Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Name On The Back

The player pictured above is Jaret Anderson-Dolan. The LA Kings PR account tweeted out this picture of Anderson-Dolan earlier today, and I think it should be mentioned on this blog for its significance. You see, Jaret is a hard-working, skilled player who caught the eyes of NHL scouts for the game he plays on the ice. Every team wants a guy who will give his heart and soul for the logo on his chest. But for Jaret Anderson-Dolan, the name he wears across his shoulders has, perhaps, even greater significance when it comes to showing who he is as a player and, more importantly, a person.

The NHL and most of hockey in general has been working to be far more inclusive of groups who have felt like outsiders when it came to the machismo-laced world of men's professional sports. Groups like You Can Play have been helping hockey find a voice with LGBTQ people while including them in more events and activities. Seeing players from a number of cities joining and walking in Pride Parades across North America is a good start, but there were a few teams who spoke out about Jaret's family situation prior to the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Why would that concern NHL teams? Well, Jaret has two moms. He and his brother Dorion were raised by their moms, Fran and Nancy. Fran is Jaret's biological mother, and Nancy is Dorian's biological mother. Together, the four of them have made a pretty great life for their family, and that culminated in Jaret's rise as a high-level prospect with the WHL's Spokane Chiefs.

"It's been a dream of mine to play in the NHL since I was a little kid and the draft is the first step to that," Anderson-Dolan told Mike G. Morreale of "The real work starts after the draft, but it's exciting times right now. My family did the work behind the scenes; they don't get enough attention for it, but I'm very thankful.

"My goal is to be a first-round pick, but if I'm chosen later it would be an honor to just be drafted."

Clearly, he was good enough to be drafted, going 41st-overall to the Los Angeles Kings. Getting drafted is indeed a huge accomplishment for Anderson-Dolan, but he's entirely right in that his family should get more attention because it's 2017 and this level of irrational fear over one player having two moms seems ridiculous to me. When Anderson-Dolan was entering the WHL bantam draft, some teams told him and his family they would not take him because of his two mothers. For Anderson-Dolan, he's a better man than I because he seems pretty level-headed about it.

"I obviously don't know any other way of being raised, so for me it was normal," Anderson-Dolan told Morreale. "There's a couple of times where during a game or at school people may look to say something to me, but like I've said, I'm not ashamed about it. I believe it's very important that I try and make an impact in the community, as well as on the ice, and I won't shy away from doing that."

Fran, Jaret's biological mother, was captain of the Calgary Canadiens in the Southern Alberta Women's Hockey League and won the provincial championship and the 2008 Western Canada Shield. Fran and Nancy met at a hockey rink, and you can see where Jaret's competitive edge comes from as Fran often reminds Nancy that she won whenever their two teams faced one another. According to Jaret, he learned a great deal from his moms in helping him get to where he is today.

"Fran has great leadership ability," he said. "When she played hockey, she was captain of her team. Nancy is clear on what she wants in life. That's important because people are going to treat you how you treat them."

Not only is the kid a great hockey player and a fantastic person, but he's an incredible athlete. Josh Horton of The Spokesman-Review wrote the following about Anderson-Dolan,
Every season during fitness testing in preseason camp at Whitworth University, Chiefs players undergo VO2 testing, which measures the capacity of a person’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to the muscles.

Typically, only the veterans participate in this portion, but Anderson-Dolan was invited to participate as a 16-year-old rookie. He hopped on the exercise bike for the test, breathing tube strapped to his face, as then-Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur walked in and announced, "I'm gonna bet A-D wins this."

And he did. By a lot.

Anderson-Dolan's test number was in the mid 60s. Not a single Chiefs player even eclipsed 60 that year.

The next season, Anderson-Dolan's number rose to the high 60s, which would be in contention for the highest score at the NHL combine in most years.
It's a credit to the Los Angeles Kings for selecting Anderson-Dolan for his hockey ability just like the Spokane Chiefs did. His family has played an instrumental role in getting him to where he is today. Even his brother, Dorion, is a solid athlete - a fact that can't be overlooked when talking about their upbringings. Dorion is a student at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology for automotive technology in Calgary, and works as a ski and mountain bike instructor when he's not in classes.

Everything these two brothers have achieved in their lives has been due to having strong family support and a loving family and home to help them on their journeys. The fact that Jaret Anderson-Dolan is a member of the Los Angeles Kings shouldn't surprise anyone because he has talent that should make him an NHL player in the very near future. What should surprise everyone is that there are still teams and management who feel that his family - two moms and a brother - will somehow have a negative effect on what Jaret brings to the ice.

It's 2017. Families come in all forms now and the traditional "man-woman-children" model isn't the only model that works for everyone. The Anderson-Dolan family is living, breathing proof of this fact, and having the "Anderson-Dolan" name across the back of an NHL jersey proves that a loving, supportive home is the best family unit to have regardless of the makeup of those in that family.

This is a promise: I will add an Anderson-Dolan jersey to my collection. I like Jaret Anderson-Dolan. He's a good kid who works hard and gives everything he has on the ice to help his team win. But I like his family even more, and that's why I want to wear his family's name on my back.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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