This is the sign: lumpy black bags (huge bags) slung across shoulders, sometimes a stick with new tape, always a smile. Alone, or in groups of two and three, they migrate to the low-slung building at the west end of campus. The Ted is open, the ice is down, and players find their way to free skates in the early evening hours.
But this is not a piece about hockey, about teams, about raising banners.
This is a piece about pride in a facility, hard work, and caring. This is about Bill Trybulski and Rachel Earl and the hours spent this summer wiping down and cleaning every single surface in the rink from the rafters to the walls to the rubber matting on the floor. This is about rebuilding stands, painting, reconditioning rubber. It’s about boards that have been cleaned so there isn’t a single puck smudge anywhere. It’s about pride and professionalism and quality.
This is about walking into the Ted, a rink that some are now calling one of the best in New England.
For many years one of my favorite works to teach was not Hamlet, not Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, not Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Most would not even consider the work I loved “literature” in the classic sense, and when I taught it eyebrows were raised among the department’s traditionalists. But it made my students think and engage. Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance challenges us to look at the way we view the world, to assess our systems of thought, to look for a better way, and to appreciate.
It’s a book that tracks quality and explores the ways it comes into our lives. Or doesn’t. It’s about caring. It’s about doing things right. It’s about paying attention to the details, about engaging and working to collapse the distance between the onlooker and the “other.” Here’s one of the underlined passages from my old, dog-eared copy:
And it occurred to me that there is no manual that deals with the real business of motorcycle maintenance, the most important aspect of all. Caring about what you are doing is considered either unimportant or taken for granted.
Sometimes when we step into a setting where caring is placed at a premium, it creates a wave of appreciation. It’s inspirational. It makes you want to take your game up a notch, and your game can be work, family, faith, school...or hockey. You want that quality, that feeling of excellence.
Last Saturday night when I walked the rink from front to back with Bill, ran my hands along the walls, felt the re-conditioned rubber, quality met me at every turn – palpable, strong. How fortunate we are when we find ourselves in a rink, or any space that speaks to the message of quality, when we can pause and look around and appreciate that a greater game is being played, and played well.
That’s not simply inspirational, it’s educational.