When I was in the 8th grade, I had to take a public speaking course. "Speech," as it was referred to, was a time for me and my adolescent friends to really get stupid and make blundering fools of ourselves. Now granted, we were not trying to be fools, but being 13 years old and having to give a speech in front of a classroom full of peers with bad acne, big hair, pink shirts, braces, parachute pants and other clothing oddities is really a perfect match. The fact that we video recorded each speech made it even more special and ideal for enjoying the individual blunders more than just once. There was always the one kid who had presidential potential and was actually really talented at public speaking, but the rest of us were just cannon fodder for the ruthless audience of perfectionists during the post-game critique. In that way, it was similar to hockey fans.
During one speech topic, I chose "How to tape a hockey stick." I don't know why I thought I could actually talk my classmates through the process while actually performing the task, but similar to today, I was stupid then too. I think the guy that came up with infomercials must have taken this course too, because that is basically what I was doing - only I was much less talented and my 8th grade hair perm and pink Izod shirt looked funny on the video tape later. (Gretzky had a perm and dresssed that way too, so no wise cracks). So I stood before the class and taped my new wooden Sherwood hockey stick and kind of got lost in the process. I forgot about the room and the letter grade I would receive later and just stood there taping my stick. I would pop back to reality every so often and make a comment about what came next, but I really didn't say much until the end when I calmly stated, "And that is how you tape a hockey stick."
I don't remember what letter grade I received, but I do remember the comments from my teacher. She told me that the demonstration part was well done and easy to follow; as if taping a stick required higher brain power or advanced geometry. She also said that I needed to actually use my words to explain the process and impart my knowledge of taping a hockey stick on to the others in the classroom who really had no idea that a hockey stick even needed to be taped. And in that moment, I learned a life lesson. A lesson besides that infomercials and public speaking are not my forte and not things that really fire me up. My life lesson was that my strength came from showing others how to perform a task. To lead by example. To let my actions speak for me. It also taught me that even though a topic is not well known or not exciting to others, as long as it is important to you, then stick with it. Pursue the things that you love and enjoy - and show others why you love it. Don't dictatorially shove it down their throat with words or rhetoric. In the end, everybody is just going to critique you and make fun of you anyways. So you might as well be comfortable knowing that.
And so I finish with this. I love hockey. I've played since I was old enough to walk. My two sons love hockey. They have played most of their lives too. So rather than give a speech or write more, I'll show you "Why we love hockey."