Things I miss about Pro Hockey:
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.
Until next time…