A team of 16- to 20-year-olds recently taught us all a valuable lesson through hockey.
The team started the 2012-13 season with two wins on Sept. 12-13 and then lost its next six. By the end of November, the Wings had won eight and lost 14.
In December and January, the Wings lost all 18 of their games. That resulted in a lot of changes, from coaches to players.
Then the Wings went on a roll, winning 15 of their last 20 games, including a eight-game win streak and ending the season at the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen with a 10-game home winning streak. In the last game, 1,604 fans squeezed into the 1,500-seat Odde.
At season’s end, the Wings were the hottest team in the NAHL. None of their Central Division cousins wanted any part of Aberdeen in the playoffs.
And they got their wish.
The Wings fell just short of the playoffs.
“It’s definitely very tough,” Wings coach Travis Winter said about not making the playoffs. “I would have loved a shot in the playoffs with this group. I think this group could have done some special things. They did do some special things and in my heart, they’re a playoff team.”
Winter took over the Wings in mid-January. He narrowed the team’s focus on day-to-day improvement. His approach eventually drew the best out of his players.
So what is the lesson for us all?
The Wings were down and almost knocked out. They could have embraced the tired cliche, “we will get them next year,” and could have finished the season in that same tired fashion.
But they didn’t give up.
They believed they could still make the playoffs. With 10 games left in the season and the Wings barely hanging on to keep their playoff hopes alive, Wings captain Justin Parizek told us, “Realistically, it would be nice to win maybe six of the last 10 games, but we are going to give it our best to win them all.”
Lofty goals and dreams, but the Wings went on to win nine of the last 10. They didn’t hit their ultimate goal of making the playoffs, but they played hard through the end.
And what about the lesson that Parizek left us? This was his last season in junior hockey. Next season, he will be too old, but will likely be playing college hockey.
Teams not in the playoff hunt often trade their top older players to those teams who are playoff-bound in return for players who are likely to help teams “next year.”
Parizek said he felt a heavy burden being captain of a team that had lost 18 games in a row. He felt responsible and wanted to help this team fight back. He took aim at responsibility and scored.
Ultimately, the Wings didn’t win, but ended the season as winners. We can all learn from that.
— American News editorial board