In Canada, we talk about hockey all the time. Those who can’t at least debate Gretzky vs. Lemieux or traditional icing vs. no-touch icing are black-bagged and sent to Siberia. In an Olympic year, we somehow over-turn the laws of physics and talk about it even more than a 24 hour day allows. There are no shortage of story-lines to follow as Team Canada prepares to defend Gold in Sochi. This is one story we can all learn from. The story of team Canada forward Chris Kunitz.
Team Canada is a team of NHL All-Stars littered with a few NHL Super-Stars: players drafted first overall into the NHL. John Tavares, Rick Nash and Sidney Crosby were all picked first after accomplished and acclaimed junior careers. In addition, there are eight men on the roster drafted in the top 10. These are guys who were born and raised to play hockey. Then there is Chris Kunitz.
Kunitz was not drafted. Not one single NHL team thought he had the goods to play in the NHL. Not. One. Did he quit? No. After a decent college career, he signed a contract to play in the American Hockey League in 2003. He skated well enough for the Cincinnati Ducks to be called up to the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL. He played in just 21 games recording six points. What was his reward for decent play? He was released. Did he quit? No. He was signed by the Atlanta Thrashers, where he played 2 games and was -guess what?- Yep, released again. “Your services are no longer needed, Mr. Kunitz. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors…” Did he quit? No.
Anaheim gave him another chance in 2005-2006 and that year he won a Stanley Cup when the Ducks beat the Senators. Eventually, he was traded to Pittsburgh where he currently plays along Sidney Crosby. There is little doubt that it was Sidney who recommended Chris to be on Team Canada. When the best player in the world asks for somebody on his wing: you listen. That speaks volumes about Chris’ ability and work ethic.
I can only imagine how many times Chris wondered if all the hard work would be worth it. If all the hours in the gym would pay off. If all the long bus rides, sacrifices and bruises would get him anywhere at the profession he chose. He’s gotten to the point where every NHL team would love to have him; just eleven years after they all passed him up. And he’s been given the personal stamp of approval by Hockey Royalty.