Sports are a safety net: a metaphor for life that can mean everything and nothing at the same time. People invest their hearts into sports with minimal real life consequence.
For Utah Valley’s hockey team, that safety net was cut two weeks ago when beloved assistant coach Ken Dolezsar was killed outside a Sandy restaurant. The thin line between fact and fiction was blurred for players and coaches alike.
Nevertheless, life goes on and hockey season continues for the players that decided to play last Friday night in Dolezsar’s memory. "We had a choice," said coach Matt Beaudry. "And the guys chose to play for Ken."
Dolezsar always told his team to play with discipline. And that’s exactly what they did against the University of Utah that night.
The Wolverines blew out their in-state opponent 17-1. The players’s emotions translated into smooth passing, sharp shooting and discipline.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Wolverines had to turn around and suit up the very next night to play Walla Walla. Wearing a patch on their jersey’s to pay respect to their coach, and after a moment of silence prior to the face off, Utah Valley handed out another solid pounding to their opponent in a 14-1 win.
Jeff Jiron led the charge for the Wolverines with a hat trick while Seth Armitage added two goals of his own. "This was a tough weekend, and just for the kids to come out and compete," said Beaudry, "I’m proud of them."
While an empty spot on the bench will loom large in the hearts and minds of all associated with Utah Valley hockey, the best way to show respect to their fallen coach and friend is to carry on. Carry on in finishing the season strong. Carry on to the regional tournament in California, and carry on to nationals.
And do it with passion and discipline, just as Dolezsar told them before each game.