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.
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 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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