Ian Jenkins, one of Michigan's brightest prospects at the goaltender position, before his tragic accident, was on the road to realizing his dream of becoming a National Hockey League player. The Ypsilanti, Michigan native had just signed with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights and must of felt like he was on top of the world. For a fifteen-year old, what more could the world offer? How about a harsh dose of reality.
Fifteen for me was thirty years ago. I remember how embarrassing it was to be seen with my parents. I remember working at Jewel Lake Bowling Center, in Anchorage, and feeling like I ruled the world. I mostly remember my stupidity. Snow machining on thin ice, free climbing the cliffs at McHugh Creek, and tempting fate by racing the bore tides on Turnagain Arm. Our playground was one of Alaska's most dangerous areas for bear attacks and we ran around the mountains like we were playing in Central Park. What Ian Jenkins was doing, riding on the sideboard of his buddy's pickup truck, was nothing compared to the risks that my friends and I took. Why is it that I am alive and Jenkins is not?
Remember feeling like nothing is going to happen to me? As a parent, I get nervous when I see my three-year old go down the stairs with an armful of toys. Not sure how the parents survived my teenage years... not sure how I did either.
Nearly half of all teen deaths are accidental, and most of those deaths are due to car accidents according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly all of these accidents are also ruled as preventable.
Now back to our title, the Myth of Invincibility continues to plague teenagers of this generation as it affected mine. Why does it take the tragic loss of one of our brightest prospects to bring the dangers of over-confidence to light? Movies like the Fast and Furious are not to blame, my generation had Bo and Luke Duke, my father had Steve McQueen and teens were making just as many fatal mistakes in the 60's, 70's, and 80's as they are today.
"Don't do anything stupid." This is something my father often said to me as I walked out the door. Coming from a man that risked life everyday, as a utility power lineman, I often just laughed. Death is not funny, especially when it involves a fifteen year old.
I have not talked with Jenkins' family, or even his friends. I don't have to in order to understand their pain, because I am feeling it as well. The hockey world is like a small town, when one of our own is hurt, we all feel the pain.
Coaches and team officials, from all across North America, should share the Ian Jenkins story with all of our kids. If the Jenkins story is able to inspire just one child to think twice before taking a risk, it is worth the effort of us all. Life is not a video game, a movie, or a comic book. Invincibility is impossible and nothing but a myth.
What do you think?