HOUGHTON – The question, I’ll admit, took me aback.
“You come up for this every year?” a parent asked me this weekend. “You don’t want to delegate this to one of your reporters?”
I’ve been riding the bus north with the Brighton hockey team for a dozen years now, and while it’s at times exhausting, it’s never boring.
And, to be honest, I’ve not considered this an onerous task or something I would dump on someone else, as much as my colleagues might have wished.
It’s a rare glimpse to see how things operate in terms of team dynamics you don’t normally ever get in this job.
You see parents, coaches, and players interact, within their groups and separately, where teams become programs, as it were.
The Bulldogs come home today, leaving at 6:30 a.m. unless something unforeseen comes up, like another foot of snow overnight, but in the meantime, the team has spent the last three days, as it will today, doing the work that teams are made of.
“When everyone’s together, it doesn’t force you to like each other, but it forces you to become a family,” Brighton team captain Colin Bilek said. “You’re in each other’s rooms hanging out. It’s just a lot of fun. Everyone’s hanging out with each other, and it helps a lot, knowing you’re playing for the kid sitting next to you and your linemates.
“Just these past couple days, its been unbelievable how close the team has come together.,” he added “The team was close coming up here, but when you’re with each other 24/7, you’re doing everything together.”
Those things include studying, a boisterous curling tournament, several meals a day and, after a rousing overtime win against Houghton, a couple of songs sung with enthusiasm, if well off-key.
It was about persistence, which is the essence of hockey.
A player who scores on 16 percent of his shots is considered a scoring machine in hockey. A baseball player who hits the ball at that rate is either a pitcher or finding another line of work.
Bonding with teammates in a common mission is the way a team comes together, and there’s nothing like a road trip to bring people together.
“This trip is good because we’re in a different environment,” Moggach said. “We’re living together. It’s just totally different. Back in the day, we were trying to create something of a college culture, where we got to travel together, be on a bus, give them an idea what it would be like. Because most of these guys aren’t going to get that opportunity again.
“Even for me, it doesn’t seem like 14 years,” he said. “It’s as fresh as the skate yesterday or the game last night. From my perspective, we (coaches) have the longevity. These guys (the players) have 2-3 years, most of them. It’s life. In the blink of an eye, it’s gone.”
The Bulldogs were tested by the Copper Country teams when they first came north. When they started winning and bonding on the trips, they ended up making that final step to the state’s elite programs, which three trips to the state finals in as many years would certainly attest to.
A season is a progression, and March is a long ways away and just around the corner at the same time.
This weekend marked the midpoint of the season, and after the ride home today, the participants will get into their cars for the first time in four days, making the adjustment to their regular lives after a long weekend on the bus, with an eye on bigger goals and, they hope, a clearer vision of the path to get there.
Contact sports editor Tim Robinson at (517) 552-2863 or email him at email@example.com.