The Air Force Academy Falcons hockey team won their third straight Atlantic Hockey Championship on Saturday night. I am really happy to see my old team dominating and once again getting a chance to play at the NCAA tournament. You can read the full article here.
I am often asked if I am upset at the fact that team has gone to the tournament each of the three years after I graduated. The first thing I say is thanks for rubbing it in! Next I tell them I can honestly say that I am not. I have an eternal bond with every guy I played with over the course of my four seasons at the Academy and knowing that they had the chance to experience something like that makes me very happy. Am I disappointed that I never got the chance. Of course I am. I wouldn't be a competitor if I wasn't disappointed. The two seasons I served as Captain are particularly difficult to swallow because I take added responsibility for not materializing a championship.
But being disappointed that we never made it to the Frozen Four tournament while I was there does not taint the great feeling I have regarding my time playing division I hockey for the Air Force Academy. I played at Air Force during an interesting era and during a time when the team really began to turn the corner competitively. In the article I linked to above there is a quote by head coach Frank Serratore that really struck me. He said, "I am humbled to be part of this team and what they have done. We have some great players, great competitors and some great people."
This is not an isolated quote. This is something Frank cites often and it is something that I attribute to the strength and growth of the program. The team is built around character guys. Being a service academy there are certain standards that shape the kinds of people that attend the school, generally for the better. However, I must call the baby ugly a bit here. Everything is relative and there are some people who are just better human beings than others, and the Air Force Academy is no exception. This is where the hockey team separates itself from other programs at the school. All the guys are world class guys. Period. Just world class guys. They are overachieving guys that sell out for the good of the team. Culture is contagious and Frank has built a culture that has strengthened the program. The success has snowballed and will likely continue to do so. The team is bound by the same entry requirements of every other program at the academy, and while others cite that as a limiting factor, Frank and the guys on the team treat it as the core competency of their team. We didn't, and I am sure they still do not, have the time, the patience or the effort necessary to deal with people who were not of the caliber character-wise of the rest of the team.
Being a part of the rebuilding of that program and, maybe a little selfishly, taking pride in the fact that I in some way contributed to the success of some of the teams to come after me is a very rewarding feeling. Some people can't and won't ever be able to understand that feeling and it is fairly hard to describe. But I think it is similar to the innate human desire to leave the world a little better for your kids than it was for you. Hopefully this team takes the program a step farther than the last and knocks off Michigan next weekend in the NCAA tournament. Good luck boys.