Moving to a new city is rough. Especially as an adult.
Your social opportunities to meet new people and establish relationships is limited, especially when you are self employed.
Even if you are able to meet new people you connect with, often times their social circles are well established and it is difficult to be ‘let in’.
When I moved to a new city several years ago, I was looking for an opportunity to play hockey.
I’m a goalie, and I come from a strong hockey community where there is ample opportunity to play, especially as a goalie. Groups always seem to be short on goalies and are welcoming when a new one comes knocking at their door.
That was not the case where I moved to.
The hockey community here is very exclusive and not immediately welcoming to new people, even at open hockey. In fact, every group I was referred to wanted nothing to do with me unless an established player in the group was able to ‘vouch’ for me.
This is not what I grew up with. Where I come from, if you see a group of people skating at the local park, you can just lace up and join in the game. There is always room for one more on the bench.
This lead me to not being able to play hockey for a couple years.
One day my dad called me up and told me he met a guy at my sisters goalie camp and I should give him a call. He runs a local hockey league where I am from and he was interested in expanding to where I was living now.
I called him and we talked for several hours about the league and the philosophy behind the league. It was built on inclusivity where you didn’t need to know anyone, or need to be on a team, in order to play. Teams were formed at random and all you had to do to join the league was sign up on the website.
One other thing that made this league unique is it utilized Refs, a clock, and games lasted the standard 3 periods. In other words, this was real hockey.
If you are not an adult hockey player, you have to understand that once you are out of Association Hockey, the only opportunities out there for an adult to continue to play is ‘pick up’ hockey and the occasional tournament. Most adult hockey is nothing more than dropping the puck and playing offense with little to no defense, and Goalies are left out to dry, facing breakaway after breakaway. Pick up hockey is closer to video game hockey than the hockey you see on TV.
This League sounded exactly like what the hockey community in this town needed, and I wanted to play hockey again.
The only problem…I didn’t know anyone.
It’s hard to form a hockey league when you don’t know anyone that would want to play in it.
But I have never been one to play it safe. Life is too short to watch from the sidelines.
I remembered a line from Jim Morrison’s album, An American Prayer, that I first heard when I was a teenager, “Did you have a good world when you died, enough to base a movie on?” This one sentence would have a profound effect on how I would live my life going forward. No longer would I play it safe and watch life pass me by. Movies are not made about people that don’t take risks and grow in the process.
I called up the organizers of the local leagues in the area to see if they had players that might be interested in additional ice time and the opportunity to play traditional hockey again. I was mostly met with hostility and even a few threats. I had one guy tell me he would personally see to it that my league failed. Not exactly the response I was expecting.
When I went to the rink manager to book ice time for the league, I explained to him who we were and what our league was about. I remember him laughing at me and telling me, “I don’t think there is room for another League (in this town), but I will take your money anyway. Good luck.”
Clearly the chips were stacked against me, but I kept pushing forward.
Flyers were printed and posted at the local rinks and sports stores in the area. An interview was published in the local newspaper. Slowly word began to spread and people began to sign up for this new League.
Our first season was a mixed crew of new players and advanced players. We had just around 40 players sign up and we were able to put together a 4 team league. It wasn’t without its ‘growing pains’ though as players struggled to figure out how to fit into this new League, but we worked through it and the League continued to grow.
That was a little over 3 years ago. Today, our League has grown into 3 seperate divisions (Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced) with an attendance of over 120 players per season, and growing. I have plans to organize and sponsor my first Tournament in a couple years, and would like to organize some adult and Youth Hockey Skill Clinics around that time as well.
In the process, I have created a place where new skaters can come and immediately feel welcomed and not feel like they have to prove anything to anyone, regardless of ability. New friendships have formed as the ‘cliquiness’ that is found in many long established locker rooms has been eliminated. In short, I have been able to create an experience that I wish existed when I first moved to town.
None of this would have happened if I had played it safe and not taken a chance on something new. You never know what you are capable of if you don’t step outside of your comfort zone once in a while and take a risk or two.
#KJHouseAndHome #BeGenerous #StoryAthlete