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Iíve always been scared that one morning Iíll wake up and never be able to score a goal again. See, thatís my trademark. More than my grin, more than the one-liners I rasp out to zing a teammate. My one-timer, that perfect shot in the wheelhouse--thatís Brett Hull. I donít know what Iíd be without it. Itís not all that I am, but scoring goals is what makes hockey fun. And hockey needs to be fun.

 

Iíve learned a lot about hockey over the years. This sport is all about continuity and flow. Fluid action, graceful skating, smooth passingóand defense may be about disrupting that flow, but a moment later youíre back to offense. And off-ice, you need stability. Your team needs to be a cohesive unit; you need to grow together. You need that connection. If you donít have that, how will you ever find each other on the ice? Tendencies and movements, and missed passes are all about being out of sync, missing that connection.

 

Trades may jar you, but itís a momentary thing in the flow of the league. Trades are a constant: periodic disturbances are a way of life. And if you canít accept change, you canít enjoy life. You canít enjoy hockey.

 

And above all things, hockey needs to be enjoyed.

 

Oatesí trade may have been the worst. That season was the worst and the best lesson Iíve ever had in hockey. My team lostówe lostóI lost Zezel, Stevens, Oates and Sudsy all in one season. Everyone I thought I needed. Stevens is one of the scariest defenseman in the league. Few can say they had a rhythm or a partnership like I had with Oatsie. And Sutter was the best coach I ever had. For a moment I thought Iíd lost everything. How could I score if Oates wasnít there to pass to me?

 

But the next day I did, and the more goals I scored, the better my perspective became. My game didnít disappear without them, and they didnít disappear just because they were no longer on my team. Like I said, a friendship that canít survive a trade was never a friendship to begin with.

 

The only thing Iíve ever needed was to score goals. Winningís not quite as sweet without it, defense just doesnít cut it, and the ice alone canít give me that feeling. Thereís something about scoringóit challenges me in ways nothing else in hockey can. Iím not a goalie. Iím not a two-way forward. I live and die with that puck on my stick. Iím a goal scorer. And that extends beyond the rink. Perhaps that what it is. Itís not that Iím a hockey player and hockey pervades everythingórather, Iím a goal scorer, and I approach everything in that fashion. At the end of the day, I want that responsibility. I want that glory. I want to be in control. I crave that affection. Itís a personal drive, but the rewards are communal: one rebound popped over a sprawling Czech, and the love was overwhelming. The guys, Dallas and all its fansóIíd never felt anything like it. Emanating off of them, and it was more than being proud of our accomplishment, respecting what weíd done. It was a moment that could never be replicated. It wasnít the same in Detroit. It was so utterly different in the ways it was the same. Itís like scoring goalsóitís the same thing, same movement, but itís different and new every time.

 

And that devotion, that fierce devotion running through everythingófan to team, teammate to teammate, player to sport. A single goal and I could feel it all. How could anyone not want to be a goal scorer?

 

And how exactly does a goal scorer survive if he canít score goals? I have nightmares where it breaks me, breaks me to have lost thisÖ this thing and the emptiness is too much. A part of me, and all those feelingsóthat passion, adoration, love--ripped away, leaving me with nothing.

 

For the most part, Iíve always been able to score a goal in the next game or two, and thatís quelled the hysteria.

 

But when Mike called I couldnít help but think stay away, stay away, bad luck, bad luck. Terrible, right? My advice was dumb, and flippant: Just relax. Itíll happen.

 

Pushing him away to save myself, to save my game, and it was Mikeís worst season and my harshest lesson, showing me the kind of friend that I had come to be.

 

Iíve always been a son of a bitch on the ice. Slapping my stick on the ice, screaming for the puck, impatient and give me the puck, give me the puck NOW, you stupid punk, you worthless idiot, I said NOWóthis is the way I operate. Elevate your game or get out of my way. I donít have time to fight my way past you and your ineptness and the defense to reach my goal.

 

I may be an asshole, but itís always been for the good of the game, the betterment of the team. Iím a well intentioned asshole.

 

Iíve always been afraid of losing this seemingly integral part of me. What would I be if I couldnít score goals? Who would I be?

 

I never thought it would be Mikeís wreck of a season, his lack of goals that would force me to examine myself, look at the person that I was, that Iíd like to be, that I should have been.††

 

 

 

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