Ice Gladiators

PENSACOLA, FLA – “Hockey is where we live. Life is just a place where we spend time between games.”

The statement on a passing sweatshirt hit me like a brick and I laughed out loud walking through the concourse. A man glancing at me with a look that asked what imaginary friend I must be visiting with.

11492798184_fef3f09cac_cThat got me wondering. What is it that so fiercely attracts us to hockey? Naturally, that would be different things for different people. With men it’s “the human drama of athletic competition”, to borrow the immortal words of Jim McKay.  I’ve done a little digging on some surprising things that attract women to the sport. Some of the answers were… well, that’s a story all its own.

How about kids? Joseph Campbell, renowned mythologist and author, believed that ancient cultures created the great heroes out of their own human experiences in order to remind us that anything is possible. When we face difficult life challenges, we draw on heroes for inspiration and to help us persevere through obstacles. There’s a heroic nature to hockey, to be certain. Strong, brutal, agile men clad dressed in superhero costumes and battling with weapons in hand. Ice gladiators. I mean, look at this guy.  He looks like a transformer. How epic is that? 12043756546_e5fc0c37f8_c

Heroes are role models, and children see hockey players as role models for several key reasons. In the article “What is a Role Model? Five Qualities That Matter to Teens” posted at, esteemed psychologist Marilyn Price-Mitchell outlined several key components of what makes a role model.  I can’t speak for every hockey player that puts on a jersey, but these are traits certainly evident in the Pensacola Ice Flyers. Here are the high points:

  1. Passion and Ability to Inspire  –  Role models show passion for their work and have the capacity to infect others with their passion.
  2. Clear Set of Values  –  Children admire people who act in ways that support their beliefs.
  3. Commitment to Community  –  Role models are other-focused as opposed to self-focused. They are usually active in their communities, freely giving of the time and talents to benefit people.
  4. Ability to Overcome Obstacles  –  Children admire people who show them that success is possible.

Add in the accessibility of these athletes and you may have the leading reason kids indentify with hockey players in the minors.  The Ice Flyers recently held a meet-and-greet session where a Boy Scout troop showed up.  Do you remember as a child ever touching or talking to someone who was larger than life?  How did that make you feel?  Those boys were ecstatic. After many of the games the guys do autograph sessions. They put on a different hero outfit for that – they dress in suits.

Well, think about it. When Superman wasn’t wearing his “S”, you never saw Clark Kent in jeans, did you? 11117749113_1735e05cf9_c

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