Lessons Beyond the Rink

Hockey has always been a part of my life since I first stepped out on a frozen sheet of ice. Whether it was day one trying to keep my balance, learning how to do a hockey stop, making my first stop in goal or winning a state championship. But most importantly, hockey has always been much more than ‘just a sport’, it builds one’s character and shape’s your life beyond the rink. And this weekend’s Minnesota State Boys Hockey Tournament was certainly no exception.


Before I go into more details, here’s some background on “the game”:

  • The Hermantown Hawks were given the #1 seed and the East Grand Forks Green Wave the #3 seed in the Class A bracket. Each team made their own successful journeys to reach the State Championship game this past weekend;
  • Both teams previously suited up in last year’s Class A State Championship showdown against one another, where the Green Wave claimed a 7-3 victory over the Hawks; and
  • Hermantown has made the Class A State Championship game the last five years, since 2010, and has lost to each of its opponents’ since 2010.

Back to the game… In the Class A Title game, Hermantown found themselves down by two goals against East Grand Forks with only seconds left in the third period. After seeing the State Championship title slipping away with less than a minute to go I expected Hermantown to collapse; finding themselves short for the sixth straight year. But with 0:33 seconds left on the scoreboard, a Hermantown player shot a rocket past the East Grand Forks goalie and everything changed. Just seconds later, seventeen to be exact, another rocket from the blue line off a faceoff tied the game with only 16 seconds remaining the game. I had goose bumps, ‘could this be real?’

However in the extra session a fantastic shot from the slot won the game for the Green Wave to win their second straight State Championship and cap off an amazing season. But, despite the ending of this game for Hermantown is the all important lesson – it’s never over until it’s over.

I hope those watching took away what I did in that nothing is truly impossible. It’s hard to imagine fighting back to tie a game down two goals in one of the most important games of your life, especially when you are used to being the team with the lead. But the Hermantown Hawks, despite the frustration, never gave up. As one of the Hawk players, Nate Pionk summarized after the game, “You can’t just quit. You have to come back.”

It doesn’t matter who you are; whether you play hockey or don’t, if you’re a student or a professional. No matter what life throws at you; never, ever quit. Even if doesn’t work out, think of those Hermantown players, now on their sixth straight year as the “bridesmaids”. While it’s not ideal they have built a lot of character. And, most importantly they’ll always go 110% until the final whistle blows, whether it be today or twenty years from now.



The wheel, the printing press, refrigeration, the automobile, the printing press, the light bulb, the computer and the internet. Imagine how different our lives would be today without the list above and if their inventors stopped their efforts before arriving at the inventions we continue to use to this day. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to not make a light bulb.

In the Emergency Management, GIS and Social Media fields innovation is key – finding tricks of the trade that have been used and manipulating them to find solutions that work and increase production. Yet many in each of these fields get lost in the crowd. Why? As Robert Atkinson once said to his son, “When you don’t have to complete for eyeballs, you don’t have an incentive to be innovative. At a real fundamental level, you don’t have to be innovative.” When pressures don’t surround us, many of us don’t see the need to be innovative.

I can definitely relate to Atkinson’s words. In my high school days I was a goalie for my school’s ice hockey team. We were one of the top teams in the state my junior year and were undefeated headed into the playoffs. I was the only goalie on our team and while I did work hard throughout the season I didn’t have another goalie pushing me and if I got injured there was no one there to back me up – I was it. In the section championship against our rival school we headed to overtime, where you guessed it, we ended up losing the game.

Fast forward one year later to my senior season – we had a good backup goalie join our team, who helped push me to be a better goalie. I was a better goalie with her presence at our practices and on the bench watching our games. She made me skate harder in practice, sweat more and, with the hardships of the previous season, push harder than I ever had since she could replace me at any moment if I made a mistake. In the same game against the same opponent we lost to just a year earlier we were down a goal with a minute left in regulation time. In what seemed like a near-repeat of the previous year, my team came back with an equalizer and scored another goal a few minutes into the overtime session to send us to state where we eventually took home the state title for the first time in our school’s history.

Could I, or anyone of my teammates, given up after our section championship that year? Definitely. Just as Emergency Managers or GIS professionals can continue to do the same monotonous work every day but just doing the work will not give you the same results – it is the innovation and entrepreneurship of an individual and/or team that allows for success. The answers may not appear as you hope they will and while it seems all hope is lost – keep going. The greatest moments in life don’t come easy – hard work, dedication and most importantly, YOU will get you there. Keep pushing and never look back.