When asked to write a piece on how I felt about a rebuild, I struggled. Not because I don’t have an opinion on it, but because I can sum it up in a short answer.
A short answer however, would make the piece pretty redundant, and I’m gunning for a raise (or at the very least to have my leash lengthened a bit from these slave-drivers at Leafs Hub) so I have to expand a bit.
Expanding on my short answer was a challenge as I looked back on the most recent (two) years.
These last two years have been difficult for me, and as I dug up and re-watched a handful of previous games (one of them being 9-2 loss to Nashville – sadistic, I know), I was reminded of how I felt during those years.
More importantly though, I was reminded of specific words I used recurrently to describe my feelings towards the team and the organization.
Those that know me, know my personal struggles with cancer (both second and first hand), and know full well that those three words have an entirely different meaning to me outside of sports.
However, in reviewing the past two seasons, I found that I had unknowingly intricately intertwined my personal life with my sports life. I was able to use the sports I follow (specifically hockey) as an escape from the horrible dealings that came with being ill. I used hockey as an outlet for those feelings of despair, depression and anger, and made direct comparisons from both of the two worlds.
- Despair as I watched the team sink lower and lower in the standings, effectively making the same mistakes time and again.
- Despair as I failed to remember the last time I wasn’t ill or in immense physical pain.
- Depression as I watched the team I love seemingly self-destruct in every aspect possible, to the point that I thought I’d never so much as see them in the playoffs again.
- Depression as I thought of the many things I wanted to accomplish in life but may not get the chance.
- Anger at the squandered leads, lack of accountability, and at fans and specific mainstream media that painted Kessel as a pariah.
- Anger at myself for squandering the time I had when I was healthy, not living life to the fullest.
I feel obligated to mention at this point that I know first hand that Kessel isn’t the villain he was painted to be. He was nothing but kind to me and generous with his time when I spoke with him personally about the obstacles we both faced with the illness we shared. This personal encounter is why I feel the abhorrence that I do towards specific members of the MSM.
During games, I could completely lose myself. I could temporarily forget my health problems, yet allow myself to be overcome with the outward emotions associated with them. I transferred/unloaded those emotions into my sports life, effectively avoiding feeling guilty (guilt/feelings of being a burden happen often when you’re ill) by using hockey as a cover. At the end of each game I had noticed a temporary lifting of the weights; a temporary relief. You could say it was therapeutic, in a way.
But now, the comparisons and associations that I make are much lighter:
- Now, things are changing for me. Five short months ago, I was sent into remission. I now no longer feel despair, depression or anger.
- I feel the change of being healthy.
- I feel the optimism that I WILL be able to stay that way
- and I feel the support of those that love and care for me, every step of the way.
Now, things are changing for us.
- Three short months ago, we signed Mike Babcock.
- We feel the change in the franchise
- We feel the optimism that this change will right the ship and that it WILL be able to stay that way
- and we feel the support of our fanbase growing stronger, every step of the way.
Shanahan told us to expect the pain of patience while we properly rebuild. What we now have in our front office is truly a force to be reckoned with, and I can safely say that I can look back at those terrifying two years and with a shaky sigh of relief, fully trust and have faith in the rebuild in our franchise.
So how do I feel about a rebuild for our team?
To some, my opinion on the rebuild may seem selfish and misguided because I myself am rebuilding and as you can see, I’m still intertwining my life and my sports life. While I’m well aware that everything happening within those two worlds is coincidental, and doesn’t have anything at all to do with me or my life, it’s still fun to make the comparisons. After all, what is sports without being able to relate to it on your own level?
I can, however, tone it down to appease those that may dislike my misguided comparisons:
I feel “just okay” with the rebuild.