Where did the time go? It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was a 24-year-old man-child, living fast and chasing a lifelong dream of playing in the NHL. I wore my hair long, fit comfortably into 34-inch waist designer jeans and I didn’t mind taking my shirt off at the beach. I was young, wild and carefree.
My priorities, back then, were quite simple. Practice, workout, drink beer, play golf, chase women and get called up to the American Hockey League, and eventually, the NHL. It was a pretty simple life.
Back then, I never gave much thought to what would happen when my career ended. I figured, on the outside chance that I didn’t make the NHL, I had a university degree to fall back on. If I had to get a “normal” job, I’d just walk into the headquarters of the closest Fortune 500 company and announce my presence with authority. In turn, of course, they would eagerly usher me into some pristine boardroom where I would sign a lifetime contract to make hundreds of thousands of dollars with full-benefits and stock options. I’d then be setup in a corner office with a sprawling view of some metropolis, with an assistant named Denise, who would bring me coffee and shoo away unwanted callers. Not bad for a fall back plan, right?
Seven short years later, the hair is thinner, shorter and more Lego-esque. The 34-inch designer jeans have become 36-inch Arnold Palmer specials from the discount rack at Sears (They’re surprisingly stylish and stain resistant), and the beach body has turned into a Nestle’s 2% milk bag. I’m older, more sensible and careful.
My priorities are much more complex now. I wake up to a screaming toddler at 5:30 a.m. every morning and then, after changing diapers, cleaning cheerios off the floor and dropping said toddler off at daycare (Which costs me $1,000 per month), I head to a boring job, complete with no guarantees or benefits. My priorities changed from Coronas to Corolles (Dolls), playing golf to playing Barbies, working out and bar hopping to taking out the garbage and chasing a 2-year-old around a grocery store. And as for the corner office with a view—I guess I’ll have to settle for the cubicle that isn’t being used as a storage unit.
The one aspect that has remained the same has been hockey. I don’t play in front of 7,000 fans at some conglomerate-named arena anymore. I play Thursday nights at the Cataraqui Community Arena with a bunch of 50-year-old plumbers, teachers, financial advisors and restaurant owners. But no matter the level, the game is still the same. There are two nets, one puck and a sheet of ice beneath your feet. The smell is familiar and the beer tastes the same. And no matter whether you’re playing in front of thousands of fans in a big playoff game or in an empty arena at 10 p.m. on a Thursday night, it’s still exciting to score a goal.
Another constant has been the playful dressing room banter after games, albeit with vastly differing subject matters. I still sit around after games, in my wet gear, telling stories, laughing and drinking beer. When I was 24, the stories were about debauchery and shame. We’d spend half the time trying to carve each other up and the other half discussing the finer aspects of the female species and which bar to hit up that night.
Seven years later, we’re still making fun of one another, but the hot topics have evolved. Now it’s about how to methodically get out of changing poopy diapers and which doctor performs the best vasectomy. It went from booze, sex and rock and roll to organic green tea, emotional connection and mellow British pop.
But like I mentioned before—the beer still tastes the same.