Welcome to my reality as a professional hockey player
When you ask a kid what he wants to be when he grows up, and he says “I’m going to be a hockey player”, everyone nods and smiles. When you ask a 36 year-old with a wife and 2 kids what he does for a living, and he replies “I play hockey”, everyone nods and rolls their eyes.
What if your current career was about to end but you didn’t know when. What if one day you couldn’t be a doctor, an accountant, a plumber or a farmer anymore? Would you know what you would do, or what you would want to do? Welcome to my reality as a professional hockey player.
13 teams, 9 leagues, 11 countries, 17 apartments & 2 kids later
Twenty years ago I left home at 16 years old to play junior hockey for the Calgary Hitmen. Today I have just started my 16th professional season. You could say I’m well-travelled. I’ve played hockey games in 11 different countries on 13 teams and in 9 Leagues. I have lived in 17 different hockey apartments and 8 more summer homes over that time. It has become routine to pack up every August and head off to a new home somewhere and play hockey. All this being said, I consider myself lucky. Although I have only played a handful of games in the NHL, I have still been able to make a living playing hockey, even if it hasn’t been charter flights, 5 star hotels or 20,000-seat arenas.
As time has gone on I have started to appreciate what hockey has given me besides actually playing the game. I feel as though this travel and living experience has shaped me in ways that I am still trying to grasp. I have faced different challenges, conformed to new cultures, got to know parts of myself that I didn’t know existed, learned new languages, unlearned my own norms, all while growing and working with people from all over the world.
I have had a child in northern Sweden (our first, Mason, was born in Skelleftea), volunteered on my son’s hockey team in Austria, spent a night in an ice hotel and have made my way through numerous Finnish, German, Swedish and Danish menus. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything.
I never had a plan after hockey
I have never had a timeline for when I would stop playing or what I would do after I finished playing. At the end of every season I always had a contract in place for the next year within a week or two. As far as I was concerned, if they kept offering me good contracts I was going to keep playing. I play hockey 8 months a year and am free to do what I wanted for the other 4 months. Why wouldn’t I keep playing?
This off-season there was no offer and as I waited, I started to think about life after hockey a lot more. I reached out to a few people to talk about what the future might hold. I was confident that I was going to play another year but I wanted to be proactive about life after hockey. The great thing about hockey is that you develop a great network of people that understand your situation.
The next two years…
I finally received and offer to play in Nottingham, England, which included a 2-year scholarship to the MBA program at Loughborough University. I had never thought of going back to school as an option, but I couldn’t think of a better way to prepare for life after hockey. After going through the admission process and doing some Skype interviews with the MBA director, I was accepted and then agreed to the contract. It all happened quite quickly and after the dust settled I really wasn’t sure what I got myself into and where the next two years would leave me.
Enter: Higher Landing
A few weeks after signing in Nottingham I received a message from one of the guys I reached out to. He put me in touch with Higher Landing because he thought it would be a great fit for me. Today I am half-way through their transformation program, and I have already learned a lot more about myself.
Every hockey player I know could benefit from Higher Landing’s transformation program. They have helped me see how the skills I have learned in hockey can be applied to the real world. They have helped me put together a resume that is not just a stats sheet. I feel Higher Landing will not only help me make an easier transition from hockey, but will help me get into something that I will enjoy and be passionate about. Nothing will match getting onto the ice and playing a hockey game, but with what I have done with them so far, you never know.
I finally have an end date to plan for as I know these will be my last 2 seasons playing hockey. I still don’t know what I am going to do, but I feel more confident about making the transition than I did three months ago, thanks to the people I have helping me. It is kind of a relief and scary at the same time.
I do look forward to staying in one place for more than a few months and maybe my 3 year old will stop asking when we are going back to our “hockey home” (he knows what toys we left behind). I don’t know what it will feel like when I play my last game, but I know I have given hockey my all and it has given me back just as much.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you are, or someone you know is an athlete who competed at the world, Olympic or professional level, and has a transition story to tell, we want to hear it! Please send us your story using the About Us page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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