Week 17: Fun

This weekend, the Fayetteville Marksmen took care of business.

In snapping a four-game losing streak to their bitter rival in Virginia, the Marksmen extended their own win streak to six games and keep themselves within striking distance of Quad City and Peoria.

What has been the most notable transformation from a team that just two weeks ago was on a three-game losing skid is the habits that this team is starting to create. This isn’t an uptight group that doesn’t allow anyone into the sanctum sanctorum, instead it’s a fun-loving bunch that enjoys their job and gets it done.

In my own playing career, Mike Lappin, the former ECHL-er was my head coach and had an equation that was plastered into his player’s brains.

Hard work = Winning = Fun

To this day, and I would wager generationally, that equation is true. But, each component has to happen or the equation can’t come true.

Winning is fun when it’s earned. Hard work is the vehicle to winning. Hard work is only fun when you’re rewarded for your effort.

To watch this Marksmen team who has beaten four straight SPHL top-seven teams, this game is becoming fun quickly.

On the bus this is a group that jokes around, they laugh, they encourage. You can tell that there are strong bonds with this group as you listen to Brent Moran regale about his college chemistry course while Jason Binkley listens and shares stories of his own.

Then you see Harrison Harper give the athletic trainer a night off as navigator and have a seat at the front of the bus going story-for-story with the bus driver, Kenny.

And of course there are the card games in the back where legends are made trading goals and assists for aces and kings.

The most astonishing part is though—this is a team that away from the ice is nearly undisguisable from a group of friends at a fraternity or a moose lodge, but once inside their focus is on the game.

Cory Melkert calls it “details,” I call it “execution,” and we both throw around the word “habits.” Of course, most of the time it’s regarding the penalty kill being able to methodically clear the puck or finding the right path on a breakout—but these habits and details extend much further.

You may never see what goes on behind the tunnel to the ice, but there is a heart-stopping moment when Zach Remers is taping his stick and looks up and for a moment you can swear there is a blue flame burning in his eye. Or when Tanner Froese and Vinny Renda stride past to warm up with the soccer ball and you can feel their intensity.

And it the same moment, Zach will stick out a fist to bump and Vinny will flash that million-dollar Clark Kent smile. And what the most intimidating part is, they do it as they work—the culture is in place and it’s working.

“Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm,” said Ken Carter in the movie Coach Carter.

But as this team sits poised to pounce at higher positions in the standings, who could doubt that. This isn’t a snake-in-the-grass, prowling group.

No—this team will shake you by the hand firmly with a smile and a joke and then go out and pound on you for 60 minutes.

Hard work is being done. Winning is being done. And fun is most certainly being had.

And wouldn’t you know it—there is more fun to be had with Roanoke coming to town this week.