The game of hockey is a lifelong game.
Your passion for the game of hockey might stay the same throughout the course of your life, but the way you approach the game is constantly changing and evolving.
As a young kid first getting into the game, the goal is simple - absorb as much hockey as you possibly can at all times, whether it's watching your idols in the National Hockey League (NHL), taking shots on your dad in the driveway, or going to your team's hockey practice at 6AM on a Saturday morning.
At this age, the dream is alive and constantly occupies real estate in your mind. Make it to the NHL someday and be the best there ever was. It's hard to grasp how difficult it is to make to the top at this age, and it's good for kids to dream a little, anyway.
As you grow older, you realize that you might not make the NHL just based on the sheer amount of competition even in your immediate geographic region. While the dream may be pushed to the back of your mind, this doesn't stop the sport from becoming more competitive than ever.
Boys and girls in their teenage years love to win more than almost anything, and this compels them to pour more into the sport than they ever have before. Playoffs, tournaments, and games against rivals become the only thing you think about all week long, and the outcome of the game can make or break your day.
Some might say these are the glory years, but adults will probably tell you otherwise. Once you get into your early 20's and beyond, the game starts to shift dramatically. The competition begins to fade and the comradery starts to take the forefront.
Hockey has the social aspect regardless of how old you are - chatting with your team in the dressing room before and after games - but it's never more prevalent than in adult recreational leagues.
For many, hockey is their escape from their busy, stressful day-to-day lives. The time they get with the team every week is cherished as a time to get things off their chest, to laugh and smile, and to forget about everything else in the world for a couple hours.
Even when the game ends, heading to the bar to grab a couple drinks with the team is a tradition that many would never pass up. This is where lifelong friends are made.
The hockey spectrum continues to slide in this direction the older you get, as slower play creates less competition, and people care more about making friends than making plays.
Hockey is a beautiful game in that regard. We are constantly changing over the course of our lives, and the game changes with us.
One thing is for sure - no matter what age we are or what age we've been, we always have, and always will love our country's game.