By: Jonny Zawacki
The last four days have been an emotional rollercoaster.
From the highest of highs, to a heartbreaking low. Numbness of pure joy and excitement, to a feeling of pain and emptiness.
The emotions are confusing at first, but eventually, it all makes sense and becomes clear when you realize that you truly love, care and are so passionate about something.
It takes something powerful, extraordinary and so special to give us these feelings.
I just want to say thank you.
Thank you to the 2022-2023 Alpena High School hockey team for giving so many of us these similar feelings.
The season ended two games sooner than we all had hoped and the season might be over, but the memories and impact a group of 21 teenage hockey players made this year will last forever.
Thank you, Wildcats, for all of the hard work, time, dedication and effort you put in to making this past hockey season one that this die-hard hockey town won’t soon forget.
I know firsthand it was never easy for your team. So much pressure was applied from the second last season had ended and the expectations were immense, but I know you boys wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
The expectations are certainly a lot to ask of 15, 16, 17 and 18-year-old young men, but from day one, this group of Wildcats never made us believe the expectations were unrealistic.
They just put in the work, held each other accountable, believed in one another and in my eyes, not only lived up to, but exceeded those expectations that were bestowed upon them.
I know everything is so fresh and there’s no perfect way of easing this recent pain of defeat, which is something this group wasn’t used to, but let me be the first to thank the group of 21 young men for the impact you’ve had on me personally, your school, family, friends, fans and entire community.
I was blessed to get to know many of you on a more personal level. From witnessing firsthand the work each of you put in during the offseason and throughout the regular season in the weight room at NLA, to being fortunate enough to spend a weekend in Trenton with the team to witness you all are as special off the ice as you are on it.
You made my job the most enjoyable it has been during my eight years of covering sports. Over the past four months, I have never looked forward to something more than watching you boys exceed expectations and watching you do something you love, while putting your all into being successful, every single day.
I’m blessed to have formed friendships along the way and wish all of you the absolute best moving forward. Some I will see again next year in the weight room and on the ice, others, I will cherish the memories that I had watching you compete for your town and school. All 21 of you should be so proud of yourselves. To me, you’ll always be remembered as “The BlondeTourage”, “Cardiac Cats” and more importantly, my favorite team to have ever followed.
Last, but not least, I want to end with another message and bit of information for you group of 21 record-setting Wildcats, so you realize and completely understand what you have done, not just for me, but an entire community and the legacy you will forever leave behind.
With your hard work, strength, dedication, determination, and God-given talent, you lifted an entire community and one that has had its fair share of hardships, negativity and struggles over the past few years.
For four months, you group of 21 Wildcats were the reason this town came together, packed Northern Lights Arena with the realization that we, as a community were all Alpena and on the same team.
We cheered together, we laughed and smiled together. We won together, we lost together. We cried tears of absolute joy and pure sadness, together.
You not only put Alpena hockey back on the map, but more importantly, for four months, you lifted a community, brought Alpena together and showed us how important it is to be a part of a team and how special Alpena can truly be when we realize we are all on the same team.
Hopefully the impact your team has made on the community lasts as long as your teams legacy will, but at the very least, thank you for giving Alpena the best four months it has had in quite some time, and that is because of you 21 student-athletes.
Thank you for the school record 24 wins. Thank you for an undefeated Big North Conference championship season. Thank you for a regional title. Thank you for the most memorable game in Northern Lights Arena history and one of the greatest games in program history. Thank you for being among the best teams ever, in our school’s rich hockey history.
Thank you for being such great role models to future Wildcats. Thank you for being an absolute blessing to the community and everyone around you. Thank you for giving us a reason to fill Northern Lights Arena like it has never been before and support such a talented group of hockey players and even better group of human beings.
Thank you, Aidan Schultz, Garrett Hamp, Anthony Thompson, Luke Miller, Gunner Moe, Reid Meinhardt, Clark Weir, Anden Marceau, Jaden Marchlewski, Jack Steinke, Trent Fraser, Brody Thompson, Ian Lightfoot, Bryce Moe, Gavin Winterstein, Cam Young, Harrison Kaszubowski, Easton Schultz, Michael Kreis, James Kuhl and Jon Rensberry.
Thank you, 2022-2023 Alpena High School Wildcat hockey team.