Let me just start by saying, whoa. This whole season has continued to impress me and grow me as a person as well as change every expectation I’ve ever had about people’s motivation to learn, in this case, a sport they may have never thought they could and also those people’s yearning to build a community. Through this all, I have not only made 4 or 5 amazing friends all of whom I have no doubt in calling a best friend (yeah, I have more than one), but also 50 some other people who have a common interest, creating a sense of common identity.
When Patrick Farabaugh approached me to help start this league back in July, I was immediately on board. I never knew that gay hockey leagues existed before I met him. Of course I was in on it; I grew up playing hockey and had identified as a hockey player seven years before I realized that I was gay. In that sense, I never really could see any reason why a gay person couldn’t or shouldn’t be capable of playing a sport.
After learning more about expectations that are put on many people with regards to their sexuality, my views changed. Many of this year’s new players never felt that they fit into sports because as gay men, they never saw themselves as manly men, or as women, were afraid or ostracized by men who forced masculinity on the sport. The latter, I always saw. My sister started playing hockey when women in the sport were few and far between. There were coaches who wanted her injured and off the ice because they felt hockey was a man’s sport.
Why? Why is a sport any different than any other part of our lives? Sure, because of biological reasons, men tend to be bigger than women, but as a smaller person myself, I played against scores of guys twice my size. Does your physical make-up define your ability to play? In turn, does your sexuality define your ability to play? I never saw that, so I came into this as a beacon to show the new players that anyone can play the sport as long as they have the dedication to learn.
Personally, I’ve grown into someone I never thought I could be, a leader, someone who doesn’t just sit back and roll with the punches but, rather, one who is responsible for what he says and does. I’ve always fostered in my team the notion that in hockey, you have to make the plays, not wait for them to happen.
I’ve grown into a person who willingly takes on that responsibility. That notion that passing on a great love in my life to others is a contribution to my community and beyond. By offering up whatever I knew about hockey and skating, I was able to become more comfortable talking to people. I have seen what this league has done for so many people and it literally brings a tear of joy to my eye – the friendships that have been created, the confidence people have learned, the passion to win (we know we all have it), and overall, the smaller sense of community built team by team that has generated what in my opinion is a rebirth of Madison’s gay community or at least given a much stronger, visible sense of it.
Enough about me. This league is not about one person in particular. It’s about a player who played hockey for 13 years but didn’t until this year come fully to terms with his homosexuality until he found the strength through leadership. It’s about his sister, who would do anything for him. It’s about a man who for years wanted to see this happen in Madison and jumped on board as soon as he saw it could. It’s about a transgender person who since coming out had never before felt a sense of acceptance until playing in this league. It’s about a young out male who has never before identified with the gay community who now finds himself friends with some of the best in it. It’s about an 19 year old student who only came out this year and found a positive outlet where more dangerous ones loomed. It’s about a college graduate looking to soon go back who is so humble, yet so good that all I want to do is tell him over and over how good he is. It’s about a player who never was into team sports but has learned that through the spirit of teamwork, you can have that personal sense of achievement. It’s about a man who saw a gap in his life and took it upon himself to initiate what now has become something we all can cherish.
So, I thank Patrick. I thank you David. I thank you Matt. I thank you Galen. I thank you Vivian, Sarah, Michelle, Angie, Kevin, Jay, Steve, Emily, Derick, Tim, Austin, Jen, Gilbert, Kristen, Max, Angie A., Dan, Caity, Joyce, Jason, Darren, Shawn, Lora, Kim, Tammy, Wendy, Bri, Greg, Sherry, Glenn, Brian, Kristina, David, Tim S., Christopher Z, Bill, Tim F., Chris G, Gerry, Peter, Mike, Laura, Terrance, Sean, Tony, Christopher, Michelle W., Bazil, Deb, Andrew, Cory, and Paul. Thank you to all of the fans who came out to see us play and supported us. Thank you to our sponsors and all of the community groups that have come together. Together we are all the MGHA and we are all a community.