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Die With Your Boots On

24 March 2016

Doggies, if you’re gonna die, die with your boots on.

If you’re going to lose, leave us no doubt you did your very best, left everything on the ice. Don’t give an inch, don’t quit til the final whistle. Play your very best, with Bulldog pride, and that will be enough. That’s always been enough.

In 2011, before the regional semifinal, I turned to some advice from Elizabeth I. Things were different in 2011. Five years ago the team had suffered some low points, but they had some really high points, too. They were never out of the national conversation. We didn’t really imagine our team could win a national championship, it was just an abstract thought, a what-if scenario. In 2012, making the tournament was gravy, tDogs were defending champs and had a tremendous season with an incredible unbeaten streak, but the pressure to win it all was off, somewhat. Not that I wouldn’t have taken back2back championships. I hear they are nice. Last year, tDogs demolished the Gophers before losing to BU, but there was never any doubt they did their very best. That’s all I ever ask.

This year is different. This year game with great, unmet expectations. This year, a season that 10 years ago we’d have taken in a heartbeat, has had more disappointment and heartache than I’d care to relive. This year every game seemed like an uphill battle, as though the rinks were tilted. The season started with a real power outage and much of it played out with a metaphorical one. But here tDogs are, the last team in, doing just enough to make the math work in our favor, but they are still in it, and that’s what matters. They’ve got to win four more games, just like every other team has to. These guys have four more wins in them, if they can work hard enough, play smart enough, and if luck is on their side. A lot of wins were left on the table in the regular season; it’s time to take those back.

I’m glad for the opportunity to see our seniors play another game. I’m glad this team, who didn’t give up despite endless frustration and chicanery (*cough*penaltyshot*cough*), has a chance to end the season with a win. It won’t be easy, but nothing has come easy for this team this year. As Thornton Wilder wrote,

I’ve never forgotten for long at a time that hockey is a struggle. I know that every good and excellent thing in the game stands moment by moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for–whether it’s a face-off dot, or along the boards, or a crease. All I ask is the chance to win national championships and the hockey gods have always given us that. And have given us coaches to guide us; and the memory of our mistakes to warn us. Bulldogs, you and I will remember in the off-season all the resolves that were so clear to us in the days of the hockey season. We’ve come a long way. We’ve learned. We’re learning. And the steps of our journey are marked for us here.

If you’re gonna die, die with your boots on.

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