Remember when I said it’s tough to feel safe in this league?
The day before Thanksgiving I got a call from our coach telling me they had put me on waivers (released me). The explanation? “Going a different direction.” OK then. After nearly two months in Fayetteville, playing just one game, I was gone. I was part of a massive restructuring of the team following a stretch in which we went on a big losing streak.
5 or 6 guys texted me saying they couldn’t believe it. No one, especially me, saw this coming. I know I’m good enough for this league, and so did my teammates. I got along with everyone, always worked hard, and always put the team first. It didn’t make sense. However, like I said before, contracts are week to week, and any coach can pretty much release any player for any reason at any time (with a couple exceptions for injuries).
My time in Fayetteville had worn me down a little bit. Although I loved my teammates, I wasn’t playing in games. My sense of purpose and enthusiasm was gradually eroding away. With each additional game that I sat on the bench, I felt a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction in the back of my head creeping its way toward the front. It didn’t feel like I was making any progress. My hockey career/life felt stagnated, stuck, insignificant. Part of me wondered if I had made the right decision after all. Coincidentally, two of my Dartmouth classmates and closest friends who were also playing pro decided to hang up the skates the same week I was released. They were ready to turn the page, and I felt I might be right behind them.
I left Fayetteville with one pro game, a loss, on my resume. With nowhere to go and nothing likely to pan out with another team before Thanksgiving weekend was over, I flew home to Minneapolis for the holiday to figure out what the hell I was going to do (also of note- this was my first Thanksgiving spent with family in 7 years because of hockey).
In pro hockey, the goalie market is insanely saturated. Every pro team only keeps two goalies. There are hundred of goalies out there competing for those spots. As a rookie goalie, when you don’t get one of those spots, or lose one, it can be hard to get back in the door. It’s not that I’m not good enough for one of those spots. It’s not that simple. Unfortunately professional hockey suffers from some of the same problems that other professional settings do. Politics, contracts, age/experience, and connections all matter for goalies looking for roster spots, often just as much as how good/talented the goalie is. Many minor league coaches are also far from goalie experts, and will bring in different guys seemingly randomly until the team starts winning. Essentially, you need to get an opportunity and then start winning quickly to establish yourself. Unfortunately I haven’t really had that chance yet.
Another team didn’t claim me after being released, and I started to think that as much as I love hockey, maybe hockey didn’t love me back anymore. The possibility that I might be done playing hockey was an abstract concept to me. For my entire life hockey has been a massive part of my identity. I planned on playing pro for a couple years, hopefully including a stint in Europe before I retired. I hadn’t planned on being released anytime soon, and thus hadn’t even started considering what I would do after. Frankly, it was terrifying. I had something of a miniature quarter life crisis. If I’m not NetminderJim who am I now? CorporateLadderClimberJim? WriterJim? WorldTravelerJim? BaristaJim? Shit. I started considering everything from pursuing job leads in Boston with my friends to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
But the Saturday after I was waived, one of Pensacola’s goalies suffered a shoulder injury. I received a tip regarding the injury, and that they would likely need a goalie to come in. I acted as my own agent and gave the coach a call. Within two days I was flying back to Fayetteville, packing up my car, hugging a few of my ex-teammates goodbye, and making the trek down to Florida.
Essentially, my hockey career died on the operating table for a few minutes before being resuscitated miraculously by the defibrillation paddles. My quarter life crisis can wait at least a little while longer.
I’ve only been in Pensacola for a few days, but it’s been incredible. The guys are great, and we all literally live on Pensacola Beach. The condo I’m staying in has a direct sightline to the ocean and its own balcony. I’ve already been sunbathing and taking long walks on the beach. It’s December. The city also has a lot of cool places to go and things to do, so I’m excited to spend some time and explore here. It’s definitely a big step up from Fayetteville in terms of the overall lifestyle, and the ocean air has left me feeling revitalized after my tough experience in North Carolina.
I signed a 3-game contract with the Ice Flyers, with nothing more guaranteed as of now. But at the very least, I bought myself a little more time living the dream, and another chance to prove myself and get in the door. I’ll keep controlling what I can control and working hard to earn a chance to establish myself. Life’s a beach, and I’m just playing in the sand.
- A walk along the beach is an A+ addition to my pregame routine. I really love the ocean air, and the fine white Florida sand. Might have to live in a beach town someday.
- It’s nice to be playing for a team with no spelling or grammatical errors in its name again.
- Do you ever wonder what the difference is between what you want and what your culture tells you to want? Do we make decisions because that’s what we truly want, or is what we choose just something our culture tells us to want, that has been embedded so deeply in our thinking that we don’t know the difference anymore? This is something I’ve struggled with as an introspective 20-something trying to figure himself out. For the few days I was unemployed, contemplating my next chapter, this question was an important one.
- The Minnesota Vikings. You know what, no. I’m not even going there. It’s a Sunday morning and I shouldn’t start drinking this early.
Beer of the Week
Jade IPA– Foothills Brewing Company (Winston-Salem, North Carolina)
Fantastic. One of the more unique IPAs I’ve ever tasted, is that a little spiciness i taste? I’ve been trying to drink local, and this one came up while I was doing some research. Glad I bought it! Grab a few of of these if you’re ever in North Carolina.
Also try: Freak of Nature DIPA– Wicked Weed Brewing, Pernicious IPA– Wicked Weed Brewing
Movie of the Week
The Night Manager
Alright, so this isn’t a movie. It’s a six-part miniseries. Anyways, it‘s the best thing I’ve watched lately and it’s not even close. Slick, perfectly paced, and beautiful to look at. The Night Manager boasts Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie as compelling leads. It’s an espionage thriller, adapted from John le Carré’s novel of the same name. Watch it.