An Important Reminder
by Chris Dilks/Columnist
Chris Dilks hasn't lost his sense of humor, but he takes time out this week to reflect on a serious topic.
Bemidji State pulled out a second consecutive one-goal victory Saturday night in Mankato to earn a weekend sweep on the road. It was a big win for the Beavers, which helped give more credence to their argument that they belong in the WCHA.
But that wasn't the real story.
The story shown on the scoreboard was an afterthought, as it was largely overshadowed by the new banner hanging below it, which was unfurled for the first time Saturday during a special pre-game ceremony. That banner commemorated Anthony Ford, who passed away this summer at the young age of nine years old after an 18-month battle with leukemia. (To read more about Ford, and his connection to Maverick hockey, the Mankato Free Press' Shane Frederick wrote an excellent piece on Ford this week.)
Everyone in the building would have loved to see the Mavericks come away with a win on Anthony's night, but in the end, the result of the game was irrelevant. There probably wasn't a single person who wanted to win more than Minnesota State goalie Chris Clark, who became a very close friend of Ford throughout his illness, and who changed his jersey number to 28 this season to honor Ford's February 8 birth date. But I doubt anyone is foolish enough to say Clark would care any more about Ford if he had come away with a win on Saturday. As hockey fans, we sometimes get so caught up in wins and losses on the ice that we lose sight of the more important things.
The symbolism of the placement of Ford's banner, whether intentional or not, didn't seem to lose sight of this, however. The north end zone of the Midwest Wireless Center features a variety of different banners. On the outer wings of the wall are banners of former Mavericks that have been All-Americans or made it to the NHL, representing individual achievement. The next level has banners honoring MSU's trips to the WCHA Final Five and NCAA tournament, representing the team's achievements. And sitting at the heart of the wall of honorees is Ford's banner, serving as a constant reminder of the greater goals of a team, and the power that they have to make a difference in the world.
The real beauty of Anthony Ford Night was that it was a poignant reminder that life isn't always measured by how often you win or lose — because eventually everyone takes their fair share of losses — but by how much of a positive impact you can make when those losses come. It's impossible to ignore the positive impact that has come out of this tragic loss — whether it was inspiring a group of young men, and giving them a valuable perspective on life that they will carry with them forever; or raising funds to make sure that something as trivial as money never gets in the way of the dreams of youth hockey players; or helping parents cope with an unfathomable tragedy; or helping a young boy make the most of a life that was unfairly cut way too short. By that standard, every member of the Maverick family, Anthony included, is a champion.
And ultimately, that is way more important than the result on any scoreboard.