By Vicky Grygar
Last year I had the privilege of speaking with 15 former and current CHL players. Below are their journeys, combined into one. Each paragraph comes from a different player’s story.
A Story of 15 Players, Together, on One Journey
Ever since I can remember I was on the ice.
My Grandpa would take me skating,
started out on the pond.
Those times were my first memories of hockey.
I asked my parents if I could be enrolled one year.
I asked if I could play.
I still remember my first loss.
I had a yellow jersey on.
I was in grade 4 and it was the second or third game of the season in house league.
My mom said I came off the ice bawling my eyes out.
I just think that right away I was pretty much hooked though,
for the game.
I started getting a lot of recognition.
I sort of separated from the pack.
When I made the AAA team, I think that’s when it kind of hit me.
That I had made the next step.
I figured that if I wanted to get there,
to the NHL,
that I would have to go to the OHL.
That was the first year I focused on off-season training.
I remember going to a personal trainer,
and getting educated on how to train,
on how to get stronger.
And I think that summer was when it really started to sink in.
That if I had a decent season,
I could be playing in the OHL within a year.
The night before the OHL draft, to distract myself,
I went out and played hockey at midnight.
I found the latest shinny time that I could find,
and played until 1:30 am or 2:00 am in the morning.
Then I went home and went to sleep.
I was so pissed the day of the draft.
I remember the rounds went by and I still wasn’t picked.
So I kept thinking, okay well,
maybe someone will take me in the next round, right?
So then that round went by, then the next.
At that point I was so upset and yelled,
“I don’t even want to get drafted anymore! I don’t even care!”
I went into the shower.
I was crying in shower because I was so upset.
I was like, “This is bullshit!”
Then, my parents knocked on the door and told me I got drafted.
I was fortunate it all panned out.
I can’t remember how it works, but then I had to sign something.
It didn’t even matter what the contract said.
It could have said anything.
I just wanted to play.
It was a learning experience for me the whole year.
It was different from what I was used to.
I felt like I had to do something to stand out,
or bring something that the other guys weren’t bringing.
I figured in order for me to get some real credibility,
I should fight the league tough guy.
I remember going into that fight just shaking.
I did not want to do it, but I knew I had to.
I think there and then it kind of established something,
between me and my teammates.
We were already all pretty close,
but after that we really had something you know?
I would get them fired up,
and when someone else would fight it would get me going.
We all just fed off each other.
I got traded in my second year.
Basically, I walked into the coaches office and he said,
“You got traded to this team, here’s their GM on the phone.”
I went and packed my equipment.
You know what? It was tough.
It was tough leaving.
I had developed some really, really good friendships.
The next year, I had a really good year.
My goal was making it to the NHL.
Just like every other friggin’ player in the league.
Fucking going to the NHL and make millions.
But my whole career was sort of always plagued with injuries.
I began to realize that year after year,
the pipe dream was getting smaller and smaller.
I broke my hand and played 13 days later.
Then, I broke my foot.
They put a screw in it so I could play as soon as possible.
Two weeks went by and I was back.
So I played with a screw in my foot, a cast on my hand,
and I already knew that my wrist was messed up.
I knew I would need another surgery.
It was super frustrating. I was just pissed off.
I would go home every night and I wasn’t happy.
I wanted to be happy.
And people wonder why players just hang up the skates.
Well, there you go, you know?
Then the doctor came back to the dressing room.
“I think you tore your MCL and ACL.”
I was like, “I’m hurt again? Like what the hell?”
I didn’t cry from the injury.
I cried because I realized that
holy shit, this is huge.
Something was telling me that I shouldn’t be doing this with my life anymore.
I was so lost. So lost.
A couple months later I got a call from my coach.
Saying that I need to come down to the rink,
that they needed to talk with me.
So I’m like, “Fuck. Am I getting released?”
They said that they couldn’t do it right now financially,
but that who knows?
Maybe I would get picked up by another team.
So I went to say fucking bye to all the boys.
Just like that.
Because I was never going to see them again.
I was outside calling my mom.
Crying like a fucking baby again.
Hockey doesn’t work out for everyone.
It just doesn’t.
I would never change any of the decisions I made.
Many of my best friends, to this day, are guys I met while playing.
I mean, there are a lot of rough times in junior hockey,
but they made me who I am today.
That’s just part of growing up.