It feels like it was just yesterday that I was learning how to skate on outdoor rinks in Sudbury. Time has sure flown by as it was 20 some years ago that I got this first little taste of the game. The only thing that ever crossed my mind while I was on that ice was playing for one more hour or taking one more shot. These memories are something I will never forget.
Although it has taken me a while to accept the fact that my competitive hockey career has finally come to an end, today is the day that I will officially say goodbye.
This game has given me more than I could have ever asked for and has shaped me into the person I am today. It has taught me that there are no shortcuts and that hard work and perseverance are the way to accomplish your goals. It showed me the importance of leadership and how it can take on many different forms.
Out of all these lessons it has taught me, the one that has stuck with me the most is how hockey has shown me that failure is just a bump in the road. No matter how many rejections and setbacks you may face, the only person that decides when you quit, is you.
When I was ten years old my family moved from Waterloo where I played ‘AAA’ hockey to Woolwich which was only an ‘A’ centre. Therefore, I was still eligible to try out and play in Waterloo if I wanted to, so I did the next year. This was a painful year as I was the last player to be cut from the ‘AAA’ team because they told me I was too small and that I wasn’t fast enough. I still remember walking through the lobby crying as parents and other friends watched.
Over the next four years, I continued to try out for other ‘AAA’ teams in Waterloo, Guelph and Kitchener, but there was always something about me that they said wasn’t quite good enough to play at this level. During the summer after grade nine, I had lost most ambition to pursue my dream of playing hockey. The fear of playing on a different team, high school, parties, my friends and just being a teenager led me to be content with finishing my hockey career as a single ‘A’ player in Woolwich.
However, this summer was also when I was introduced to Richard Ennis who completely changed my perspective. He helped me realize a valuable lesson that I still live by today. He helped me to understand that once a door opens and an opportunity presents itself, you better take advantage of it as once that door closes, it may be closed forever. There is always the option of turning away from that opportunity, but the fear of not knowing will always trump the fear of not trying.
This lesson that Richard Ennis taught me is so important for young athletes to remember, because these opportunities will not pause and wait for you, so it is best to get out there and give it your all. After continuing to meet with him, he encouraged me to try out once again for Waterloo ‘AAA,’ because even if I didn’t make it, I would still know that I tried. With his advice, I ended up making the team and that year I also got called up ten times by the Elmira Sugar Kings Jr. B team. I went on to play three seasons with the Sugar Kings where I won a Cherrey and Sutherland Cup and received MVP and leading scorer honors during that season. This success resulted in being awarded a partial scholarship to play hockey at SUNY Plattsburgh, where I graduated with a B.S in Accounting and Finance.
After being turned away for five straight years by three different teams, a 30-minute meeting at Tim Hortons, where I decided to take the leap and try out for Waterloo ‘AAA’ changed the course of the next decade of my life. I would not trade this decade for anything, as it showed me to never quit, never stop believing and taught me to not hesitate at taking opportunities as you never know how they can impact your life.
Hockey is so much more than just a sport, it is a lifestyle. It is about creating memories, friendships and everlasting bonds with teammates that can only be understood by the players. Now that it is all over, the things I miss the most are spending countless hours with my teammates in the locker room, at the rink or on the ice. The things that felt the hardest at the time like getting up for 6 a.m. workouts, bag skates, or continuous spin classes, are something I look back on now and wish I could do all over again.
I want to thank all the players and coaches that I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the years. Especially Geoff Haddaway who developed me into the player that I am today and all the boys from the Cherrey and Sutherland Cup Championship team. Thank you to the Fifty Ninety boys and Bob Emery for an amazing four years at SUNY Plattsburgh. Thank you Nicole for spending a minimum of five consecutive birthdays at the rink watching me play and for always supporting me through all the ups and downs I have faced. If I did not mention your name, that does not mean you did not have an impact on my playing career and I want you to know I am forever grateful for your support.
Finally, thank you mom and dad for the love and support you have shown me throughout my hockey journey, as you two were the main reason I was able to accomplish all that I did. You spent endless hours waiting in the freezing cold to pick me up at the pond, drove me to 6 a.m. practices where I would get car sick every week and would drive 14 hours to come watch me play in Plattsburgh. These are things that go underappreciated as a hockey parent, but I want you both to know that it means so much to me and is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. Getting on the ice won’t be the same without you behind the glass cheering me on, but I will continue to look behind it to see if you’re there.
Although it has been hard for me to say goodbye to being a hockey player, I am ready for new opportunities. I am so excited to find out what hockey has in store for me in the future and I look forward to continuing to have a part in the game by coaching and mentoring young athletes.
Hockey, I will forever miss you, but I cannot wait for the next door to open. When that door opens, you best believe I will not hesitate to follow the next path life has in store for me.
A special thanks goes out to Alana Thoman for editing this blog post!