The Senior

February 24, 2016

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A great read from a hard-working, loyal, and classy senior who I have had the pleasure of getting to know these past 3 years:

JIMMY VESEYWINGER / HARVARD

I met with a bunch of teams at the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto in 2012, but one interview particularly stands out.

For those who don’t know how combine interviews work, you basically sit there at a round table with all of a team’s scouts, staff and management and just get peppered with questions.

So I’m sitting there, 18 years old, nervously sweating in my suit, and some guy sitting at the table pipes up.

“Oh, so you’re going to Harvard. Do you want to be a student or a hockey player?”

I was completely taken aback. I’m pretty sure that I botched the rest of the interview because I was so rattled by that question. I probably should’ve brushed it off, but in that type of situation you start second-guessing yourself.

Is Harvard actually the right fit? Is it going to hurt my hockey career?

Looking back, I kind of wish I had told this guy to pound sand, because he definitely had no clue about who I was or how special playing at Harvard was.

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I grew up in a hockey family. My dad played hockey. So did all of my cousins. My younger brother Nolan and I didn’t have a choice, really. From the time we could walk, we were on skates.

Everything growing up was hockey, hockey, hockey. My parents made every sacrifice possible so that Nolan and I could play, and my little sister  got dragged to just about every rink in North America.

I can remember waking up for 5 a.m. mite hockey games with my dad when the sun wasn’t even up yet.  If I said I was tired, he’d say, “C’mon, Jimmy, someday this is all gonna be worth it.” Then on the way home we would pretend to announce my name as the first overall pick in my draft year.  Those days were the best; I still remember that stuff like it was yesterday.…

With the first pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft … the Boston Bruins are proud to select … from North Reading, Mass. … Jimmy Vesey.

In school, when teachers asked what we wanted to be when we got older, I used to be too embarrassed to say an NHL player. I thought they would laugh at that thought. I mean, in reality, how likely was it that I would actually play in the NHL? The percentages are extremely small. I used to make up some phony job — I don’t know, maybe an astronaut — but the truth is, I’ve never even considered pursuing anything else as a career; ever since I was a kid I knew that hockey was what I wanted to do.

Last spring, after my junior season at Harvard, I had the opportunity to realize my childhood dream of playing in the NHL. The Nashville Predators, the team that drafted me, were telling me I would step into their lineup on a line with Mike Fisher for the end of the season and the playoffs. It was crazy to think how my college season ended on a Saturday and I could’ve been in their lineup by Tuesday. Could’ve been rubbing elbows with guys like Shea Weber, Mike Ribeiro and James Neal. Could’ve been playing against Patrick Kane in the first round of the playoffs. No brainer, right?

I thought about how broke I was at college, how annoying it can get sharing a 2003 Toyota Camry with my brother in the summer, how my mom’s been saying for a few years now that she wants a new kitchen… I’d be able to fix all that, I thought.

It was the toughest decision I’ve ever made, but I turned the offer down and decided to go back to college for my senior year. I actually turned down my dream for another year of bus rides, dining hall food and homework. Pretty nuts, huh?

When I officially announced my decision, everyone — and I mean everyone — seemed to have a comment. Some people thought I must have been doing it to hold out for free agency this summer, while some people couldn’t fathom the fact that I was going back at all. How bad could I really want to be a hockey player if I was choosing to go back to school?

I waited three days after our season ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament before officially announcing my decision, but to be honest, I had made up my mind two weeks before. We had just beaten Yale, our biggest rival, in an absolute battle of an ECAC tournament quarterfinal playoff series. Going into that series, I was something like 0-9-1 in my career against Yale. In the third and deciding game one of my best friends, Pat McNally, tied the score with three minutes left, and we went on to win in double overtime. I always joke around with him and tell him that if he didn’t score that goal I might not still be at Harvard.

The postgame celebration after winning that series was hands-down one of the best moments of my life. One of the boys’ favorite words at school is electric, and I’ll tell you, that locker-room was definitely electric. Everyone screaming, jumping up and down … I must’ve hugged all thirty of my teammates five times each, almost on the verge of tears. Looking back now, it seems like it happened in slow motion, but it was in that locker-room that I fully realized, “All right, these guys are my best friends. All right, I’m not ready to leave this place. Nope. No way.”

Some people might not have understood my decision to come back, but maybe they don’t fully understand what the college hockey experience is truly like. For me, I’ve loved every second of my time at Harvard, both at the rink and away from it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still fully committed to becoming an NHL player and having as long a career as I can, but there are certain aspects of college that I just didn’t want to give up if I didn’t have to. Like the two things people always say, “College is the best time of your life,” and, “You can never get those four years back.” So I didn’t really see the rush.

First off, I would’ve had a hard time looking my coaches in the eyes and telling them I was leaving. I’ve come a long way as a hockey player in my time at college, and that’s definitely a result of the world-class coaching staff I’ve played for. When I came to school as a young, naïve freshman, all I cared about was scoring goals. Now, I’m more of a complete player … a “200-foot player,” as coach Donato always says. One of the things I’m most proud of at school is that I’ve been on our top penalty-kill unit the past two years. For sure, I still think scoring a goal is one of the best feelings in the world, but something about it is a little better when it’s done within the team.

Coach Donato, coach Pearl, coach Rassey, coach Eklund and coach Mullen — you guys have all helped me immensely on the ice as a hockey player, but to me it’s even more commendable how much you have helped me as a human being. Thank you for everything.

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One of my favorite things about college hockey is how sick it is to play for your school. Each team has so much history and tradition. It’s a cool feeling to be playing for something so much bigger than yourself. At Harvard, you look around the rink … you can see the banners, the championships, the old pictures. A lot of people before us have invested so much into the program. Every single one of our home games, there are alumni there, and they’re some pretty big names. I’m talking Billy Cleary, the Fusco brothers, Lane MacDonald — all former Olympians. Talking to them, their passion for Harvard Hockey is palpable. You can tell that they put everything they had into the jersey and that the same is expected of you. You hold yourself to a higher standard as a result.

It feels good to wear your team gear around campus; everyone knows you’re on the team, and girls love hockey players (Ahhh, maybe not so much at Harvard, actually). But seriously, there’s just something special about seeing your friends, the other athletes and everybody else around campus. It’s a tight-knit community, everyone’s pulling for each other, and everyone shares the same hatred for our Ivy League competition. When you look in the stands during a game and see all your buddies there, it puts a little more jump in your step. You don’t want to let them down, either.

Last, but definitely not least, I came back this year to be with the boys for one more season. When I say, “the boys,” I’m not just talking about my teammates. I’m also referring to our equipment guy Odie, our athletic trainers Matt and Chad, our media guy Brock, the fellas at the rink (Joe, Scotty and Brendan) and our hockey ops manager Flem.

When I got a little bit older, my dad used to always tell me that I’d never be on a team closer than the ones in college. And, now that I’m a wise old senior and my college career is coming to a close, I can 100 percent see where he was coming from all those years ago.

College hockey is much different than pro. There aren’t any trades, there aren’t any performance bonuses and no one is playing for their next contract. Once everyone gets on campus in September, we come together as a team, united by the common goal of winning an NCAA championship.

And for the next seven months, you truly gain 29 brothers. At Harvard, we all live within a one-mile radius of each other. I mean, my linemate, Alex Kerfoot, has one of the biggest muffins in the league; we live in separate dorms at school, but he could probably stand in his room and hit my bedroom window with a wrister. We eat together, we walk to the rink together, take classes together, go out together and on Friday and Saturday nights, we battle together. College is an ultrastressful environment — we’re balancing school, hockey, internships, our social lives and so many other things. When you’re part of a group as close as a hockey team, being able to lean on your teammates and the feeling of, “We’re all in this together,” gives you a little bit more assurance going into each day.

Choosing to play at Harvard was one of the greatest decisions of my life, and I think a lot of that comes from how good a group of guys my teammates are. I know when I’m older and I look back at my college years, I’m going to wish I could jump back into the memories I made with these guys. I’ll pretty much miss it all — summer dogs, nights in Lamont, the Thon, the Ward, 9 Linden, football tailgates … I might even miss the Sunday morning bag-skates when we laid an egg on Saturday night (thanks, Coach). I’m proud to say that the guys I went through all of this with will be my friends for life.

Beyond hockey, staying for my senior year has given me the opportunity to graduate from Harvard. One of the things I’m most proud about is that I’m from Boston. I come from a long line of blue-collar Bostonians.… City people — that’s who we are. Not many people in my family have had the chance to go to college, so I like to think that when I get my Harvard degree this spring, it’ll be a testament to all of their hard work, because I definitely know I didn’t get here by myself.

I know going to college for all four years isn’t exactly the most conventional hockey path, but I can’t imagine having done it any other way.

Last time I checked, the NHL’s still right where it was last spring.

 

 

NCAA hockey: Harvard’s Devin Tringale on community service

February 18, 2016

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An inspiring read from a motivated, determined, and kind junior who I have had the pleasure of getting to know these past 3 years:

By: Devin Tringale

The Men’s hockey locker room is much more than a place where our team prepares for practices and games – it’s our sanctuary. It’s where teammates morph into brothers and where stories morph into legends. It’s a place that never truly leaves us, even when most of us are miles away over the summer. Even now, sitting at my desk in Winthrop House, I’m able to imagine every inch of it.

Inside wafts the familiar smell of equipment.  Rolls of tape screech across blades and shin pads. Velcro clings and rips as teammates search for the sweet spot on their pads. The NHL Network hums constantly in the background, game highlights flickering on the screens in the periphery. Two stalls down, an age old dispute rages over whether or not a goalie should’ve made a particular save.  “How DIDN’T he have that!” This rattles Trabes, our own goalie, who chirps back, “You think you could EVER get across the crease that fast?”

Stretching, rolling out, watching film, rehabbing injuries, hanging out, joking, arguing, celebrating; the daily routines reinforce an association. This is home. At a glance, it’s orderly and uniform – team rules. But, venturing inside of some of the stalls, you get a more profound sense of the athlete’s universal home away from home. Protein powder, toothbrushes, deodorant sticks, footballs, tennis rackets, phone chargers, pictures, books, letters, dress shirts, street clothes, and sneakers all clutter the recesses deep inside.

Cutting away from the hustle and bustle of daily student life, you come to find there’s nothing more settling than the vibe in that locker room.  Those four walls are a Fortress of Solitude for the 29 members of the Harvard hockey roster; and for many, they act much like a bunker, providing space to briefly retreat from the busy life of a Harvard student-athlete.

Thinking about what I would write about for my version of “Around the Yard,” I thought I might talk about the interesting classes I’m taking – like the one that follows the current presidential election, or perhaps the one that analyzes the historic roots and causes of human trafficking. I thought I might talk about the wealth of extra curricular resources and clubs that Harvard has to offer. But finally I decided that I’d write about what has touched me most outside of hockey this year, something that was actually born as an idea when talking amongst teammates in – you guessed it – the locker room.

Early in September, we met with Adam La Reau, a former NAVY Seal, who started serving as our team mentor a few years ago while attending Harvard Kennedy School. We discussed our collective goals for the upcoming season, both on and off the ice. We decided that as an off-ice goal, we would make a considerable effort to engage in community service as a team.

We started by volunteering at the Cristo Rey High School – doing yard work, painting, and providing general maintenance around their building. We also participated as a team in the Terry Fox Run and volunteered at the homeless shelter in Harvard Square. Partaking in these events allowed me to better grasp just how fortunate we all are to be apart of this incredible university and to be surrounded by the amazing people that call this place home.

Despite these humbling experiences, the most impactful community service effort occurred last month. On Sunday, January 23rd, after a weekend spent in the far away lands of Hamilton and Ithaca, New York, facing off against Colgate and then Cornell, we were able to turn our locker room sanctuary into something far more special than it usually is. In conjunction with One Summit, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to help children battling cancer build resilience through experiential learning and mentorship with a NAVY Seal,” the Harvard Hockey team welcomed some brave and inspirational children into our second home.

While the children usually spend the day building confidence by overcoming the challenge of rock climbing, our version of One Summit was geared to have them tackle an objective completely foreign to most of them – learning how to skate. Each of us suited one or two of the kids up, laced their skates, and got them zipping around the ice.  It only took minutes to recognize these were some of the most confident, most talented, and most courageous children we would ever meet – and that we would be the ones learning a lesson from the day.

That day I had the pleasure of skating with most of the kids, but spent the majority of my time with a little guy named Jaxson, an amazing middle-schooler from New Hampshire who was wise well beyond his years. To my surprise, I had one of the best conversations I’ve had with anyone in the past several months. We discussed all facets of our lives – favorite sports, pet lizards, friendship, what it’s like to share a room with a brother, favorite books and movies, and our long term goals. I even got a little refresher on some seventh grade science.

I learned some valuable lessons from Jaxson and the others that day, applicable anywhere in life, school, or hockey. These kids reinforced just how important it is, in life and sports, to be resilient. The positivity that radiated from each of them, despite the challenges they face, showed me that there are very few circumstances that I can truly justify being negative – no matter how crushing an injury or overtime loss may seem. In retrospect, engaging with these kids taught me more directly about life in one afternoon than any lecture could ever hope to.

Due to experiences like our day with One Summit, the community service initiative that our team embarked on has been one of the most rewarding experiences of this school year. Realizing that we can extend our roof to others in the community – complete with all the reassurance, the comfort, and the electricity – even if only for an afternoon – was a discovery that drew a line across my experience as a Harvard student-athlete.

Although each member of our team is involved in an array of different activities and finds himself, in one way or another, engulfed in the student life so unique to this college – in true, team-sport fashion, the collective effort of our team to engage in community service has had a far bigger impact than we would have been able to make on an individual basis. And while the success of a team will always be measured by wins, losses, and playoff performances (and trust me, we’re veryconcerned about these things – we’re playing to clinch an Ivy League Championship at home this Friday!), a team’s character can always be measured by the impact they have on the community they’re a part of.

American Pharoah Finds Flow

June 18, 2015

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We have a new American hero…American Pharoah, foaled February 2, 2012. What a special thrill to view his three exceptional Triple Crown races. Before even watching him race in the Kentucky Derby, I was an ardent fan. Not only is he a gorgeous bay, which brings back fond memories of Aquarius, the lovely Quarterhorse-Arabian I rode years ago near Cody, Wyoming, but he is also a once-in-a-generation gifted athlete.

While following American Pharoah these past weeks, I was curious to read a comment made by his trainer, Bob Baffert. After winning the Kentucky Derby, May 2, Baffert shared that his winner did not bring his “super A-game” to the race. What most struck me about this remark was that–like humans–animals have their on and off days. In other words, they may experience the state of flow much like their two-legged athletic counterparts. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s seminal work on flow reveals that we—including people who are not athletes–can access the state of flow, a place where our skills are sufficiently challenged to keep us fully engaged, skirting either boredom or anxiety. One who is in flow is not only completely focused on their pursuit, but they are also driven from a place of intrinsic motivation. It is in this focused, motivated place that we perform our best, effortlessly. I loved the image of American Pharoah running full out.

Two weeks later, May 16, American Pharoah did not disappoint. At the Preakness Stakes’ Pimlico Race Course, he won by seven lengths, inclement weather and all. Not only that, he was the first horse in over twenty years to win after starting from the rail. After the Preakness Stakes, Baffert shared, “He brought his A-game today.” In other words, he was fully in a flow state. To witness that race was breathtaking, making for exciting suspense for New York.

By June 6, the day of the one-and-a-half mile Belmont Stakes and third race for the Triple Crown, American Pharoah’s popularity had skyrocketed around the world. Would there be the first triple crown winner in almost four decades? With millions of people from around the world watching, once again, American Pharoah demonstrated his peak performance. As his trainer Bob Baffert succinctly stated after the climactic race, “Down the backside he was in his groove…” He won by 5 ½ lengths in a wire-to-wire victory with the 6th fastest time in history. And what a historic and emotional moment!

What a treat to witness the first Triple Crown winner in a generation—37 years to be specific–with my mother and daughters by my side, surrounded by three other generations of best friends.

Small college makes huge champion

April 13, 2014

 

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Congratulations to the 2014 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey National Champions: Union College. The team worked hard over a long season–and well before–to earn their exceptional victory against perennial powerhouse University of Minnesota. Yes, Union had a strong and cohesive team who have dedicated this year to becoming the best college team in hockey. Yes, they have a strong network of support including a progressive coaching staff, talented training staff, and committed sport psychologist (still needed on many college and even professional teams). And, yes, they capitalized on everything they had going for them when it mattered most.

What most distinguishes this victory is the discrepancy in size between the 2 D1 hockey schools, comparing Union’s 2200 students to Minnesota’s 52,000. Union has allocated their resources efficiently and most effectively. I trust all 2200 students as well as staff and alums will continue to enjoy the celebrations!

Way to go Union with your first NCAA championship! You have secured an elite place in hockey history and should be very proud…and I will hope Harvard takes your spot there next year!

 

To read more, go to:

http://espn.go.com/college-sports/story/_/id/10774791/union-wins-first-ncaa-hockey-beating-no-1-seed-Minnesota

 

The Dalai Lama makes me marvel.

April 8, 2014

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I was thrilled to learn that the Dalai Lama, whom I have long admired, was fascinated with skiing and adventurous enough to hop on a ski lift–without bar–to watch it in live on the slopes of Santa Fe. Not only that, he was exuberant! In all my years of living in Aspen, I can’t remember seeing anyone laughing hysterically after getting knocked down by 4 people getting off a chairlift. Leave it to the Dalai Lama to then observe, “At ski area, you keep eye open always!”

The other snippet from Douglas Preston’s engaging Slate article, that made me marvel was the Dalai Lama’s direct response to a question posed après ski, “What is the meaning of life?”  The Dalai Lama answered immediately. “The meaning of life is happiness.” He raised his finger, leaning forward, focusing on her (the waitress who posed the existential question) as if she were the only person in the world. “Hard question is not, ‘What is meaning of life?’ That is easy question to answer! No, hard question is what make happiness. Money? Big house? Accomplishment? Friends? Or …” He paused. “Compassion and good heart? This is question all human beings must try to answer: What make true happiness?”

Clearly, the Dalai Lama has found true happiness.

 

For those of you who want to read the full article, here is the link:

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2014/02/dalai_lama_at_a_santa_fe_ski_resort_tells_waitress_the_meaning_of_life.single.html

Team USA Sled Team Wins Gold in Sochi

March 15, 2014

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Congratulations to Team USA Sled Team! These guys have guts and they have heart. Ironically, I just read the latest issue of USA Hockey, which profiled the team. I hope they are out celebrating in Sochi. I am so impressed and moved by these men. I hope to see a number of them play at UMass Lowell in a few weeks.

Cheers to these athletes and to everyone who supports the Paralympics!

Zen Master Moves East

March 15, 2014

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Phil Jackson is a remarkable man. His insight links the past to the present, from tapping into Native American and Asian wisdom to motivating professional athletes. Jackson’s quest for personal discovery began with himself, which he openly shares in his bestseller, Sacred Hoops, and extends to his teams.

When I began my career as a performance coach, I had not encountered many people open to mindfulness in sport or business. Having spent time on an Oglala  Sioux reservation years ago and currently researching mindfulness in sport at Harvard University, I can relate to his quest for spiritual knowledge… as well as sporting success. Zen master Jackson continues to inspire me in “walking the talk” as well as sharing his knowledge with other open minds.

Having coached the Lakers to 5 titles, left and returned to the franchise, he now switches coasts and teams to help lead the Knicks to renewed success. The move east stirs many waters and adds an intriguing touch to the season’s final months. Being a loyal Celtics fan, I have never cared to follow the Knicks too closely, but I just may now.

Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity

February 23, 2014

Given that we all face challenges and demands in our increasingly complicated world, I encourage readers to take a few mindful moments to follow this link:

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http://hbr.org/2014/03/mindfulness-in-the-age-of-complexity/ar/1

Imagery in the Olympics

February 23, 2014

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How cool that the New York Times has “imagery’ as its feature article in the Sunday sports section today! Mental conditioning–imagery and other skills–is becoming more mainstream here in the U.S. (has a long history in Canada and Europe). We hear and literally see (Mikaela Shiffrin shown practicing her routine slopeside on TV) athletes succeed based on these skills. When it comes to hundredths of seconds and other slight differentiators between a gold medal or sliver/bronze/no medal, and Olympic athletes pretty much in the same physical shape, it usually comes down to the mental edge as to who will walk away with the gold.

For anyone who in interested in peak performance, I highly recommend you read this apropos article, Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/sports/olympics/olympians-use-imagery-as-mental-training.html?hpw&rref=sports

The Power of Mindfulness

May 31, 2013

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I had the pleasure of attending a seminar with Jon Kabat-Zinn this week. Having read several of his books and listened to his mindful meditation cd’s, I was intrigued to hear him present live. The theme of his presentation focused on the power of mindfulness in relation to trauma. As Kabat-Zinn, eloquently phrased it, “Transformation and Healing at the Confluence of Science and Dharma.” What Tibetan monks, Indian yogis, and other enlightened people have known intuitively through personal experience, can now be scientifically tracked through recent advances in neurobiology. Our brains literally change—for the better—through consistent mindful meditation.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, a time when people continue to feel uneasy and stressed, mindful meditation is an especially valuable antidote. Not only does it lower anxiety and stress hormones for oneself, it also benefits those around you. In my work, I find that an all-too-common common hurdle for people is carving out time—even 5 minutes—for themselves to mindfully breathe. Whether you prefer quiet solitude, a peaceful walk, or recorded imagery on a portable device, consistent mindfulness meditation is a practice that provides a priceless benefit…both in the moment and beyond.