You’re either a hockey guy, or you’re not

Kurtis Dulle. (Photo: Art Foster.)
Kurtis Dulle. (Photo: Art Foster.)

Last week a couple of articles crossed my path that needless to say left me torn and a little bit speechless to say the least. Both well written articles were by former pro player and Hull Stingray, Kurtis Dulle on his newly tell-all blog. The first, entitled “What I miss about pro hockey” ran a list of things that are no brainers to people who have played some aspect of professional sport; not necessarily hockey. I enjoyed every minute of that piece as I missed most of the things he wrote but in relation to me with fastball. However the second article, ticked me right off.

Naturally his follow up article was “What I DON’T miss about pro hockey”. Fair enough, there’s always going to be things that pop up that you don’t like but the things he listed were not what I expected coming from a guy whose job is professional hockey. Without going into too much detail – actually, you know what? Go read it then come back. I’ll wait. “What I don’t miss about pro hockey” by Kurtis Dulle.

Okay, hold up.

Your full time job is being a professional hockey player. You can’t tell me that you didn’t know all of these were going to happen. Granted, I can see how sharing a bus with 15 or so others guys on an 18 hour drive could get monotonous but that’s part of the territory. This isn’t the NHL; pro hockey isn’t glamorous.

Don’t miss having to wear a suit to and from the rink; don’t miss the promotional sides of the job handing out flyers to fans or scheduled player appearances. Don’t miss having weekends off (even though most of the week is), don’t miss the smell of the gloves, don’t miss cooking pre-game meals – Jesus, doesn’t anybody have that old school passion anymore?

Actually, I know one guy who does.

Hughes in Scotland. (Photo: Derek Black.)
Hughes in Scotland. (Photo: Derek Black.)

Current Brampton Beast head coach, Brent Hughes, had his hockey career cut short prematurely by the untimely passing of his father. After honouring his Dad’s wishes by playing a final game in Dundee, Scotland, Hughes dropped the contract he was under for next season and returned home to be closer to family. A bittersweet decision but one that had to be made. One that he didn’t see coming.

Hughes didn’t get to control the end of his career. He never got that last planned game; that final goal; that last wave to the crowd where he no doubt would have been named first star. No, he came back to Canada with uncertainty of where to turn and a sadness of his career being over. It might have been over but the passion never left.

Jumping into the coaching aspect, Hughes made his way behind the bench in the ECHL. That passion sees him leave for Brampton’s Powerade Centre at 5am, not just to beat the traffic, but to lace up his skates, get out onto the ice and shoot the puck around. By himself. Alone. “Everything that Dulle wrote that he doesn’t miss,” Hughes said. “Is exactly what I miss every single day.”

Hughes taking the time to help out at a hockey camp in Scotland.
Hughes taking the time to help out at a hockey camp in Scotland.

Hughes eats, breathes and sleeps hockey. “I miss those 18 hour bus rides. I miss the aches and pains.” Not only that, he knows the benefits of professional hockey out weigh the cons of being away from family, friends and rearranging your life in a new country. “You may not break the bank playing hockey, but the connections the sport gives you is second to none.” He lays emphasis on those player appearances and the need to suit up that Dulle listed down as a “don’t miss”. “You have to realize this is your job. Both of those things are extremely important. What’s not to like about talking with fans?!”

In the end the game has obviously changed, even in the last ten years or so. I’m not sure if it’s a more “entitled” aspect that players seem to grasp but the old school vibe is starting to fade. Hughes may be another part of a dying breed in hockey, who knows. One thing’s for certain though.

You’re either a hockey guy, or you’re not.

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Sean Pronger’s Journeyman, The Life of a 4th Liner

Unfortunately I’ve been a little under the weather lately and it doesn’t seem to be letting up; hence the lack of posts. However, while not being able to be feeling up to par to manage some interesting pieces, it’s given me the chance to do a lot of reading. So I figured hey, why not a book review.

I first heard of this book about 8 months ago. I had just gotten out of surgery and was bedridden for a long time with pretty much nothing to do. I had gotten into the habit of tuning into Jay Onrait and Dan O’toole’s weekly podcast and one week the “special” guest happened to be Sean Pronger.

1297346026824_ORIGINALPronger, (the lesser known Pronger at that), was promoting his new book, “Journeyman – The Guy Who’s Seen Everything In Hockey“. He was recalling a couple of stories in it; how he was traded to the New York Rangers and got to be on a line with Gretzky during his last year. (There’s a huge and hilarious story behind it. It’s not on a line you would think.) and how Ray Ferraro thought Steve Duschesne was everything that was wrong with the Los Angeles Kings in the late 1990’s.

So motivatied with this information, I finally got around to picking it up last week. Now, I do a lot of reading, no joke. Most of it is either biographies or serial killer dramas and most biographies are hockey related. I must say that this is one of the BEST hockey books I have read in such a long time.

Of course it’s about Pronger’s life of being the dreaded 4th liner and journeyman of the NHL. For those of you who don’t know what a journeyman is, it’s constantly being sent up and down between leagues, being traded (he played 29 games in an NHL season between 3 team. Yeah.) and all the ins and outs and frustrations tied with it.

Nobody ever thinks of the 4th line. What’s always going through their minds. Are they gonna be sent down today? Will do good enough to get a promotion on the squad? Will they be considered a healthy scratch? Should they start packing their bags? Everything that runs through a player’s head in these circumstances are covered in this book and that’s what makes it great to read. It’s about the other guys.

Pronger is very humourous and pokes a lot of fun at himself which makes it very great to read. The book flows at an even pace but after every chapter, you’re always captivated to read more and find out which team (or league….shoutout East Coast…) he got sent to next.

If you’re not a reader but at least a hockey fan, do yourself a favour and pick this up. It gives you a lot more respect for the grinders on our favourite teams.

Jersday: Ontario Reign

62652-OntarioReignThis team’s logo and jersey are by far in my top 10 of all time. The Ontario Reign play out of California in the ECHL, one of 2 leagues that are affiliated with the NHL. The Los Angeles Kings are their parent team.

Besides the fact that this is an icredibly amazing logo, the colour scheme is beyond brilliant too. You almost want to see this team play out of the province of Ontario not California. Who goes there to play hockey. Pfffttt.

tumblr_lf86ol1tgn1qg6jleo1_500Man, I love those colours so much. The logo is placed directly in the middle. (Take a hint new Carolina Hurricanes uniforms.) Out of 19 players on their roster, 13 of them are Canadian. So I guess we can still pretend that they can play out of Kapuskasing or something.