I came across an article on the www.virgin.com website about the Corral Reef in the world and how a lot of areas are being drastically affected by the climate change and the effects it is having on the human race. I have also read an article about how the human race is affecting the corral reef existence as well but for today I will share the article about the effects of climate change and the impact it is truly having on our ecosystem below the sea level.
You all know that you or several of your former team mates have or will go through this stage at some point in life. It may not be the day or week after you play your last game, but instead maybe a month, or two, or even for some it takes a whole year. But believe me when I tell you, it will happen to you. You may think you will be the exception. Or you may luck out and fall into a coaching or hockey related job that keeps you fully immersed in hockey so you won’t have the opportunity to fall into this deadly psychological trap. But I’m sorry to say this again, it will happen to you.
Ask a coach who has played pro hockey his whole life if coaching is the perfect scenario to follow up a hockey career with. The answer could go two ways I know. But think about how they really feel behind the scenes. Some people will say, ” those who can’t, teach.” I disagree. A coach is someone who knows that their time has come to let someone else enjoy what they have enjoyed for several years, but at the same time they will never forget what it felt like to be a player. And being a coach now is bittersweet because every day you go to the rink you know you can’t lace them up like you use to and you can’t physically contribute to the success of your team like you use to either. Now your efforts are more mental and your physical contributions will only come when demonstrating drills and systems, and if you’re lucky enough your players will let you participate in the shootouts that take place at the end of a training session.
So no matter what you end up doing after hockey there is going to be a black cloud over your head. It’s not going to be easy to rid of, and some guys clouds will be bigger, and some guys clouds will be darker, but nonetheless a cloud is a cloud and if you don’t deal with it, it could mentally and psychologically destroy you.
I will be the first to admit I had and have a black cloud over me. And to be honest some of us always will. Fortunately for me I have decreased my black cloud to a very small one now and I’ve mentally got my head wrapped around the fact that I will never be playing pro hockey again. And also, think about the old legends of the game. I bet there isn’t a day that goes by where someone like Wayne Gretzky or Gordie Howe doesn’t wish they would have kept playing or doesn’t wish that they still physically could. I’ve been out of it for only a year and it kills me to even watch hockey highlights because I watch the plays and the players move around the ice and it makes me mad that I could still be out there doing the same.
But the reality is, we can’t do it forever. And we definitely can’t do it as well as we use to be able to. Mind you I do believe I was getting better with age but I won’t ask anyone else’s opinion on that haha.
But in all honesty, and unfortunately the dream does have to end and we all have to wake up and literally smell the coffee that sits in front of us at our office desk or in our vehicle console on the way to our real world jobs. It’s the facts of life and we can deny the real world as long as we want, but at the end of the day the majority of us have to go to work for a living, and pay the bills, support our families and try and save money for the future just like everyone else.
So let me tell those who are still playing that the time is coming, and we all don’t know when, and we all don’t know how, but it will come. So make damn sure you embrace every single second of your time out on that ice, even on those days when you question yourself about what you’re still doing out there. Just remember about the Wayne Gretzky’s and the Gordie Howe’s who would love to be in your shoes. So enjoy it while your mind and body still allows you to.
And for those who are like me, who have walked away or had no choice but to leave that era of our lives, we need to stick together and help each other stay focused and move forward. This isn’t an easy road to travel now, but it’s still a worthy one. And I would rather read about everyone’s successes in this world rather than their struggles.
For those who think I am wasting my time writing about this stuff, that is fine. I am just using my own words to share my stories with others so that maybe I can help even just one guy make some positive moves forward in life after they leave the game they loved for so many years.
Well I said I would let you know what I don’t miss, so here I go.
I don’t miss the ice packs and the ibuprofens on a daily basis. I don’t miss not having one single weekend off for seven months out of the year. I don’t miss having the back of my hands have the most unique hockey glove stench that lasts at least 8 hours after I get off the ice. I don’t miss having to cook pre game meals at a ridiculous time of the day which is followed up by an afternoon nap that has you waking up at 3:30pm in the afternoon wondering if you just slept through the hockey game or if it’s morning or night right now.
I don’t miss having to go to a hockey game two hours before the puck drops and I don’t miss having to do a bunch of pre-game rituals just to prepare myself for a game that I have been playing for over 30 years. I don’t miss the long bus trips sitting straight up in a coach bus seat while the temperature of the bus is either too hot or too bloody cold to even get remotely comfortable. I don’t miss having the option to bring a yoga mat, blanket and a pillow to sleep on the floor underneath the seats or in the aisle while players tip toe over top of you in the pitch dark hoping to not accidently crush your hand or skull on their way back to the smelliest toilet in bus travel history. I don’t miss the smell of at least half the players releasing their pre and post game meals through a venomous gas the whole way home. I don’t miss getting back to the ice arena at 4:30 am knowing that the last thing you want to do at this time of the day is unpack your soaking wet, rancid, half frozen hockey gear. I don’t miss finally getting back to my house at 5am on a Sunday wide awake because you somewhat slept the whole way home and now you don’t know whether to force yourself to sleep again or just stay up and wait to prepare your next pre game meal for tonights upcoming match.
I don’t miss having to get all dressed up in a suit just to walk into an empty ice arena through the back door and have no one see how sharp you look and then follow that up with having to put it back on after the game just to show a few fans that we are not only professional on the ice but also off of it. And I don’t miss that it’s honestly the last thing I want to put on after a gruelling hockey match knowing that I just want to go to a small pub or nightclub in jeans and a t-shirt and drink beers and possibly spill yaeger bomb shots all over my ACDC t-shirt.
I don’t miss having to tie up my skates every single day in a manner that has to be satisfactory to carry out my job in a competitive state. I don’t miss all the promotional sides of the job where you might have to stand in a shopping centre and hand out flyers for two hours, or show up in your jersey at a grand opening of a new store and have 95% of the people have no idea who you are or what ice hockey is.
I don’t miss the feeling you get when you know the season is coming to an end and you know that you are going to have to move back home and find yet another four month summer job that is probably going to pay you fuck all and will be something that a 17 year old kid could do just as good. I don’t miss having to work out super hard for 3 months before the season just to have yourself never touch a weight the rest of the season because you’re too exhausted to even think about working out off the ice.
I don’t miss building a second home every single year for seven months knowing that you may never go back and live or play in that city or town again. I don’t miss that feeling of knowing that this could possibly be your last year ever playing if things don’t go well, or if you get injured, or if you just simply can’t keep up with the pace of the league and the players in it.
And last but not least, what I don’t and won’t miss is being away from my true friends and family who I have left behind for so many years pursuing my hockey career dreams.
I miss the adrenaline rushes. I miss the intensity. I miss the mental preparation. I miss the passion for a sport that is so much more than a sport. I miss my team mates. Some can annoy the fuck out of me and some can become my best friends for life. But either way those 20 guys are my brothers for 7 months out of the year and we look after each other no matter what we think of each other at the end of the day.
I miss the feeling of working so damn hard on the ice that you wonder why you do it, and at the same time I miss that feeling the second the game ends when all that exhaustion and hard work is justified by that feeling of accomplishment and reward. Even though you may not win, or you may not reach your goals, you still know you left it all out there for that 60 minutes and never looked back. I miss the chill time in the locker room after a game. I miss the completely random conversations amongst the players in the locker room after a game has finished. I miss the game recaps, the analogies, the play by plays, the excuses, the reasonings, and the justifications of mistakes made.
I miss the first 20 minutes of a bus trip home before I get tired when I get to talk to the select few guys on the bus that I thoroughly enjoy talking to and winding down with after a long game and road trip to some arena that is either really awesome or is a complete shit hole. I miss knowing that I might actually get to sleep in until at least 11am the next day if I want and not worry about getting up for work or going to the gym or having to stress about what is on my work agenda next. I miss the feeling of working extremely hard for 2-3 hours a day and then having the rest of the day to do whatever the hell I want. I miss after practice lunch meetings with my team mates. Whether it be a Pizza Hut buffet or a Subway sandwich at the mall it doesn’t matter. I still miss it.
I miss beers in the dressing room after a two game weekend schedule. I miss heading to a british pub on a Sunday knowing that the only people that might be there are us hockey players and a few local town drunks. I miss just sitting at the bar with my suit on and tie in my jacket pocket with a button undone just relaxing and drinking a pint of beer talking about the stupidest things ever with a team mate that I might not hang out with that often. I miss having a Monday off to do nothing except head to the gym for an executive workout which consists of jumping in the pool, standing there visiting, jumping in the hot tub hoping that no one else feels the need to join, and hitting up the sauna with a giant bottle of water to replenish the fluids lost from the night before.
I miss the hockey lingo that only hockey players know, and the banter that goes on between players who always have to have the upper edge on their team mates. I miss the terrible jokes, the classic one liners and the awkward moments when someone says or does something that is way out of line. I miss people watching. Whether it be in the locker room watching certain players go through their daily rituals, routines, superstitions, or whether it’s a coach or owners antics, or even the hockey fans behaviours in the crowd while I sit and rest between my shifts on the bench.
I miss the feeling of knowing that people come to watch you play the game you love and support you from not just in the stands but from all over the world. Fans are not just fans, they are passionate about the hobby they have chosen and they want to see a player or a team succeed just as much as we do. I miss the creation of friendships for life from hockey. I miss being able to go and have a beer with whoever I want after the game and not have to worry about sneaking out the back of the rink so that the fans don’t bombard you with pictures and autographs. Pro hockey at the levels I have played are so different than the NHL and so many people don’t realize it. Not even the NHL players who never had to play anything less than the NHL understand. I miss the less fortunate ways of pro hockey. It builds stronger values in life, and it allows you to become a part of the communities you play in and not just be some superficial icon. I miss being a mini celebrity but at the same time just being a local like everyone else.
The one thing I truly miss at the end of the day is…
being a part of something special that meant so much to me and gave me purpose in life to wake up every day and work hard to be better and to prove to myself that every day I get older I can still improve myself in all aspects of life and become a better player, and most importantly become a better person.
The only downfall to this way of life, is that one day it will all come to an end. For some it comes sooner than others. For some it comes when they least expect it. For some it comes when it’s not suppose to but a greater force tells you it’s time to walk away and to let someone else enjoy it all now.
And the one thing I realized is that I will always find it hard to not still be playing when I know I can still physically and mentally play and know that the guys I played with and against are still doing what I chose to leave behind. But I know when they move on and walk away as well, I will be glad I walked away when I did, and kept moving forward in life with my competitive mindset and winning drive and attitude.
And some day I will give back to hockey what it gave to me for so many years. Whether it be spending my days teaching my own kids how to play hockey or helping out other kids get a chance to live the life that I did with hockey, I will give back one way or another, when I’m ready, and when it becomes a passion again and not a chore.
I play recreational hockey now at least 4 times a week. And not because I truly want to, but because believe it or not, it’s part of my job. The value I get out of noon hour hockey games for my job is ten times more valuable than meeting one potential client for a lunch meeting at a restaurant or pub. And yes when I show up only 15 minutes before a game now I still play as hard as I can, or at least as hard as I can allow myself to without being out of place for the specified calibre of hockey I’m attending. And some may say that I’m still playing pro hockey because I’m technically getting paid to play hockey all week, but let’s call a spade a spade here, this kind of hockey is far from pro but at the same time it’s value to my future is almost equally important as pro hockey was to me when I wanted to keep moving up the ladder in that profession.
Everything has it’s value and purpose in life. It honestly just depends on how you mentally wrap your head around proving to yourself that the time and investment in something is worth the effort to better yourself for the future days to come. And for me, I have convinced myself that these new commitments are well worth my time and investment and that is what gets me to the rink still and that is what will give me the opportunity to move up this new ladder in my life.
So no matter what you do in life, just make sure it has value and purpose. The rest will all work out in due time. And most importantly, be patient. It’s my biggest weakness, and I want everything to happen today. But I know that is not possible. And I’m adapting and teaching myself to slow down and let things happen instead of always forcing them. And if I can stick to that game plan then there is great things to come.
So let me finish this very long lecture by saying,
“Thank you hockey, and thank you to all those who have never stopped cheering for me, even now that I no longer play at that level anymore. That is what makes a true fan, and a true friend. And that is what makes my time in the hockey world worth every single penny and second spent doing it.”
For today I have chosen to tell you all what I truly miss about pro hockey, but stay tuned for the next time when I tell you what I truly DON’T miss.