NetminderJim- Aussie Edition (Part 1)

NetminderJim- Aussie Edition (Part 1)

It’s been a while. After a pretty wild 6-7 months, I’ve decided to bring the blog back. Let’s get caught up.

The End in Roanoke

We’ll start with the bad. I was cut for the third time in late March, two weeks before the end of the SPHL regular season. I was disappointed with the way the year played out. I didn’t get a real chance with my first two teams, and then joined a struggling team in Roanoke where even when I was playing well, it was always one step forward and two steps back.

We were losing. A lot. Our talent level simply wasn’t comparable to the rest of the league down the stretch. Our offensive “gameplan” was to shoot pucks on the opposing net from the red line. We suffered injuries to a couple of our best offensive players, and we had 3-4 defenseman called up to the ECHL, leaving our back end as thin as you will see in professional hockey. We faced an onslaught of 2 on 1’s and breakaways among other various breakdowns.

I was also playing in a fair bit of pain. Since my senior season at Dartmouth, I’ve been having some pretty substantial pain in my lower back and hips. Over time, the pain became increasingly noticeable. I wasn’t moving as well as I was a couple of years ago. By the end of my time in Roanoke, the pain was pervasive and severe enough that I knew something was wrong.

Despite the team’s struggles, I had a solid stretch of play late in the season. I wasn’t killing it by any means but I kept the team in some games and even stole a few points. My save percentage was up to around a .920 at one point (pretty good for a last place team). But then in the penultimate game I played for the Dawgs, I was left in the net for nine goals against a team I had nearly shut out the night before. Yes, you read that right.

For those of you who have watched me play over the years, you know that I have a very calm demeanor and net presence during games, regardless if things are going well or not.

For the first time in my career, I lost my shit during a game. I snapped my stick over the post after the seventh goal. As I went to get a new stick, I expressed my displeasure with the situation toward our bench, only to be left in for another two goals. A week later I was released. I was told that I needed to control my emotions better. As if getting pissed off and showing a bit of fire after your team completely gives up is a weird thing to do. I regret nothing. At a certain point you have to stand up for yourself (just ask Patrick Roy).

I left Roanoke a bit fed up and worn out from my SPHL experience. Luckily things improved in the next few months once I got away from it for a while and gained some perspective.

Road Trip

After being released from Roanoke, I packed up all of my stuff again, and tried to figure out what to do. I elected to take a little road trip up the east coast before I went back to Minnesota. I decided to check out DC for a couple of days and then head up to Boston for a weekend to see some college friends living in the city. Washington was amazing and it was great to see some friendly faces in Boston before trekking back home to Minnesota.

IMG_4989
Boston + Beer + The Boys

Uh Oh

I arrived home in Minneapolis in April and proceeded to get my body checked out. I had several imaging procedures done on my hips and the results were unsurprising. I had substantially torn labrums and bone impingements in both hips. It’s a pretty common injury for goalies. It turns out your body isn’t designed to suddenly and violently shoot your legs out to the sides for 15 years.

I scheduled my hip surgeries for June and started contemplating my next move. Over the spring I fielded a few job offers, worked out like a madman, and reconnected with some friends while I waited to get my surgery. I went back to Dartmouth to see some old friends over Green Key weekend. I also signed a lease with two buddies for an apartment in Minneapolis for the summer. I was having fun, but it’s always tough to be in a transitional period. After a year of virtually no stability in my life, I was ready to chill out for the summer. Or so I thought.

The AIHL Comes Calling

Just as I was about to accept a job offer in LA, I received an obscure Facebook message asking if I wanted to play semi-professional hockey down in Australia. They desperately needed a goalie. The offer included free round-trip airfare, a free apartment in Melbourne, access to a car, and a job to make some extra cash on the side.

After a couple days of research and deliberation, I decided the hips could take a few more months of abuse. If you know me, you know that I have a serious penchant for adventure and new experiences. As hard as it was to leave my apartment with friends for the summer, I would’ve never forgiven myself had I not taken an opportunity to travel to Australia for free. I mean, it’s fucking Australia. I canceled my surgeries and was on a flight to Melbourne a week later.

I joined the Melbourne Mustangs of the Australian Ice Hockey League in June and resurrected my hockey career for a few months. It felt refreshing to have a clean start and have an opportunity to make a difference on a new team.

IMG_5570I joined the Mustangs when they were in last place. By the end of the Australian season in August, we had shot up the standings to qualify for the AIHL Finals- a feat that would have been laughable when I first arrived. I had some truly amazing experiences, made new friends, and finally had success playing hockey after an incredibly frustrating season.

 

What’s Next

As for now, I’m back in Minneapolis and will be getting hip surgeries on November 14th and December 28th. I’ll be taking the winter off to try to get my body right. As for what’s next, who knows. Is this the end of my hockey career? Most likely. I’ll have plenty of time to decide what I want to do over the next couple of months as I recover and go through physical therapy.

I’ll keep the blog going to give me something to do while I’m laid up over the winter. I’ll write a few posts that will detail my experiences during the Australian season, and I’ll also post some about my travel experiences during a month-long backpacking trip I took after the season was over. I’ll also document my rehab process after my surgeries.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out, and again, questions and comments are always welcome.

Random Musings

  • What it’s like to be released by 3 different teams in one season:                                           
  • I know this post is a little grim, but I’m the last guy you should ever feel sorry for. I’ve been luckier than most to get where I am and do the things I’ve done. Yes, this year was a huge disappointment when I look at it in terms of my athletic goals. I envisioned it going a lot better than it did. But from an experience standpoint, this last year has given me a lot to be thankful for. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s to embrace adversity. Own it, feel it. Let it fuel you. Believe that it’s just an unforeseen turn on your path to something better. Life only makes sense in retrospect, after all.
  • By the end of my time in Roanoke, the weather was nice enough to climb McAfee Knob and Dragon’s Tooth. Sweet views, eh?
  • Thanks to all of my teammates, friends, staff members, and fans who stuck by me over the past year. You guys are the only reason I was able to stay sane.
  • Before I left Roanoke, there was a comical scene where we literally had to build our own rink in order to be able to play the next day because our arena crew was severely short-staffed after a concert the night before. Only in the SP, baby!
  • If anyone has any tips/tricks on keeping busy/staying sane/earning money while recovering from surgery, shoot me a message. I have a long couple months ahead of me!
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