I remember the day my husband said to me, out of nowhere and with much enthusiasm, “I know exactly what I want for my birthday this year!” Slightly puzzled and moderately intrigued, I answered: “Ok, what?” His simple response: “To go to back to Humboldt with you and the kids.” I was even more puzzled.
He had seen a tweet that said the Montreal Canadiens Alumni were coming to the small, dusty Saskatchewan town to put on a show as a fundraiser for his alumni junior hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos. The day it was going to happen—his birthday. “Do you know how awesome this is going to be? I have to be there,” he told me.
He contacted the team’s management, asking if he could play, and about one week later they let him know he had a spot on the roster. So it was settled. Our family would drive for six hours to Saskatchewan so my husband could fulfill his only birthday wish: getting to wear the Broncos jersey once again.
Needless to say I was not nearly as enthusiastic about the idea. Whereas my husband was utterly thrilled, I could only think of how many other things I would rather be doing. Let me tell you, driving for six hours with two kids who can’t go 30 minutes without an “I’m bored” or “Are we there yet?” wasn’t at the top of my to-do list. But how could I say no when my husband was more excited than a child on Christmas morning? Quite simply, I couldn’t.
When we arrived in Humboldt on Saturday night, we had just enough time to go for supper before he had to be at the Elgar Patterson Arena to skate with the other guys who would also be playing for the “home team.” I took the kids to the hotel pool, so they could burn off some pent-up energy from the drive. I expected my husband to be gone about an hour and a half. When he returned to the hotel nearly two and a half hours later, I asked him what took so long. He simply response was that he was the last one to come off the ice.
I could see the emotion in my husband’s eyes that Sunday afternoon as the colour guy announced the lineup of players. His eyes were wide and he had a silly grin plastered across his face. Behind the nervous smile I knew he was as giddy as a child. Yet, as a man he was overcome by fond memories of playing the game he loves in this very place at a very different time.
My husband was asked to do a post-game interview with the local radio station, as it turns out he was the only former Bronco to play that afternoon against the Canadiens. Somehow he was able to put into words exactly what was written all over his face in those few precious moments right before the game.
He spoke about how important it was to him to bring his wife and kids there, to show us where he spent so much time as a teenager—and where he became a man. How talked about how great it was to be welcomed into the town when he first arrived at 17. He expressed how the skills he developed and the experiences he had while playing in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League prepared him for both college and life. And he said how much he appreciated the opportunity to come back and wear the Humboldt jersey once again.
He must have thanked the kids and I at least a dozen times on the drive back home, most of these expressions of appreciation took place before we even reached Saskatoon!
And it finally hit me: This is gratitude.
To be continued…