I Am Rick Tocchet
“I am Rick Tocchet”
“Oh yeah, well I am Mike Richter! Try and score on me”
Those are the words of two small brothers in the 1980’s playing knee hockey in New Jersey suburbs. I often take a trip down memory lane to recall the greatest moments of my childhood and, more often than not, find that most of the really great memories revolve around hockey. From blocking off sewers so the ball would not get lost in the streets to bringing buckets of water outside in the winter to freeze the back patio just to pretend for a moment that I’m a Flyer. This so called “game” is much more than just something played. It’s something experienced, cherished, loved, and shared.
My first introduction to this sport came in September of 1984. I was a young child and recall my father asking my brother and me if one of us wanted to go to see a hockey game. At the age of 5, my options were playing Atari or go and do something I knew nothing about. Naturally, the kid in me wanted to play video games, but my father told me we would have a great time and dragged me with him. Boy was he right. That first game I went to was vs. the Islanders and we sat in the front row! My mouth was open the entire night in awe of the speed, size, and of course, the big hits right in front of me! I was in complete amazement and have been officially addicted to hockey since that night. My father loved to see me smile. He would continue taking me to more and more games over the next few years, and while I don’t recall specifics to any of the actual games (expect when he put me on his shoulders when Ron Hextall scored his first NHL goal) I remember the bonding experience. I remember taking bets how far we though the Ben Franklin Bridge was once it came into view. I remember laughing. I remember being happy.
A few years later in the fall of 1988, my father passed away suddenly and everything had felt like it came to a halt. I was old enough to understand what was happening and all those cherished moments we had together would now only exist in a memory. But that bond and energy we had from creating life long memories stemmed from a shared passion, Ice Hockey, and I was just getting started.
I was still Rick Tocchet, my brother was still Mike Richter, and the rivalry was still very much alive. We played travel hockey together and here is where my true love of the game really broke out of its shell. I didn’t play because I wanted to be an NHL star or because I wanted to win every single game. I played because I loved to. The locker room banter, my grandparents making every game, and the lifelong friendships I would develop as a result of being part of a team. These 18 guys were like family. It wasn’t just Rick Tocchet and Mike Richter anymore. We had Brian Leech, Bruce Driver, Mark Messier, Pavel Bure, and many more on our side and were willing to do whatever it took for their hockey family. It didn’t matter if we won or lost the game. All we cared about was going out there and playing the best we could and have fun.
After my playing days I did not want to hang up the skates so I did the next best thing I could think of. I went into coaching youth players. For over 10 years, and all different age groups/levels, my experiences and memories were being passed on. I was sharing a passion and joy with others who were once in my shoes. These players were here to create their own memories and I was lucky enough to be part of that. Now, the little boy who was once running his brother into a wall was seeing things come full circle….but I’m not there quite yet.
I was blessed earlier this year with the arrival of my twin boys. Now, everyone in the world knows how much I love hockey and have already prepared me for the possibility they may not play that sport. While it may break my heart, it honestly does not matter. The only things that matter to me are being there for every single moment of their youth, to help them have their own experiences. To help them find something they cherish, love, and want to share like my dad with me.
They don’t need to be Rick Tocchet….they can be whoever they want.