Every night, players like Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos and Erik Karlsson (and many others!) remind us why we love hockey. Their dazzling plays and passion for the game have helped create a new generation of fans. As we look towards the future though, it is equally important to look back on the game’s history and the players that helped pave the way for today’s stars. Which brings us to one of my passions in life; helping to shine the spotlight on Hockey’s Greatest Family as the resident writer for the NHL Alumni Association.
Whether it is from injury, age, or diminishing skills, the spotlight of the world’s greatest league will turn off, or shine on someone else eventually, making the work of the NHL Alumni Association so essential today and in the future.
The phrase “Life After Hockey” has a different meaning for each member I interview or chat with at events. They all knew retirement was coming one day, but to think about it while playing was not something that you did. As fans, we do not really think about it either, but on any given night, when a player steps onto the ice, it could be for the last time.
Along with the tremendous amount of charitable work done throughout many communities by the NHL Alumni Association, one of their main objectives is to help players make that difficult transition to life after hockey. When you have been so passionate about the game, passionate enough to make it your life’s work and reach the highest level of competition, how do you just walk away when your career ends?
To assist their members, the NHL Alumni runs what is known as the BreakAway Program. Offering numerous customized programs, BreakAway enables former players to find their way into life after hockey. Whether it is career exploration and training, entrepreneurial training, life coaching, mentorship, counselling, workshops or webinars, the association is there to help.
It is important to remember too, that for the players of the previous eras, the NHL Alumni provides an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and former foes, sharing in the common bond of their NHL experience.
One of the remarkable aspects of the association is that whether you have played in one NHL game or one thousand, you are an equal member. The same respect is given to every member – Hall of Famer, Stanley Cup Champion, 4th line journeyman or career AHLer with only a handful of NHL games on your resumé – you are an alumni brother and are part of the family. Even their writer is considered part of the family, which is an honour I do not take lightly!
Two-time Stanley Cup champion Dave Reid joked with me in a recent interview that one of the things he enjoys most about taking part in alumni events is that he gets a new audience for his old stories. So with that in mind, and since I have a new audience here at the Bro Blog, I’d like to share one of mine…
When I was 7 or 8 years old, growing up on a farm in Lachute, Quebec, my dad would spend a great deal of time and effort in building an outdoor rink behind the barn. I would skate around for about 10 minutes, helping our hometown hero, Kevin Lowe, and the rest of the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup. I would then proceed to sit in the snow around the rink and pretend to interview my imaginary teammates. Within a year or two, dad figured that if his kid was happy sitting in the snow pretending to do interviews, why build a rink in the first place.
It’s funny how life turns out sometimes – I can’t skate very well, but thirty years later I have been able to tell that story to Kevin and other members of the 1980’s Oilers at various times. The great thing is, a nice comfortable chair has replaced the snow and they really are my teammates now!