“Few have the greatness to bend history itself. But each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends out a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples can build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
— Robert F. Kennedy
Hockey – at least the NHL – turns 100 years old this year. That’s longer than women in the U.S. had the vote. That’s significantly longer than African-Americans were provided at least the shield of equal education and access to the ballot. 100 years is a long time.
1917 isn’t remotely like 2017, yet the devils of the past continue. We still, too often, make judgments about each other based on utterly silly things: our hair, our skin tone, our bodies.
We’re especially attuned to those silly judgments. We’ve listened to Willy O’Ree talk about the struggles of being the first black NHL player. We’ve watched the Wounded Warriors take the ice and prove, once more, how sport can raise the spirit. We’ve learned from Fatima Al Ali that Muslim women can have sick stick skills. And we’ll witness something special Friday night, during warm-ups, Caps players’ sticks will be wrapped with Pride Tape, and Braden Holtby will sport his You Can Play mask.
Friday night at Verizon isn’t about any one group. Young, old and in-between, straight or otherwise, male or female, special needs or just needy – what we again will learn Friday is that, yes, hockey is for everyone.
As Braden Holtby, the Caps’ You Can Play ambassador, told us Thursday, “We include everyone, It’s great that the NHL is doing, You Can Play is based on equality. You want to make sure equality is the basis, and I think it’s been a huge part of that.”
We’re reminded of our friend, and Hockey’s Hemingway, Jason Rogers’ take on the sport. Hockey, he said, is not in any way about me or I. It is about team. As one player related, in many ways it’s a game of misfits – on both sides of the glass, and all are welcome.
Perhaps. But it’s also a game that develops the person inside. You learn to work with others, you learn you’re not the only one, you learn to play to each other’s strengths – in short, you learn so many good things that sport can teach. As the old saying goes: “Sports doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”
So on Friday night, as you crowd into the arena, ready for another Caps victory, take a moment to look around. At all the people sharing this experience with you.
And remember: they are all beautiful in their own right.