. But I’m a coach, and when we’re on the road, I’m also kind of a surrogate parent. I knew that, in this moment, I was standing in for Marc’s mom and dad, who were probably eating dinner across from Marc’s empty chair.
I’ve never leapt over the boards so fast in my life.
Marc turned out to be fine. His helmet was still on tight, and his nose was just a little bloody from hitting the cage. He was pretty shaken, though, so I still had to carry him back to the bench. When we called his parents later, Marc kept cracking jokes about how I made it across the ice faster than Sonic the Hedgehog, a video game character who is apparently known for being fast. The gratitude from his parents made me realize how important it was that I was there, even if it wasn’t life or death.
I was worried that Marc would be scared enough by his injury to quit hockey altogether, but he was one of the most eager to come back the next season, ready to get to work for “Coach Z”.
It’s not a glamorous story, but it’s an important one.
It makes sense that, even after everything I’ve been through, I believe that my sense of community is best fostered on the ice. And it makes sense that, after my professional career was put on hold, the locker room is the first place I’d look to start rebuilding. I’m a part of these families’ community in a crucial way, and it’s an honor to have their trust.
But that’s just a bonus, and it’s one I’m greatly humbled by. Getting a “thank you” isn’t why I started coaching. When I zipped up my staff jacket for the first time, I actually didn’t think it would be that different from being part of the community as a player. All I knew was that, for the first time in my life, I wanted to reconnect with my sport, not build prestige with my accomplishments. I wanted to help others achieve their goals, not lose sight of what’s important in pursuit of my own. I wanted to see hockey through the eyes of others, not just through mine. I wanted to learn to love it again, but, more importantly, I wanted others to love it, too.
I got there the hard way. These kids, if I’m doing my job right, will learn it differently. If they can get a bloody nose and still feel glad that they showed up, I’m happy. Sports builds character in a lot of ways, and the leadership it allowed me to develop as a coach only adds to the discipline it instilled in me as a player. I look forward to putting both into practice at Samwell University.