Thank You, Youth Hockey

by Yusra Husain

Freshman year came with a lot of firsts for me: I joined a new school system as well as a girls travel ice hockey team. While I came to school every day ready to forge new friendships, I didn’t feel like I had to look far for companionship on my team. There’s just something special about the bond you share with others when you play a sport you genuinely cherish together.

I was 7 years old when I wore my first pair of hockey skates. From then on, I participated in clinics and played house hockey, but those experiences paled in comparison to the adventures of playing travel. From driving hours for tournaments to throwing end-of-season parties, travel hockey gave me many memories to last a lifetime.

I’ll never forget how my team went into a tournament with a winless record only to come out as champions in the end. While our goal deficits decreased throughout the season and our team chemistry improved tremendously, no one thought for a second that we would come home with a trophy in our hands. This electric experience as underdogs further reinforced my favorite friendships during my first season with the team.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, everyone endured social isolation and coped with this disconnectedness in different ways. After transforming my bedroom into a makeshift classroom and adjusting to the space I now spent the majority of my time in, I always anticipated hockey practice because it was the only time I evaded the confines of my room and maintained face-to-face relationships with my friends. While we constantly received emails that said, “Players must wear a mask on the ice,” or, “If you were at the game, please consider getting tested,” I am so grateful for the opportunity to have played my sport at a time when many others were deprived of such leisures. Seeing my teammates a couple of times a week, even if restricted with precautions, was the one thing that kept me connected to my pre-pandemic life.

I encountered a large part of my life through the lens of playing competitive hockey. Whether it was throwing teammates in the pool or staying up in room 810 on game nights, my hockey team stuck with me throughout my high school experience. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you, youth hockey.