I grew up in a perfectly abnormal atmosphere that handed me numerous opportunities to overcome serious obstacles in order to make me a better person. I received another challenge in my sophomore year of high school, but something about this one didn't feel the same. I knew it was different. It all started with the arrival of a new junior hockey team in my town, the Walpole Express. For some, the organization contaminated the town like the plague, but for me, it was like a breath of fresh air; one that made me feel like I could suddenly breathe easy.

It would be a lie for me to say that being criticized never made me uneasy, but this criticism didn't upset me like everyone expected. Instead, I laughed. Looking around at how judgmental everyone had been, and at the hostility they displayed, I was baffled. These boys were in no way different than the critics harassing them. Yes, they were living away from home on their own for the sole purpose of excelling in the sport they loved, but I found this commendable while others viewed it as almost crazy. In truth, they were no less than any other teenager attending my high school. I faced immense animosity from my peers because I had a differing attitude, but I learned to accept this because I had become a more welcoming person, and I liked that. Knowing how badly it felt to be alienated by people who thought they were better, I found it admirable that these boys could continue walking with their heads held high. We were all dealing with the same cruelties and it was comforting to know that we had each other. Together we stood about everyone's negativity.

It was obvious that I was almost entirely alone in my decisions to embrace these new faces. I had always been taught to stand up for what I believed in even if it meant standing alone, which it sometimes did. I was overcome with fascination as I learned not only where these boys came from, but who they were. I noticed the unconditional love they had for the game they...