The day Duluth East hockey died.
I jest, of course. Mostly. It’s a single game in mid-December. As horrible as the Hounds’ recent tailspin has been, they still have a long season in front of them, still have plenty of chances to remind the state who they are, and what talent they have. One game alone will not flip the balance of power in a city where the private school has finally, after a decade of dallying, assumed its mantel as a northern hockey power.
But the stakes grow higher, and the pressure only grows. After so many years of preeminence, it now seems like every week brings a new statistic showing decline. Even last year, for everything that went right at the end, now looks like an aberration.
Was it? That, I suppose, is up to the players. It’s up to them to ignore all the noise and hype, to forget the rankings and section seeds and focus on the task before them. Once again, they have the target on their backs. It’s East against the world, and all they can do is embrace it. This is what it means to follow in this tradition, and to do what one can to carry it forward. To escape the panic, return to that old self-assurance, and most importantly, to have fun with it all again. For all the bag skates and relentless drills, for all the burdens in the shadow of the past, it all still comes back to a bunch of boys playing a game. One these boys have with great success, with runs toward titles as Bantams and PeeWees. It’s all still there within them.
They won’t get it on reputation. They’ll get it by blood and sweat alone. Back to work. It’s time to prove it.