Apologies for skipping a month, I know you all were holding your collective breath, waiting for my wisdom, witty wit, wondrous words, aaaand alliteration! Anxiety has reared it’s ugly head in the life of Gags, and it’s difficult to get the comfort necessary to spellbind you guys like you deserve and yearn for. However, one thing remains true, I continue to make ALS look amazing! I know a lot of you will identify with the experience I am choosing for this blog: Junior Hockey!!!!!
For many a hockey guy, juniors is the first venture towards manhood sans parents. It’s the unfamiliar smell of a billet family’s take on your favorite meal, getting used to a bed with lumps in different places than the one at home, possibly having a roommate for the first time, but most importantly, having unbridled freedom!
To give a glimmer of my junior experience in Peoria, IL, I will afford you my living situation. My billet lived in the farming area outside of town, although were not farmers themselves. I had heard of “The Cabin” during tryouts but didn’t know what it was or who would reside there. Turns out, it was a one bedroom guesthouse separate from the family house with a king size bed, a bathroom, and a kitchen. I did have a roommate, so our goalie and I shared that bed all season. Just one of the intricacies you don’t think about thinking of when you set out on the journey that is junior hockey!!
Junior Hockey is for Everyone!
The great part about junior hockey is that it’s for everyone! Unless you’re a complete plug, there is a junior team that can use your services. There are different leagues, and in those leagues are teams of different skill levels. In every league, there are the doormats filled with peasants, always looking to pick up the new guy that can expel them from the sewer. There are the prima donna teams with all the hot shot recruits, usually having the man rockets, and the baby shit softees. There are ALWAYS the knuck chukers, teams with a roster full of dummies who may have criminal records, or undiagnosed mental conditions, or both! But the champions in juniors have a nice mix of these different classes.
Now that the NHL is becoming a skill league, junior hockey is the last bastion for the beauty who has hulk hands, stupid for puck handling, but well suited for making faces bleed!
“be ready to dodge the right cross courtesy of the big fella with the newly clean record…”
What many folks don’t realize is hockey is the only sport where you don’t really need referees. They definitely help for offsides and the administration stuff, but especially in juniors, if you commit an offense against the other team, be ready to dodge the right cross courtesy of the big fella with the newly clean record now that he’s not a juvenile anymore.
Life Experience Factory
The many faces of juniors isn’t limited to the different styles on the ice. In real life, there are a multitude of styles also. Let’s begin with the boys still in high school. Some are local, some not. They have something to do all day and are the best source for recruiting fans to the games. I was part of the second group who worked and played. Delivering pizza is THE best job to have in juniors I’m convinced. The last group of people is the guys who only play hockey. This bunch gets home at 8 a.m. and has no other commitments, basically living like a Cheler (NHL hockey player!)
The thing that many kids are introduced to for the first time is the opportunity to have a more vibrant social experience than can be attained living in a house with parental supervision. For myself, living in the cabin, this was especially true as we had a supervision free spot for weekend debauchery. It’s the first truly team experience I had as we had to sneak around to have as few cars as possible, cover for each other when we partook too much, and clean up after a particularly large party where we covered the floor of the cabin with mud after a rainy night!
In the community…
Junior hockey teams are intricately woven into the communities they represent. From community service, to hospital visits, to fashion shows, there’s nothing quite like a group of young hockey players to spice up an event! I know I did everything from some farm work, made better by getting to drive a fairly large tractor, to helping my billet family set up a parking lot for the restaurant they were opening!
The kids see how much commitment and work it takes to play next-level hockey!
Often, the most important community work is done in the homes of the billet families. Many of the billets have kids, especially young hockey players. The kids get to see how much commitment and work it takes to play next-level hockey! I have yet to hear a bad experience from a billet family as hockey guys are some of the best guys going!
Bringing it Together
One of the reasons for choosing junior hockey as the theme for this month was to lighten the mood after a heavy topic like ALS. The other reason is to call attention back to the project I have a special passion for: the Dawg Nation Arena!! Not only will the rink be the best place in the country for sled and other forms of inclusive hockey, it would be the perfect venue for Colorado’s first junior hockey team!
It’s straight up bananas Colorado is not represented in junior hockey. Hockey has grown exponentially in this area since I was young, and not everyone is able to get to NHL and D-1 college games. Junior hockey is the PERFECT way to bridge that gap. In combination to all the wonderful reasons I have discussed, South Denver is a premium location for this kind of team.
Not only is Denver hockey crazy, but this new rink is well suited for a junior team. It will seat about 2500 fans, which is a great number for making a bunch of noise and giving a nice home ice advantage. There are also a TON of hockey families in the area that should offer great families to give the boys a place to stay!
This has the potential for being the most impactful, inclusive junior hockey teams in the country!
Last, but far from least, is the impact a junior team could have in this rink. Because this rink will already be so community focused, plugging in a junior team to facilitate everything from instruction, to training, to parties is easily within scope. This has potential for being the most impact impactful, inclusive junior hockey teams in the country!
I will ask you again to consider supporting this project in any way you can personally afford. You have the opportunity to help so many people like this project has already helped me. This is a legacy that will touch so many, and hopefully inspire similar concepts throughout the world, so more folks can enjoy hockey regardless of their ability to walk, hear, and see!
Thank you for reading and I hope you have a great month! Also, sorry for some of the hockey lingo. We are a special group of humans!