If you follow Washington pro sports, you may know that the distinction for being the longest-tenured professional athlete playing for any team in Washington belongs to Brooks Laich. He’s been playing left wing and center for the Washington Capitals Hockey Club for 11 years, including several years as co-Captain. I grew up in Minnesota, where hockey is very popular. I love watching our local team play. Brooks Laich is a fan favorite—popular on the ice as a smart and fierce player, and off the ice for just being a nice guy, with a real heart for the game and the community.
On March 3, for the first time since his first full season in DC (and not having scored a goal since January 7), Brooks was a healthy scratch in the game against the Blue Jackets—a coaching decision taken very seriously by players as an indication that the coaching staff has questions about whether or not they are playing their best. A healthy scratch doesn’t lace on the skates, but spends the game in the press box, watching the game from afar. A tough night for a competitor.
Being a healthy scratch is a wake up call for a player, and it can be taken as an insult. But that’s not how Brooks viewed it. He saw the scratch as an opportunity to refocus on his game, reexamine his game from the distance of the press box, and recommit to give each game 100%. In an interview, he reviewed what he had been doing to get back to his best game, and how hard he’d been working. “I just want to play better. I want to help our team win,” he said.
The scratch lasted just one game. And on March 7, Laich scored a goal against the Sabres, in front of the hometown crowd in the Verizon Center. It looked like everyone in the arena was up cheering when that goal went in, and later Brooks described his emotions as being like how he felt when he scored his very first NHL goal. That resolute character—and his determination to come back strong—is what people love about his play, about his role on the team, and about his character.
Brooks Laich provides a pretty good example of how to face adversity. You work hard, you reexamine what you’re doing, and you focus on what matters most: commitment.
“I want to help our team win.” Amidst adversity and the unexpected challenge or problem, it’s our commitment that helps us win through. Commitment is the foundation of sustainable success.