Alright. I’ve been lazy. No way around it. Despite lots of news since my last post, I’ve been neglecting the blog for a bit. Time to catch up, excuse the lengthy post!
I was released from Pensacola the day of my last post, Dec. 21st. McClean came back from the Injured Reserve, and during that time Zenzola had played very well. One of us had to go. I hadn’t gotten a chance other than my relief duty against Huntsville, and Pensacola understandably decided to stick with the two goalies who they won a championship with last year. This wasn’t shocking news. I figured this was the most likely outcome given the circumstances. I was called into the office and they let me know that they were waiving me. They loved what I brought to the table, but there simply wasn’t room for me anymore and they had no reason to cut either of their veteran goalies. I received great reviews from both the coach and goalie coach. The coach even went out of his way to write me a strong recommendation letter commending me for my attitude, work ethic, and locker room presence during my stint in Florida. A far cry from a blunt phone call saying, “waived you today, good luck” (Fayetteville). After a couple of handshakes and thanking them for the opportunity, I said goodbye to my teammates and drove back to the beach. I called my family and made plans to head home for Christmas. By 2pm I was packed up and en route to Minneapolis in my little Chevy Aveo, a 20 hour journey.
That evening, driving along somewhere in Missouri, I received a call from the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs in Roanoke, VA, asking if I was interested in playing for them. I spoke with their coach and one of their assistant captains. They had just sent a goalie up to the ECHL who was not likely to come back. I said I’d be interested, and Roanoke claimed me off of waivers the next day. I told them I would report on Monday the 26th rather than turning around and driving 10 more hours to rush to Roanoke for one game on the 23rd before a 3-day holiday break. I arrived in Minneapolis the following day, and took advantage of my time off to recharge and hang out with family and friends.
Christmas night I set off for Roanoke to join my third team in the last 2 months (I’m officially a “suitcase”). I arrived on the evening of the 26th and shacked up in the hotel. I also was informed I had the opportunity to start the next day against my old team, Fayetteville. Despite not practicing in over a week, I jumped at the opportunity. I had a pregame skate the next day and then suited up in Fayetteville against my old teammates.
Playing in Fayetteville was a lot of fun. Despite being heavily outshot/outchanced, I played well and we were able to force the game into overtime. We lost in OT. I was pretty pissed about not beating my old team, but I played well enough to make a good impression with my new team, and getting a point on the road isn’t the worst thing. After the game I visited with all of my former teammates as they came out of the locker room, exchanging hugs, handshakes, and stories. This is one of the best parts about playing pro hockey. You get to know a ton of great guys, and the connections you make tend to circle back around one way or another.
Since then I’ve played regularly, splitting time with the other goalie on my team. I also earned my first professional win last week, making 50 saves in the process. I had a curtain call as one of the three stars of the game, and it was a cool feeling to have the crowd roar in appreciation of my performance. Turns out hockey can be pretty fun when you’re actually playing!
I’m enjoying my new home. Roanoke is a cool little town nestled in the Appalachian mountains. It has a nice downtown area, and I live in an apartment in a house with one other guy. I like it a lot so far. Everything is really close, I rarely drive more than 5-10 minutes at a time. The organization is also extremely well-run, especially for an expansion franchise (side note- I can’t help but appreciate the irony of starting an expansion team in a town called Roanoke. History buffs will understand). Our coach is also great, and the guys here love playing for him. With over 1,000 professional games under his belt, he has a great eye for the game. He’s also honest and makes a genuine effort to do everything the right way. It does not go unnoticed by his players. Our fans are also great, very supportive and passionate about their hockey! We get pretty good crowds at our games and it’s a lot of fun to play at the Berglund Center. Hopefully this is a place I’ll settle in for a while.
Only in the SPHL
Before one of our games last week, the fog machines for our player introductions apparently went overboard, and all of us had to get off the bench and skate around in an attempt to clear the fog away. Then, on the other end of the ice, it turned out that the mat they had rolled out on the ice for the choir singing the national anthem had seriously compromised the ice surface. The ice crew scooted down the ice and scraped away as we skated around trying to clear the fog. 10 minutes later the ice was still problematic. A veteran on Mississippi leaned over toward our bench and said, “What the fuck kind of show are you running over here?” Eventually we had to have the zamboni come out and resurface the problematic part of the rink. 20 minutes after the national anthem, the puck finally dropped.
In Columbus (GA), a chaplain came out on the ice with a microphone and lead the entire arena in prayer before the game. I’ve never seen anything like it before. But hey, that’s Georgia for you.
- I’ve found several ways to cope with long road trips. Audiobooks (I use the Amazon Audible app) and Pandora comedy playlists make them more tolerable. The downside- if you don’t have cruise control you might zone out and get pulled over in Iowa for going 85 in a 65. And get a ticket. Like me.
- Using a 2+ year-old chest protector in pro hockey has made my arms a lot more colorful.
- Sometimes I ponder whether I’m sacrificing depth of experience for breadth of experience. I look at a lot of my close friends that are my age. Most of them have serious romantic relationships, stable jobs with good pay, and deeply rooted social networks with family and friends in the same location. Meanwhile, I’ve moved 3 times in as many months. My intuition is that breadth and variety are valuable when you are young and have fewer responsibilities. But at some point, depth takes over as the more important dimension in your life. Having just turned 25, I realize I’m still young. But at the same time I have a gnawing fear of falling behind, of sacrificing some sort of alternate scenario where I’m happy in one place with a deeper experience. The grass is always greener, I suppose.
- Wearing a fur vest out to the bar is a great conversation starter. Beware of accidentally walking through a group of Hells Angels with said vest on, however.
- Leaving Pensacola was a tough thing to do. Although I wasn’t there long, I really loved the city and my teammates. I’m already excited for our road trip to play them at the end of January. We play them on a Sunday in Pensacola and then again the following Friday and Saturday. Instead of going home in between, our team is going to stay down there for the week. Rumor has it we may even sneak over to New Orleans for a day or two. It will be nice to see my old teammates and hang in Pensy again!
- A text message from a former teammate notifying you that he is going to start dating your former girlfriend is always an awkward message to receive. Uhhh, thanks for the heads up, I guess?
- I’m back to playing for another team with a spelling error in its name. The Rail Yard Dawgs. Hey, it’s better than the FireAntz.
- My travels during the 2016 calendar year:
- By car– Minneapolis (MN) to Denver (CO), Minneapolis to Fayetteville (NC), Fayetteville to Pensacola (FL), Pensacola to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Roanoke (VA).
- By plane– Boston (MA) to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Boston, Boston to Minneapolis, Denver to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Denver, Denver to Minneapolis, Raleigh (NC) to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Raleigh, Raleigh to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Raleigh.
- By bus (all round trip) – Hanover to Burlington (VT), Hanover to Ithaca/Hamilton (NY), Hanover to New Haven (CT)/Providence (RI), Hanover to Canton/Potsdam (NY), Hanover to New Haven, Hanover to Lake Placid (NY), Hanover to Boston, Fayetteville to Pensacola, Fayetteville to Memphis (TN), Pensacola to Memphis, Pensacola to Macon (GA), Roanoke to Fayetteville.
Heard Around the Rink
“I didn’t even score. It wasn’t even close. I just started celebrating and the ref counted it.”
“Hey Krugs, holy shit! You’re making your way around half the league!” – Fayetteville fan during a media timeout. And it’s a third of the league, thank you very much.
Beer of the Week
Surly Abrasive Ale – Surly Brewing, Minneapolis, MN Score: 10/10
Finally got my hands on a few of these when I went home for Christmas (Thanks Nana Pat!). By far my favorite beer, just go out and buy some. Only available in MN, unfortunately. I’ll be savoring my stash that I brought with me down to Virginia.
Movie of the Week
Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea was an amazing film. I saw it alone at a little theater down the street from my house this week. I went to see it alone because I knew it was about grief. Given the recent passing of my grandfather, I didn’t want to risk showing emotion in front of anyone. It’s a very, very subtle film, despite dealing with some extremely heavy/horrific stuff. Casey Affleck pulls off his understated role flawlessly, and the film is laden with nostalgia, dry humor, and an appreciation of life. Definitely make the trip to see it. The film also oddly mentions my hometown (Minnetonka, MN) a few times!
-Thanks for reading, and as always, questions and comments are always encouraged and appreciated!