Hockey is life. It has saved me from myself more than once and it will continue to be my savior. Watching the game is one thing, but playing, being on the ice is quite another. I cannot tell you how many times I have taken a deep breath upon getting on the ice and thinking “I am home.” It is the mix of cold and refrigeration equipment that fills my nostrils and lifts my stress and worry from the day.
There was a moment in the not so distant past where I thought my playing might be done for. I tore my ACL in a late night beer league game and the road to recovery seemed almost too much to bear. I felt isolated from my hockey family as I pushed through the surgery and then rehab. The game saved me, this time by watching and writing about it, interviewing players and reading the latest trades. I caught a deeper perspective into the sport I love and it soothed the mental struggle I was challenged with as my knee put up a fight against recovery.
Two years after surgery, I am almost in a place where I don’t think about my reconstructed knee in a game. I have been able to push my body to places I never thought I could achieve and in a way, my injury was the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced me to appreciate the little successes and push through my fears. I diversified my activities, adding CrossFit as another avenue of fitness beyond hockey. My body has never been in the shape it is in now. It has become a well-oiled machine. I am mindful of what I put into it and the performance that I get out. I have embraced a background level of soreness but am reaping the rewards, as my skating is faster, my shot harder.
I can truly understand how difficult it must be for a pro player to step away from the game when they come to the point of hanging up the skates, whether from the reality of retirement or the realization that they will never be “good enough.” Even after multiple injuries, many guys put up with the pain and the struggle to stay in the game. Hockey is a difficult game to put away. It is much more than a sport. Hockey is Life.