On second, third, fourth chances and beyond…..

This blog entry is partially inspired by Josh Hamilton, and partially on a more minor story of redemption that came to fruition with last night’s gold medal victory for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

To explain.  The National Post has a nice story on second chances.  Hamilton is the lead of the story.  His tale is well known, and is paralleled with the story of St. Augustine.  Essentially – they are both people who made mistakes and bad choices – and they were both people who were never completely abandoned by the ones who loved them.  Hamilton’s initial response to his wife’s claim that he would get back to baseball because it was what God wanted was a less than enthusiastic “Whatever.”  I suggest you read the article yourself, but essentially both Hamilton and Augustine came out of their travails with the support of people who loved them, and didn’t quit on them.  The article title speaks of  ‘second chances’ – even though Hamilton would likely admit that he had numerous chances before making good on them.

Team Canada forward Angelo Esposito’s chances have been more finite.  As a precocious 16 year old in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he was invited to try out for Canada’s World Junior team.  Esposito willingly cut his curly, brown hockey hair when notoriously stern head coach Brent Sutter made it known that he ‘wanted to see some ears’ when the players stepped out on the ice for the first practice.  Somewhat predictable, Esposito was cut from a strong team that went on to win gold.

As a 17 year old, Esposito went through the process again.  A year older, and a year wiser, but with the same end result.  Cut.  As an 18 year old, fresh off being a first round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Esposito was again invited to try out for Team Canada.  He suffered the same fate as current Detroit Red Wing Dan Cleary, and was cut for a third straight year.

Cleary has gone on to be a successful NHLer, he was a key cog in the Wings’ Stanley Cup win last year, but whenever I hear his name, I immediately flash back to his interview upon being cut for a third year.  Team Canada makes their cuts early in the morning, and players are often stopped for interviews on their way out.  Clearly’s only explanation upon exiting was a somewhat plaintive, somewhat bitter “I guess I’m not a Team Canada type of guy.”  Eposito was in a position to erase Cleary from the record books when he was invited to Team Canada camp for a fourth year.  Coach Pat Quinn was impressed with his effort, and his willingness to even show up after his disappointment the previous three years.  In his fourth and final chance – Esposito made Team Canada.

Esposito saved his best for last.  In the gold medal final, Esposito came full circle from being cut three times to being one of Canada’s golden boys.  His second period goal turned out to be the game winner.  He got a gold medal around his neck.  He got to skate around with the trophy, and he got to line up on the blue line and sing “O Canada” with his teammates while 20 000 people cheered.

This could go in a lot of directions.  I’m not going to imply that being cut from a team is the same as almost destroying your life with drugs and alcohol.  I’m just going to say that trying harder, and not giving up is always a good thing.  There is no guarantee that you will succeed, but the quickest way to not succeed is to not try.  Drug addiction is not something everyone can relate to.  Most people can relate to the utter devastation that comes with being cut from a team in one’s teenage years.  Its always nice to see people bounce back from both scenarios.

Winston Churchill wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last, but he is one of the most compelling to ever offer up a simple piece of advice:  “Never give up.”

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