Sorry guys, but we have to talk about this.
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.
Until next time…