Growing up I always knew what I wanted to be; a professional hockey player. My parents joke that I could skate before I could walk and it’s probably true.
One of my first memories as a child was attending a Philadelphia Flyers game. You see, unlike a lot of kids in Philly, I didn’t care much for the Eagles I was/am a fanatical Flyers and Phillies fan. Hockey and baseball, that’s what I grew up playing.
Once it became a choice between hitting home runs and scoring goals I picked scoring goals. I started training in the off-season and eventually found my way up to Canada to play hockey. I played Junior A for several years, in towns most Canadian’s haven’t heard of, Milton Ontario anyone? Didn’t think so. I eventually wound up playing in the WHL for the Red Deer Rebels. Yes Red Deer is the name of a town, it’s actually the third largest in Alberta.
I honestly thought I was going to make the show, I was usually among the best players on my team even at the competitive levels. The problem was, there were 16 million Canadian’s who also thought they were going to make the show at one point or another. The other half? They’re girls hoping to play for Team Canada’s Women’s Olympic team.
Inevitably, chasing the dream stopped. I play briefly in the ECHL before realizing I wasn’t going to make the NHL and trying to start and raise a family in the ECHL just wasn’t going to happen.
Fortunately for me I found my “other” calling – firefighting. There aren’t a lot of jobs out there that are perfect for ex-athletes. Sure, if you attend university and get a degree while playing sports it’s one thing, but to skip university and end up as a 25 year old kid who has done nothing but play hockey his entire life it can be tough.
For the most part, middle class folks like myself just want a job that allows us to live a good life. With the manufacturing jobs drying up across North America we’re left with the trades and public service. (One of my close friends, who also was a hockey player ended up on the police force)
Firefighting is a perfect gig for an ex-athlete. We have a few things going for us. For starters we’ve been working on a team our entire lives. The fire hall is much like the locker room, it’s more then friendship it’s family.
Secondly we have the added bonus of being in shape. If you’re playing sports at a competitive level you’re going to be in better shape than the next guy. I think it was one of the things that helped me get hired. A lot of guys were coming from a trades background – which is also a great route to go, but many of them failed the physicals. Sure they were strong, but you wouldn’t want them trying to carry you out of a burning building.
I’m grateful for the opportunities that playing hockey gave me. Most of all, a rewarding career fighting fires!