My dad, Don Rogers Sr., introduced me to the wonderful game of Ice Hockey in the late 1950s. He sensed that I took a serious liking to the game and spent many years transporting me from state to state, city to city, and rink to rink.
He bought me my first ‘real’ pair of skates around 1960, got very involved in learning the game and even coached some of my teams in the early years.
My dad began teaching me, not the fundamentals of hockey, but the characteristics of making and seeking goals in any activity or sport that I would pursue.
For many years, as I showed some ‘promise’, he continued to support my aspirations in hockey.
Together we used to watch The Stanley Cup on television and he said that, some day, I would win the ‘cup’.
During these years of early development, he spoke of the ultimate sacrifice that every athlete must endure in order to become successful, and gave me every opportunity to fulfill my dream.
He no longer had the physical skills to teach as I had progressed, but he continued to stress the ‘real’ skills necessary to become successful – whether in hockey, badminton, or basic life skills.
I was fortunate to pursue the game in Division 1 College, and earn a degree while doing so. My dad not only made almost every home game, but showed up for most of my away games as well. Yet, I didn’t always know he was coming. In fact, many of these games were sold out, but I always left a ticket in ‘will call’ for him.
I would see him through the glass, almost like he knew exactly where to stand for me to see him. He always had that smile, just like after the game when he waited outside the locker room.
I didn’t always score a goal, or even get much ice time, but the same expression – his smile – was always there for me. He was there for me.
He knew in his heart that someday I would win the ‘cup’, but what I didn’t know was that his definition of the ‘cup’ was not what I had thought it was. Only he knew.
There were times when I didn’t understand my dad. When I played well – he smiled. When I played poorly – he smiled. When I was complaining – he shut me up, and smiled. But no matter what the outcome, he gave me his smile, which I later learned, was one of approval.
I’ve continued to play the game now into my 50’s – long after my Dad has been gone. Although I always miss seeing him through the glass, his guidance continues to inspire me.
I never made it to the Stanley Cup (or any level of professional hockey) and always thought that his dream for me went unfulfilled.
I was wrong. My men’s league hockey team made it to the Cup finals this past December (2007) and we won 2–1 in sudden-death overtime. After more than 45 years of hockey, I got to win the Cup and carry it around the rink, over my head, with my teammates following. At the age of 54, and not scoring many goals lately, I did score our only goal during regulation, and then the overtime winner.
I’ll be (#@!&) damned (as my Dad would have said)! There was the vision of my dad watching through the glass. And there was his smile–watching me carry the Cup!
Dad, our name will now be forever engraved on the Keg Cup.
Thank you for all your support, influence and teachings over the years.
It makes sense to me now.
I love and miss you!