By: Blake Blondeel
Dear 6-year-old Blake,
Yes, I called you Blake, not Timothy.
That, although small, will be the first defining moment of your life.
A simple name change because a kid in your grade school class has the same first name, so, it’s easier for your teacher and everyone else to call you Blake.
It’s going to stick, you’ll go with it.
You’ll find that a lot in life. But as your 25-year-old self now, I’m here to tell you to believe in your instincts and you’ll be just fine.
That won’t be your only tough in-class encounter. Pretty soon you’re going to get made fun of – name-calling, stereotyping and feeling not included. It’s not going to feel great, nor will it seem to ever stop. You’ll feel like the shy kid in class, but your happy place will be in your skates, on the ice.
Right about now, you’re starting to feel pretty comfortable on your blades, testing your edges, and getting rid of the chair as a support beam. It’s a proud moment once that dumb thing is gone. But wait… you’re going to look down and realize you don’t have the same pair of skates as all the other boys. You have a pair of figure skates on.
I know what you’re thinking… why aren’t they the same as everyone else? You’re going to be pretty darn good at it though. Trust me.
The bullying will get to a point where you just can’t take it anymore. All the medals and trophies won’t mean what they used to. And that’ll be the day you trade in your figure skates for a pair of hockey skates.
That’ll shut them up.
You’ll be 11-years-old by the time you try out hockey. And your figure skating experience will make you the fastest out there. Until the one day, you try to be a goalie. The opposing team is going to light you up for 12 goals. Don’t, I repeat, do not ever try to be a goalie. Remember what I said, trust your instincts.
You’re going to score a lot of goals in your first year, and eventually make the travel team in only your second year of playing. Leaving every one of those hockey bullies who made fun of you behind as you’re on a breakaway. Oddly enough, the biggest bully will turn out to be your best friend.
You won’t realize this at the time, but man, were you a courageous little bugger. You can thank your youngest sister who will be going through her cancer treatments. You won’t understand it but she will be diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer. She’ll be your inspiration. Always be nice to her.
I’d be lying if I told you that you were going to make the National Hockey League (NHL). You won’t. But you’re still going to play some pretty elite level hockey. Something you never would’ve thought possible. You’ll get your shot to play with NHL-calibre guys at Ontario Hockey League (OHL) camps, play junior hockey, and eventually find your way onto the Lancers.
You won’t be the most skilled guy, but your courage is going to make you pick up the phone and call the Lancer coach and ask for a walk-on tryout.
Four years later you’ll be team captain. You’ll be an Ontario University Association Queen’s Cup Champion. It is the second-oldest ice hockey trophy awarded, after the Stanley Cup. Close enough to the real thing. You’ll have worked for the Canadian Olympic Committee and pursued a master’s degree in sports management. Something you never in this world thought you’d be doing.
That shy, naive kid is going to grow up.
Some days you’re still going to feel like you don’t belong. But your ambition will come out of the blue and always pick you up. He’ll say, “Why not me?”
I know, I am only 25 writing to my younger self and still have so much more to live for. But I want to let you know that eventually, hockey will come to an end. The sport that you started to shut the bullies up will turn into a game you love. This will be your last year and you will be okay with that. It’s going to open so many other doors for you.
A word of advice kid; be humble and never impose limits on yourself. Be where your feet are, and not anywhere else.
Timothy “Blake” Blondeel
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