Hockey and Peacebuilding

 

It was the last game that I would play in our over- 40, competitive men’s hockey league. It had been a long time coming. I had played in the league for many years and had long ago passed the age of 40. I have played competitive sports long enough to know that at some point you can stay around too long and outlive your welcome.

So, at the end of the previous season, I had announced that the upcoming season would be my last. If the organizers wanted me back for one final season, they could include me in the annual summer draft, but this way the awkward phone call informing me that I should think about moving on, would be avoided.

It had been a pretty good season. I had scored a couple of goals and, while missing some games due to the assorted ailments suffered when trying to play at a higher level than your body will allow, I had enjoyed myself and also satisfied a personal goal of playing the game through to a milestone birthday year.

Now the game, and my unremarkable hockey career, were both winding down. We had made it to the consolation game and I had even scored a goal to contribute to our comfortable two goal lead.

With a few minutes left I was handed a goal when the puck unexpectedly squirted out from under the goaltender’s pads. I just had to tap it into an empty net. Two goals! Wow. The cry from my teammates went up: “Let’s get him the hat trick”.

The boys started to feed me the puck. I received a beautiful pass and got off a good clear shot only to see the goalie’s glove come out to rob me. The boys on the bench were standing and cheering in anticipation, and then groaned in disappointment, as the puck disappeared into the goalie’s glove.

With only seconds remaining, I was given another golden opportunity when, left all alone in front of the net, beat the goalie only to see my shot ring off the cross bar. Again, more groans of disappointment from our bench.

The whistle blew and the game was over.

I was skating back to our end of the rink for the customary team handshakes when something strange happened. Players from both teams skated to the sides of the ice forming two lines. The opposing goaltender stayed in his net. The referee put the puck at center ice and pointed to me. My friends were giving me a chance to finish this part of my journey with a hat trick.

Time slowed down as I skated in on my penalty shot, looking for an opening. I saw one – low on the glove side. I let off a decent shot and thought for a moment that the hat trick was mine. At the last minute, the goalie’s left pad flicked out and the puck was kicked away.

I maintain to this day that, had I not been distracted by the tears in my eyes, I would have scored.

What has this story got to do with building peace? I’m not sure. I have spent 40 years trying to help people out of difficult conflicted situations as an advisor and as a mediator. I have spent a good part of my life studying conflict, thinking about how to be an effective peace builder, and training others in the art of doing so. Yet

I’m still not sure that I can define what the essence of peacebuilding is, or, at the end of many of my work days, say that any particular action of mine has helped build peace.

What I do know is that small simple gestures of appreciation and kindness, like giving me my chance to go out with a hat trick, are never forgotten. They enrich lives, connect us more closely to each other, and help build community. They inspire us to be better peace builders, whatever that is.

 

Richard Moore, MDR Associates Conflict Resolution Inc.

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