I was about six years old when my father took me to my first hockey game. I never even knew what hockey was until that moment. I was so excited; I fell in love with the game right away and started playing in no time. Now granted I didn't know how I would do when I got older; I just wanted to play hockey. Through the years of playing, I signed up for every hockey school I could. I played all year round, never taking a break.
I went to hockey camps, hockey schools, and even took figure skating. You have to remember something; it was never heard of hockey players taking figure skating school at that time. I did everything and anything I could to make myself better out on the ice. After many years of playing, hockey finally got to me and I started to burn out. I was at the point where I should have been playing harder to stand out for scouts. I slacked off and didn't care.
I could have played professional hockey, and I kick myself for quitting at the prime of my life. When I started playing in my younger years, I was no different than the others on the ice. I would trip over my own skates or run into the boards, even fall on my ass with no one around to blame. I was lying on the ice more then standing on my skates. There was one time I remember the most, it was my first year playing.
I had the puck and another kid and I both fell down after skating into each other. Next thing I knew, all the other kids on both sides of the teams were falling on me. They were coming to get the puck and they couldn't stop either. The referee had to move the other players off the top of me. I was lying on the ice, with a bloody nose, crying my eyes out. The referee had to pick me up and carry me to the bench.
So, it was at the time I was determined to push harder than anyone else. Now, before I go any further, I should tell you a little more about hockey and myself. The time I played hockey was in the late 70's and early 80's. At that time, it was assumed, the smaller you are the faster skaters one was. The coaches would always put their smaller skaters as forwards, as they could skate fast. The bigger skaters were considered slower, so they played defense.
With me, I started getting around the height of six foot in my teens. Even though I played defense, I was starting to skate faster then the majority of players on the ice. It didn't matter how big or small they were, I could out skate them. Hockey is a full contact sport, as you know, and I would love body checking my opponents when they came in my corner. After a while, players avoided my side, and I had most of the plays on my partner's side of the ice. Therefore, at that time, I had built up the skills of skating, checking, and shooting the puck, so therefore there wasn't much standing in my way.
When I started playing in my teenage years, I really started to stand out from the others. I never noticed it until there were many people who were paying attention to me. One of the first signs was in the middle of a hockey season, another hockey team asked me to play for them. This kind of thing didn't happen very often in my league. What I didn't know was that I was under contract and had to have a signed release from my other team. The old team did not want to let me go, there were negotiations going on with my parents for me to stay with them.
In the end, there were many hard feelings, and I was released from the team. Right after winning the first game with the new team, all the players skated over to me in excitement. A few players told me I was everything they had heard about. I was so happy, I thought to myself, I was finally where I wanted to be. I played on the same team for years.
We had won many tournaments, finals, and playoffs. Even now I played defense, I remained the captain of the team for over six years and held a few local records. Our team always played the "Silver Sticks" tournaments in Port Huron, MI. The Silver Sticks tournament is a competition of teams against each other, from all over the US and Canada. In 1982, I found out I was picked as an All-Star player in my division. This was only two years before I graduated high school and had everything going for me.
I had already had been talked to by M. S. U. and U of M about a hockey scholarship.
My coach had told me of a few colleges that he could give his recommendation for scholarships also. I had everything I wanted and wished for when it came to hockey. After playing hockey for so long, it finally took its toll on me. I played everywhere and anywhere (Canada and the US), spring, summer, winter, and fall. I just got sick and tired of it. I was so glad that I hung up my skates and took the off.
Well after I took a little off, I started taking a lot of time off. I cared more about working and making money then. Going back to school was the last thing on my mind, let alone going back to play hockey. I never did find out where I could have gone with my life in sports. Several years later I had some people talk me back into playing hockey. This was around ten years after I quit playing.
Once I started playing again, it all started happening again. I was asked to play on many teams (beer leagues). Well, one day, someone suggested I tryout for professional hockey. In 1995, I went to Buffalo NY and did just that. I had an offer from a team called the Bradford Smoke in Ontario.
They are an OHL team, not as high as the NHL, but it's professional hockey. I turned them down for certain reasons; I really just wanted to see if I could have done it. I wasn't even in the prime of my life anymore and still could have made it in professional hockey. I hope others learn from my mistake and just don't quit when they feel like it. They need to follow through with what they aim for and reach for it. If they don't they will regret it in the end.
I don't ponder on my mistake but I did learn from them. Don't get me wrong, I am happy with what I have today. It's just that for the rest of my life I'm going to be wondering.