The Fox’s Tail is a blog featuring a hockey perspective from a girl working with a hockey team in Canada.
The other night, I finally got a Tuesday night off so I could go see all my buddies down at this grimy barn in seedy industrial parks and hang out in the parking lot drinking beer and listening to the latest afterward.
Yeah, I feel old sometimes, hanging out at beer league, my buddies who were once promising junior players, are mostly washed-up. All the guys who made it anywhere are gone in the winter, but the ones who stick around are no dusters. These are guys who played NCAA, OHL, minor pro and Junior A hockey. It’s not bad, the rink is always nice and quiet – there’s no stands, so I can stand down by the glass by myself and not have to see bitter girlfriends giving me dirty looks. (No, I’m not there to look at your overweight duster boyfriend playing in the C division game on the other pad, get over it.)
The boys were playing a team that’s a division lower, but because of how the league is set up in winter, it’s a mix of the two levels. One of the guys on the other team was so pissed off, because my buddies’ team beat their team, he was losing it in the dressing room on his own teammates, and ended up getting changed in the lobby. (Where I was trying to wait for my buddies, until I saw him take off his hockey pants … in the lobby. Really? Ew. I continued my wait outside, where people had their clothes ON.)
Once everyone came outside, one of my oldest friends I met through hockey, Rob, who had suited up for the opposing team that evening, came over to talk to us while we were discussing the merits of taxpayer dollars being spent on inmates in federal prisons (no joke, that’s what these guys were talking about. Used hockey to get themselves educations!)
The topic then turned to the angry friend, the one who was so upset after the game, he had to leave.
“It’s hard on him, you know,” said Rob. I had been gossiping with one of the guys on “our” team about another friend of ours who recently got engaged. I stopped and turned to listen to Rob talk.
This guy was having a bit of a rough time, according to my friend. Rob explained, “It’s hard when you first have to leave hockey. Every year, you have something to look forward to, another season to train for, something to do with yourself. Now … he’s got nothing.”
The pair of them played together in the O … they look mismatched and silly together, since one is so big and the other so small. They’ve both got great skills on the ice. And while I was quite disgusted at watching him remove his clothing (okay and SMELL it across the lobby), I had to feel for the guy. I know what it’s like to have your dream crushed. (I never had any aspirations to be a blogger. I much prefer covering events, games, interviewing people etc.)
I’m hoping maybe I’ll see this guy again, I’d love to get to know more about his story. He played plenty of years of pro, AHL, ECHL, CHL and probably has some great stories. But I’m sure it’s got to be tough … leaving the game behind when it’s the only thing you’ve known your whole life.
Lots of my buddies went on to coach after their careers are over. I know a few too many people in the AAA leagues in Toronto at the moment. Can’t show up at a tournament without seeing at least a handful of people I know. Other guys just play rec league with their buddies, join the ranks of the weekend warriors. A couple of my other friends from home are playing Senior AAA now, which actually isn’t bad hockey at all. I love looking at the rosters for those teams — it’s like a who’s who of “whatever happened to so-and-so.”
And some guys just quit. They don’t want to coach or manage or even play anything more organized than some shinny on the pond.
And so, I ask you, gongers, for those of you who are finished playing, how did it feel when you hung em up? Were you forced to due to injury? Did you decide you’d have more fun just playing rec league with your buddies? Did you dive into coaching or managing?
What’s life like, after hockey?
To quote one of my favourite writers, Roy McGregor, “The dream never dies, it simply begins again each winter.”
Question, comment, chirp? Get at me … Twitter @hockey_foxx or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .. For girl stuff (and hockey) check http://hockeyfoxx.blogspot.com