Members of the military pose for a group photo at center ice after a game between the Senators and Capitals. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
On the coasts of Normandy, in the air above Albion, wading across wide oceans and hunkered in trenches stitched through Europe, millions fought and gave their lives so we could enjoy the fruits of free life.
Without the sacrifice of these brave souls, who knows how the history of hockey would have been written.
It is because of them we can attend games at posh, big-league arenas, where we enjoy the company of friends, scarf down hot dogs and yell at opposing teams with bold, boisterous bellows.
It is because of them we can grow up in sub-zero barns, getting up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday for a bone-chilling practice, while snow blows in through the roof; or arrive on a Sunday night to play for the love of the game, while locals come in out of the deep freeze to crowd the lobby windows and rinkside bleachers.
For hours on end, we can spend sharp winter nights flooding a surface to freeze for tomorrow, while packs of coyotes howl in the distance and echo through our barren, untouched valleys.
We can play, without a worry in the world, on those backyard rinks made from scratch and with desire, pretending to be our heroes and scoring a goal to win the championship.
After a long day in our winter wonderland, we can relax by an open fire, have a soothing drink and watch the coolest game on earth on a big screen television; listening to the legendary Bob Cole and enjoying a past time that has become synonymous with our country itself, Hockey Night in Canada.
It is because of them, after the winter chill subsides, we can cherish and embrace the celebration of a great sport as the gleaming Cup of Lord Stanley is awarded to a new winner to be carved in time alongside others from past and distant eras.
And when it’s all over and summer takes its grip, with our arenas silenced for a couple months, we can sit in anticipation to do it all again when the leaves start changing and the snow starts falling.
It is the Veterans who have given us what we hold so dear and sometimes are guilty of taking for granted.
Whether at its purest form or one influenced by monetary motives, we can spend our hours scouring stats pages, exchanging blows with teammates, and play a game – a simple game – that tames the harshness of the dead, mid-winter, while harnessing its beauty and serene nature.
While everyday at THN.com is a hockey day, today is the lone exception. Today is about veterans of real battles; not ones fought for a mug where wounds can be patched up in an instant and a return to the front lines is imminent.
We are forever indebted to Veterans of all wars, whether it’s The Great War, the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam or current struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan; the real warriors who protect our way of life and our beliefs for the present and the future.
So take some time, even if it’s only a few minutes, to remember and reflect on what we have and why we can enjoy it in peaceful bliss. Sports are a vessel to escape reality and explore fantasy, but today is a day reality is to be respected, saluted and honored.
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