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Rookie Dinner

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Rookie Dinner

By Alex Randazzo

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

Hockey is a game built on traditions. Some of these traditions are beneficial to the game, for example, the handshake at the end of a series. The handshake is special to hockey and it demonstrates that no matter how hard one team competes against the other, at the end, both teams are willing to line up and look the other in the eye and acknowledge that they each gave it all they had.

Some traditions are just fun, like playoff beards. For some reason some guy decided not to shave during the playoffs and now nobody does. Figure that one out? Though there are some great traditions, some teams have adopted a few detrimental ones as well.

One of the traditions in hockey that could fall into this category of not building team chemistry is the the tradition of the Rookie Dinner. In juniors, the rookie dinner is an event where all the rookies are forced to dress up like females, complete with makeup and wigs, and take the ‘vets’ out to dinner. The sole purpose of Rookie dinner is to humiliate the rookies. Let me ask you this question, “how is this tradition building team chemistry and making the team stronger? The simple answer… It isn’t.

At the start of the year, every team has the ultimate goal of winning the championship. Everything the team does, from captains practices to team events, are done to help build team comradery and help ultimately achieve this goal of winning the championship. So why then do some teams embrace such damaging traditions like the rookie dinner? There could be a few reasons, but one is simply when the vets were rookies, they were humiliated; now it’s their turn to be the vets and humiliate the rookies. It’s a vicious cycle that is hard to break.

So is there anything that can be done to stop such traditions? Of course. Many leaders throughout history have courageously stood against the trends of culture for good. In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Jesus explains that in serving the least of these you are serving Him. The least of these brothers can be paralleled with rookies on a hockey team, or the new guy in the office, or the freshman in school. We honor God when we honor them.

I was recently told about a junior team that instead of the rookie dinner, conducts a weekly event called the Spotlight Drill. This is when the team comes together and shares positive words of affirmation and encouragement about one of their teammates, huddling around the designated player and sharing words from their heart. This time of encouragement is not only focused on his ability as a hockey player, but also on his character qualities and how he, as a person, impacts others off the ice and brings unique value to the team. Such areas of encouragement may include how hard the person works, how he puts others needs before his own, and how he encourages his teammates during challenging times. This spotlight drill was so important to this junior team, that when one of their players was injured and returned home for rehab, they videoed the session and emailed it to him… causing him to feel the deep bonds of brotherhood that a team can share even while being away from them.

Not only did this team honor “the least of these,” but they also lived out Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians, when he said “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Their actions of encouragement built a stronger team core and benefited their team so much more than a “rookie dinner” or team party could do.

In closing, as dedicated followers of Jesus Christ, our goal should be to build, strengthen, and encourage our teammates, not tear down and humiliate them. As team leaders, some traditions are ok, but others need to be challenged and broken. Let’s become builders of men and not breakers of them… will you join me in doing this?

Discussion Questions

  1. What are some alternatives that your team can do to build each other up instead of tearing each other down?
  2. In what ways are you able to encourage someone you know who is a rookie so that they feel more a part of the team this week?

Additional Reading

  1. Proverbs 10:31-32
  2. Matthew 25:31-46

About the Author

Alex Randazzo plays Junior A hockey for the Idaho Jr. Steelheads in the Western States Hockey League. He has been involved in FCA Hockey since his father launched the ministry in 2008 and has most recently worked as the summer media intern. Besides hockey, Alex enjoys acting and directing, and has completed his first motion picture (Raising Dragons). Alex will be graduating this spring from Liberty with both his High School degree and his 2 year associates degree.

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1. Ken Hayes wrote:

Great to hear that your hockey career is going strong playing Juniors and your devotion was very encouraging and uplifting. Keep your focus on Christ as you continue to reach the hockey world.

God Bless,


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