What was your first memory of playing hockey? That’s what you should always think back too. Whether you played until the end of your high school days, junior days, college days, or if you had the chance your pro days. Hockey is so special and you’ll only know how meaningful the sport is if you grew up with it. Being a part of hockey for the rest of my life is something I want for myself.
Now this is really random but I just wanted to write about this special sport today. For myself I’m an avid hockey fan. Instead of doing the normal thing of going out Friday and Saturday night after a long week at the office. I watched NHL hockey for 72 hours straight I think. I also couldn’t get enough of it. There were some great games to watch this weekend and I didn’t want to do anything else but plant myself on the couch and watch the best players in the world work their bag off playing the game they love.
I don’t know where hockey has taken you guys, but it has taken me to some pretty special places and I got to share some amazing moments with my best friends along the way. My best memories growing up were when September rolled around Soccer was ending the next month, but Hockey was starting and would last till April. Best time of the year. I got to share five days out of the week with my best friends playing a sport we all wanted to play and loved. We all have played in those state tournament playoff games where the rules were crazy and we were playing two on two hockey to end a game! Think about that two on two hockey, absolutely nuts. I remember the four game weekends playing the first game, everyone and their parents going out to eat for lunch then heading to the next rink for the last game of the day. The traveling with mom and dad all over the state and neighboring states. These were special moments we all took for granted at that time.
Going into high school hockey I played on possibly one of the worst teams assembled and I was a bad teammate which I regret. I would skip practices and the coach wouldn’t care because I was granted with skill to be able to be in the lineup. I regret it every damn time. As a leader on that team I was such a piece of shit. But high school hockey was the best when it came to rivalry night. We would have standing room only for four games a year since three teams played in the same rink. Those were some of the best times I’ve had, but high school hockey were some of the worst days. I couldn’t play Freshman or Sophmore year due to my asthma issues. I know you’re going to say everyone has asthma and can play through it. For me that wasn’t the case. So I lost everything I had with confidence and somewhat of what I held for skill. But I kept going my last two years and played till my career was over like many others.
Which lead me going to college like most kids. But freshman year of college I got what I would look back at now as the best opportunity of my life. This was part time work with the schools hockey team. I was the camera guy as everyone would say, and I got to work all the home games and do team film. It was special it excelled me into the person I am today which I firmly believe. Hockey for me was the best thing in life so being able to get this chance to be around it was just amazing. My freshman year I got to watch my school win a conference championship at home. One of the best things of my life. But what this job brought me is better than the championships. This brought me my brothers and some of my best friends that will never be left out of my life. Now sophomore through senior year I got to work full time with the team. I mean I got watch my best friends play hockey six times a week. Boy do I wish I could’ve played with them but these guys were all diamonds in the rough that were so skilled and so fun to watch. As my school has a great ice hockey program for the d-3 level. Now people look past d-3 which sucks. But a lot of these players playing at that level are great hockey players. Sophomore and Junior year I just had the duties of video coordinator for the team film which was great. Which brings me to my last year of school.
The best year of my hockey life was Senior year at college. No I didn’t get to play but I got a bit of a promotion to become the Director of Hockey Operations. What an unreal title for a job I mean I know it wasn’t for the highest level of hockey but I put a lot of pride into this position. There is a lot to handle as I learned along the way, because with the coaches and myself we took a lot of pride into treating my best friends as pros. Which we successfully did I believe. Now this team was special but boy we didn’t get off to the greatest start. But that all turned around at a special tournament we hosted at the an NHL practice facility. We ended up winning that tournament which I greatly believe turned around our season. We got into playoffs that year earning the 5 seed. That was something none of us have ever seen. As the years past we would always have at least two home games in playoffs before the deciding factor. But the 5 seed that year was a blessing in disguise.
We took on a mentality of pirates, we have nasty black jerseys which we were wearing till the end which we didn’t know when that would be. We headed to our first game. I mean I wasn’t a player but I was pretty emotional you know? Thinking man is this the last time on the bus with the boys and the staff? Is this the last time I get to see some of my best friends put on our beautiful school jerseys? Well that starting running through my head more and more when our opponent went up 2-0 in pretty convincing fashion. But nonetheless the boys in black would come back and go onto win 4-3. I knew it was going to be something special the rest of the way after I watched a wide open net, tying goal attempt miss. I knew the hockey gods were going to be on our side and we were going to do something special. The next step in the process go to the number 2 ranked team in the country for a chance to clinch an opportunity in the title game.
Semifinal match up on the road. Number two in the country against a bunch of blue collar, gritty, determined hockey team. It was a game full of emotions. To sum it up, 4-1 good guys at one point turned into a 4-4 game. That all changed as once again the hockey gods were on our side. A controversial offside play lead to the good guys potting one top shelf on a 1 on 1 with the goalie after the zone entry. We win 5-4. We are going to the conference title game to play in front of 2500 people on the road in a beautiful facility. The odds were stacked against us as we were playing the number 3 team in the country. But our 100 fans would make it feel like home for us. Now it was time to do our job.
Conference title game host arena was buzzing. But I blacked out after we went up 1-0 in the first 30 seconds. All I remember is the last three minutes up 8-3 against the number 3 team in the country to bring that trophy home. Celebrating with boys on the ice and first person I get to hug was my best friend who played his ass off all year. A guy with not all the skill in the world but the most determined hockey player I ever watched. If you’re reading this one day buddy I hope you know you were my favorite guy to watch day in and day out. We ended up getting bounced in the elite eight but we made history by winning in the first round in school history. What a special year. But that bus ride home after we got bounced all I could think of is wow. Look at where this sport brought me, I got to travel all over the place with my best friends in college, witnessed a couple championships, played high school in some great environments, played hockey with my best friends from mites to bantams, while my dad coached me throughout the way, got to three state championships in the younger years and lost all of them but wouldn’t take those moments back. There’s so much more I could go on about. But most importantly this sport has brought the most important people to me in my life. Even when I wasn’t playing hockey it did so much for me and I appreciate it so much. To all of you hockey people out there I hope the sport did as much for you as it did for me.