Take the stairs and climb them one at a time.
We all know that there is no fast track to success, no elevator to the top, and no easy path toward the playoffs. This 2013-2014 hockey season has seen your 2001 Toronto Marlboros work for and earn, every possible stair, on the staircase towards the playoffs.
Personal sacrifice, commitment beyond anything that could have been predicted, and a relentless work ethic that became the “new normal,” saw this team through a 33 game season, 5 major tournaments, 3 practices per week, and the reward of having earned, step by step, a spot to compete in the playoffs.
Playoffs are never easy. Playoffs are never predictable. Playoffs are the beginning of the “new season;” the post season. A season where all that happened to lead up to earning a playoff birth, is somewhat forgotten, so as to prepare for the task ahead: taking it game by game and reinventing yourself as a player that is being asked to go even further, to dig deeper, to effectively commit to an even greater level of effort.
Humility is a tough taskmaster. Win a game, and that moves you that much closer towards the next round of the playoffs. Lose a game and any failure on your part to remain humble throughout the process of racking up victories, will come back to haunt you in the most humiliating manner.
“Let’s play our game.” “Let’s play our game.” “Let’s play our game.”
Through out the year, the coaching staff communicated one simple, consistent, all-encompassing message: “Let’s play our game.” “Our game,” was really a metaphor that included all of the following, and every player did their very best to buy in: “Talk to each other while on the ice. Great on-ice communication will help us to win hockey games. Support each other. If one of your teammates is not feeling good, help him, support him, talk to him, and make sure he knows you care. If you feel you should sit out a shift because you might not be able to give it your all, then sit out a shift. Stick to our playbook. Stick to the things we work on at every practice and most important: believe in yourself, believe in your teammates, and always remain humble.”
This was “our game.” The philosophy contained within this message has acted as a consistent guide, designed to help us climb, step by step, through the regular season, to earn a playoff spot. As February came and went, your 2001 Toronto Marlboro team went about their games with an earnest humility that saw them win the first and second round of the playoffs. That staircase included 8 games played. The results: 7 wins and one tie, effectively launching us into a City Championship playoff berth
Each player on the team recognized the significance of these victories, yet without being reminded, also recognized that there was a lot of work to be done, much improvement still required, and that the hardest work and most difficult challenges, still lay ahead, in the City Championship.