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.

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!

Dawg Days

Dawg Days

It’s been a long time since my last blog, but here are a few of the highlights (lowlights?) over the last month or so:


Our road trip started with 2 game in Columbus, GA to play the Cottonmouths. The week prior, the Cottonmouth’s bus rolled over on the highway, injuring many of the players (concussions, broken bones, a hip dislocation). Luckily, everyone survived. However, Columbus was left with half of a viable hockey team. To fill their roster, Columbus literally signed guys off of the street, including a few retired guys to come back and fill in for a few games.

We lost the first game of the series, despite playing against Columbus’ depleted roster. The next night we came back and won in front of a big crowd for Military night. A couple thousand troops attended the game in uniform, and it kicked off with a couple of guys rappelling down from the ceiling. Coincidentally, the game was a war on the ice. Our captain was jumped on three separate occasions, and numerous players on both teams were ejected. Our coach was also tossed. At one point in the third period, I looked down the bench, and there were five guys left, including me, with no coach. Five. The rest were already kicked out of the game or in the penalty box. We finished them off in a lopsided win.

We wrapped up the weekend the next day with a matinée in Pensacola. It was my first time back since my release in late December, and it was great to see some familiar faces around the rink. Unfortunately we lost to my former team. After the game, I was informed that a few friends from Pensacola had waited to see me after the game. One even brought me an extravagant care package for the bus (Thank you!). I visited with them and caught up before hopping back on the bus. Little things like reconnecting little relationships like these are part of what makes pro hockey so great.

Our schedule worked out so that we played Pensacola again in Pensacola the following weekend. So instead of heading all the way back to Virginia and then turning around and driving back a day or two later, our coach/management decided to take us on a little tour of the Gulf Coast. After our Sunday game in Pensacola we drove over to New Orleans for a 2 night stay.

The Big Easy

Exploring New Orleans with the team was a great time. We took the streetcars downtown, walked around the French Quarter with daiquiris in hand, sang karaoke (I may or may not have done a rendition of Puddle of Mudd’s She Hates Me), and went out together on Bourbon street. I’m going to go ahead and redact most of our activities that night, but let’s just say we made the rounds and had a good time.


After our stay in New Orleans, we drove down the coast to the Vegas of the south, Biloxi, Mississippi. We stayed at the Beau Rivage hotel/casino. We hung out in at the pool during the day and then hit the casino in the evening. Guys played blackjack, craps, and slots. I went down $75 in about an hour playing blackjack, then I sat down at a table with my goalie partner and proceeded to turn my last $25 into about $400 in ten minutes. I left up $200 on the day, which was much needed after an expensive night in New Orleans.


We made our way back to Pensacola for the weekend on the day before our first game. That afternoon one of my former teammates picked me up to go hang out with some of the guys on the beach. It was a no ordinary beach day, however. John McLean, a fellow Minnesotan goalie and good friend of mine, hired professional shark fishing guides to help him land a big one. When I arrived at the beach, the rigs were all set up. The guides had paddled out several tuna heads about a thousand yards off the beach. I caught up with a bunch of my old teammates and shot the shit with the fishing guides for a while, when suddenly we heard a sharp zzzzzz! One of the baits had been taken, and the line shot out from the reel against the drag. About a half hour later, Big John landed a 6’3″ sandbar shark. It was awesome! He would catch another one that night after I left to get dinner with a couple of my other former teammates. I think he was pleased with his investment.

I didn’t play that weekend against my former team, but my goalie partner put together a hell of a weekend as we swept both games. In the second game, DeMelo stopped 61 of 63 shots to get the win. Obviously I would’ve liked to play that weekend, but as DeMelo likes to say, “when you’re hot, you’re hot!”

I may not have played this game, but I garnered attention in other ways
Bench Mayhem

When I’m not starting, I run the bench door for the players as they change. With players changing on the fly, I have to be aware of where people are on the ice, when they might be changing, and when to open and close the door in order to efficiently get guys on and off the ice and avoid too many men on the ice penalties. In Pensacola, I was running the door when the handle got stuck shut. I have players sprinting to the bench expecting the door to open and I’m yelling, “The door won’t open! It’s f*cked! Hop it, hop it!” Guys are flailing over the bench. Meanwhile, I’m frantically cranking on this steel handle to unlatch it and I rip the entire handle off of the door, rendering any future attempts to open it futile. I sat down on the bench, defeated, informing the guys they’d be hopping the boards for the rest of the period. Luckily the ice crew fixed the situation during the intermission.

In Fayetteville, running the door again for the boys, I’m looking back at our defensemen to see if they are coming for a change. one of them is, I open the door, let him in, and then look up ice just in time to see a puck coming straight at me. It hits me right in the neck/collarbone area, and it was coming in hot. I was about 6 inches from losing a few teeth and/or breaking my face. I learned my lesson, as the next weekend an eerily similar play launched a puck at my head, but I was ready with my catching glove.

Dad’s Weekend

The following weekend our team invited the dads to Roanoke for a few games. The parents even got to hit the road with us for a game in Fayetteville and experience what our road trips are like. My dad was able to make the trip, and it was cool to be able to show him what life has been like down here. The team put up the family members in the team hotel and even gave the dads Rail Yard Dawgs pullovers to wear on the weekend. Classy move from our ownership!

Bus Troubles

In our last few road trips we’ve had a couple different incidents with our bus. In Daphne, Alabama, our bus was trying to climb an uneven slope up to our hotel, but bottomed out and then got stuck on its uneven axels. A few of my teammates decided they were bus experts and attempted to get the bus moving by shoving plywood under the wheels, telling the bus driver to go forward or backward, and even attempting to push the bus out of the rut. What a bunch of donkeys. I sat back at a distance, taking in the circus, shaking my head. Eventually a tow truck came and saved the day.

On the way home from Peoria, we were pulling into a truck stop so our bus driver could use the bathroom. Our bus proceeded to clip a parked 18-wheeler with a loud screeching of steel on steel. I have no explanation for this. I don’t know how you don’t see a gigantic parked semi truck at a truck stop. But hey, at least no one was injured. A large panel fell off the side of our bus, which we initially thought was one of the cargo doors. Luckily, it was just an air conditioning vent cover, so we were able to make it home without any of our gear falling out.

Beamer in the House

Legendary retired Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer dropped the puck at one of our recent home games in front of a crowd of over 6,000 people. Our team wore ceremonial maroon and orange jerseys in honor of VT. People around here love Beamer and their Hokies.

Booed off Stage

After our win on VT night, we auctioned off our jerseys. Basically, players go out on the ice one by one, holding up their jersey, and the crowd bids. As I was announced to auction off my jersey, one fan promptly let out a loud “BOOOOO!” The crowd was quiet enough that I singled out the young woman who booed me, looked her straight in the eye, and gave her my best What the hell? look. She turned bright red as I shrugged and laughed with my hands upturned in bewilderment. Maybe she thinks DeMelo is better looking.

Heard Around the Rink

“What did you expect?” – “Fuck, I don’t know I guess I just expect everybody to be a little bit better than they actually are, that’s all.”

“If that’s not a hit to the head then I don’t know what is”- My hearing impaired teammate, as he skated back to the bench disheveled with no helmet, a black eye, and his hearing aids dangling off of his ears.

“Does anyone know where we’re going?” – Our equipment manager driving a van full of players to our backup practice facility, as he takes a blatantly wrong exit.

  • Ref- “Krugs, be careful, you played that puck in the trapezoid. I could’ve given you one there”
  • Me- “Yeah. I played it in the trapezoid. I can play it there.” *Stare*
  • Ref- *Pause* “Oh, wow. What am I talking about. Brain fart. Ha!”
  • Me- “Holy shit, man.”

Random Musings

  • These are definitely the dog days of the season. Our team is near the bottom of the standings, fighting for a playoff spot. We’ve suffered a few injuries and guys are getting worn down mentally and physically. Ennui starts to take root as the season feels longer and longer. Going into the last month of the season, we’re going to need to find some energy to make a push for playoffs. The good news is, the end is in sight, and knowing there is just one month left gives me a boost of motivation as we try to make these last few weeks count and stay the playoff picture.
  • I learned how to play a card game called Shnarps, which is exclusively played on minor league hockey bus trips. Nothing like some low stakes gambling to make the bus ride seem a little shorter. It’s also a good way to get the guys talking with each other instead of having their heads permanently buried in their electronic devices.
  • Speaking of electronic devices, I purchased an iPad with some of my tax refund, and its a perfect road trip companion. It’s vastly slimmer and lighter than my laptop, and I can download movies and TV shows off of Netflix and Amazon Prime for the long trips. I’ve started using it as an E-reader with the Amazon Kindle app, and I have to say I love it. Up next is Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog. Amazon is honestly amazing, by the way. You can get pretty much anything on the cheap with free shipping. I’ve been a loyal Prime member since my freshman year of college, and my entire family has piggybacked off of my account. Check it out if you don’t use it already. Use this code here for $5 towards your first purchase on the Amazon app (you’ll need to make the purchase through the app on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet to redeem the coupon).
  • Part of me hates living paycheck to paycheck knowing I could be making several times my current salary, but another part of me is addicted to having so much freedom and not settling on anything just yet. Perhaps that’s part of why I chose to play hockey, because I didn’t want to grow up just yet (despite being closer to 30 than 20 now). Time seems to be going by too fast, as I try to figure out what I want to do. Hockey buys me a little more time, and keeps my options wide open. Not to mention it’s a pretty fun lifestyle.
  • How lucky am I? I get paid to play hockey in front of people. Obviously I wish my career had taken a couple better bounces up to this point, but looking back on this season, I truly am lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I might bitch about it sometimes, but in the big picture I know this was definitely the right decision. Might have to play another year or two!
  • DeMelo recently went on the IR, and it’s given me some more playing time as of late. The more I’m playing, the more I’m settling in. I feel like I’m getting a beat on the style of play in this league and no longer feel nervous. Confidence comes from experience. I’m slowly gaining experience, which is giving me more confidence, which is improving my play. It’s a nice little positive feedback loop. Hopefully I can keep it going down the stretch.

Beer of the Week:

Elysian Space Dust IPA – Awesome!

Elysian Space Dust IPA

Movie of the Week

John Wick: Chapter 2


There’s something oddly therapeutic and satisfying about watching a moody Keanu Reeves piling up body after body with grandiose, stylized violence. As many of my Dartmouth teammates could tell you, I loved the first entry in the series, and the second is even better. What a treat.