Written by: Sam McCormack
February 1, 2018
As my time in the GOJHL, and with the Sarnia Legionnaires, is winding down, I think about the past 4 years, how I was fortunate enough and given the opportunity to play in this league. These past 4 years have given me a wide range of emotions, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows; from winning big games in overtime to heartbreaking game 7 losses to finish off the season. But if it weren’t for the GOJHL and the Sarnia Legionnaires, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
As a 10-year-old boy, I skated with the Legionnaires flag before the home games, helped with the water bottles and occasionally rode the bus with my Dad and his best friend who were coaches at the time. It was then that I knew I wanted to play junior hockey, and of course, representing the Sarnia Legionnaires on the front of my jersey was always my goal. The first time I put on that jersey, I felt so proud to be part of this team, it was the team I grew up watching and the team I always dreamed of playing for.
I’ve had so many great experiences that have shaped me into the man and hockey player that I am today, such as hanging with the guys and volunteering in the community and giving back. I’ve learned what it means to have friendship, the boys I’ve played with my junior career have been a big part of that. From hanging out in the room after practice, to long road trips, I’ve been fortunate to have a band of brothers with me through the fun and crazy hockey seasons. Being able to give back to the community throughout the seasons will always hold fond memories to me, from walking in parades, to collecting Woolley’s, to raising money for the hospice, it’s always an incredible feeling giving back to the people who have been the best fans throughout my GOJHL hockey career. There’s never a dull moment during the season and that’s what makes it such a fulfilling experience.
The GOJHL truly is a development league, not just for hockey, but for life itself. It teaches you valuable life lessons about success and failure, and what it means to be a team and an honourable one at that. The wins help keep you hopeful and excited for things to come, but more importantly they keep you humble and help motivate you as a player and a team to continue to strive to do better and be better. However, sometimes the best motivation comes out of loss, and hockey teaches you that losing isn’t fun, but things in life won’t come easy and you must work hard to succeed. The lesson of loss isn’t always the greatest feeling however it is one of the most valuable lessons. Hockey also teaches you to be a good sport and how to play as a team, not just an individual. The lessons I’ve learned while playing in the GOJHL for the past 4 years will continue to influence me throughout the rest of my life. After 4 incredible seasons, my time in the league is coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean that the experiences I’ve had, the lessons I’ve learned, the friendship I’ve gained, and the memories I’ve made come to an end with my junior career. Those are the things I will carry with me in everything I choose to do next in life.
I would like to thank all my coaches, my family, my teammates, the Sarnia Legionnaires organization as well as the best fans in the league for not only allowing me to play on my childhood dream team for 4 years but having the confidence in me to be an assistant captain in 2016-2017 season and the captain in 2017-2018 season, an honour I will never forget.
For all the younger players who hope to be a Legionnaire one day, or play for any team in the GOJHL, remember this; everyone always says that your junior career is the fastest 4/5 years of your life, and from my experience, this couldn’t be a true statement. I didn’t realize it when my junior career started 4 years ago, because 4 years seems like a long time, but all good things come to an end and before you even realize it, you’re playing your last few games representing your team and the GOJHL league. It starts to hit you as your final season winds down, and my advice would be to work hard and be the best player and teammate you can be. Enjoy every minute, enjoy the practices that you sometimes dread, enjoy the locker room chats, enjoy the bus rides, enjoy the wins, and even enjoy the losses. Don’t take it for granted, because these years are truly the best years of your life. It was a privilege to play in the GOJHL and an honour to play in front of my hometown on Thursday nights. The Brock Street Barn and the best fans in the league will always have a special place in my heart. Thank you for what this league has done for me and will continue to do for many young men. It’s been an amazing ride and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Sincerely your 2017-2018 Sarnia Legionnaires captain,
Photo Courtesy - Dawn Riley