At about 11 o’clock last night, Chicago Blackhawks’ Defensemen Brent Seabrook ripped an overtime slapshot past Detroit Red Wings’ Goalie Jimmy Howard to end the game and the series propelling his team to the NHL’s Western Conference Finals and a step closer to the Stanley Cup. After a few fleeting moments of celebration for the home team and mere seconds for the losing squad to hang their heads, the two teams engaged in, arguably, the greatest tradition in all of sports… the hockey handshake.
The tradition isn’t unique to the NHL, its practiced throughout hockey. In fact, it pre-dates the league itself. For the 60 minutes a night, teams go at each other with a vigor and passion that most hockey fans will tell you is the most intense in sports. They’ll run you into the boards. They’ll give you a “friendly” whack across the wrists. They’ll run your goalie or give you a nice face wash in the pile. They’ll chirp and they’ll scream at one another like sworn enemies from the opening horn to the final whistle. But, once the series is done, every man on the bench from Superstar to back-up Goalie will lineup to shake the hand of the man they were just trying to bury. They’ll look each other in the eyes and congratulate them on a hard-fought battle. The losing team will wish the winners best of luck in the next series though every fiber of their being wishes it was them moving on. It’s earnest. It’s sincere. And it’s what’s missing from a lot of our lives.
In a day and age of “it’s not my fault”, “I was disrespected” and “they were out to get me”, wouldn’t it be refreshing to see people just own it. To stand face to face with the things in life that you’ve been scrapping with all day and simply say “good game”? You were a worthy adversary. You got me this time, but I’ll be back. You won the game, but you didn’t beat me.
In hockey, the handshake line is about showing respect. Respect for your opponents. Respect for your team. Respect for competition. And, above all else, respect for the game.
Maybe we need to spend a little less time demanding respect… and little more time showing it.