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My Hockey History

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I started collecting in around 1997 when I was 8 years old. I got into the hobby from being a fan of the new team that just came to my home state Colorado. I got into hockey and it became my obsession. My life eventually revolved around it. I played, collected, watched, played fantasy hockey. I grew up in Colorado and started with the Avalanche. I lived in Arizona for a while and went to Coyotes games, mostly when Colorado came to town.

Even as a young kid in another teams stadium I would wear Colorado Jerseys and I remember my mom talking about how I would make people angry at coyotes games because someone yelled "Patrick Roy sucks!" I responded "Khabibulin Sucks!"

Eventually I relocated to Colorado and then to Minnesota. My family moved a lot. The idea of a better life in Minnesota sounded good to my parents and the idea of better hockey programs sounded good to me so I did everything I could to convince them to move to "The Hockey State."

When we did (I was 13) I was amazed by how hockey was not an obscure sport played by few, but part of the culture of Minnesota. Everyone played. I started in school, then shortly after hockey tryouts. I soon began to realize everyone on my new team was walking by in the halls at school, or sitting in my class rooms. That never happened in Colorado as players would come from miles, sometimes other cities to play in a program. I only had one other teammate that I went to school with and he moved to my district.

There were so many teams, every boy and a lot of the girls at school played. Even in Jr.High you represented your schools program and eventually would represent a high schools program if you were good enough.

I still followed the Avs and started to follow Minnesotas new team the Wild. I'd still go to Wild Games when the Avs came to town (still in a Colorado Jersey) but began to enjoy watching the Wild as well. It just wasn't the same as watching the Avs. My heart didn't race when they were behind a goal in the 3rd. Watching on tv and hearing the phrase "save by Roloson" just didn't have the ring to it "save by Roy!" did.

I still played and followed both teams. Hockey consumed my life until 2005. During a game I was cross checked from behind into the boards. I hit the top of my shoulder and head. It was my right shoulder, and I'd separated it before and had damaged my ACL in past years. My love to play a physical game finally took it's toll. I played through another period and I finally couldn't take the pain. I undressed between the 2nd and 3rd and went to the hospital. I was given an Xray to reveal a broken Acromial Bone. I was 17 at the time.

One week later I came back. I lined up a hit and planted my shoulder in his chest. He fell and it hurt me much more. The season was about over. I sat 3 games then played the final game. That was it. The next year I couldn't afford to play, and was too physically damaged. I played outdoors, in drop in games, everywhere I could get ice time I did.

It was my intent to play pro hockey since I was 7. Every little kids dream to play a pro sport. I never went to any sort of physical theorapy or rehab for my shoulder.

I had taken a year off of playing physical hockey. I worked my off. Went to the gym, dropped 10 lbs and rebuilt to 185 lbs. I increased my benchpress by 110 % and my leg press by 40%. Worked on my upper body, and my biggest weakness my mental game. I had a nack for getting breakaways but I was never a finisher. I just couldn't put the puck in the net. I always had the most hits, most breakaways, and put the puck in the net usually 5 times a season.

I couldn't break that 5 mark. One year I had scored off a tip and the credit was even given to a teammate on the bench who protested and it was never fixed so on paper I still had 5! It was like a curse. That season, when I was 18 I found the net. Trouble was I wasn't in a league. I relaxed, had fun, and put the puck in the net. A lot.

I signed up for a tryout for a Jr. A team. Figured what the hell? Why not give it one more shot? I showed up to the tryouts in the best shape I had ever been in and seemingly fixed my goal scoring problem. I rolled in with the big boys from the best AAA and Jr A teams across the nation.

The practice ran me down. I felt slower than the rest. Was clueless how things were run and was yelled at like crazy. I hadn't performed most of the drills and was immediately disappointed. I was assigned my team and went into the first game. I felt like I was going to puke. I was shaking waiting to go onto the ice for warm ups. I had a seething of adrenaline, my heart was pounding.

I stepped on the ice and tried to maintain my cool, at least look like I wasn't freaking out. I went to the bench and watched as the first lines went out and the puck was dropped. I stood in the line heart pounding as I came up next. A player skated off and yelled left wing. I jumped the boards and everything went away. No nervousness, no nothing, just hockey. Just like the days I played. I felt like this was the first time I'd been on the ice in years. It felt real again, a real game with stands full of people and fast hard hitting players.

I came back from a mostly uneventful first shift happier than I had ever been. I felt like that was the best 40 seconds of my life. My next shifts came smoother and smoother. Pretty soon I was creating havok in the corners, royaly pissing people off and making defense panic. I came in behind the net, stole the puck from the defense and went back behind the net only to have it stolen back. I stopped, turned, lifted his stick took it and cut back behind looking for someone in the slot.

There he was, I went to pass but felt both of my hands wrapped. The whistle was blown. In this tryout penalties were dealt with by giving penalty shots where the shooter stands on the center ice line and the rest of the players line up on the far blue line. The whistle is blown and the shooter has a chance to shoot but not much time with the other 9 players a stride or two behind if he's fast enough to stay ahead. I never felt speed was my strong point.

I didn't have much time to think as the whistle blew I just gave everything I had to push the puck ahead and get away from the players close behind. I made it into the zone unaware of how far back they were or were not. I took aim lower glove and fired. Miss, the shot went high blocker. Well that was just about as bad of a miss as I had ever had! I watched as the puck went over the goalies stretched blocker and hit the net behind him. I scored.

I turned toward the bench and laughed. Sometimes the puck just bounces your way I thought. They won't know my shot was exactly opposit of where I had intended. The whole incident was funny to me. Here I was completely missing in a panic and still scoring. I couldn't believe my luck and just one goal was like a huge weight off my shoulders. I may not have hit where I was aiming, but it went in.

That game I burried two more for a hat trick. One a rebound and one a beautiful pass right on my tape. I played the next game and added two more to my tally. I had 5 goals in two games. More than anyone in the tryout. I hadn't even played the year before and these players were AAA or Jr.A. I just plain had fun. I did well in front of the net and in the corners. I felt I could play better physically so I tried. My ultimate goal was to drop the gloves and fight for my first (legal) fight.

One of the players on my team was a Jr. A vet, almost too old for the league and on his last possible season. He also was a prominant fighter in the leage. I had a few good hits, talked some trash, but couldn't get someone to drop the gloves.

I asked his advice and he said, just ask someone. Try number 2, the coach wants to see if he will fight. I took his advice and just asked, to no avail. I tried getting dirty and threw in a little hack. Still no luck. I asked 3 more players that game. The Jr.A player skated up and asked, the other player agreed and I got to see my first on the ice fight (that wasn't a high school game gone bad) but didn't get to partake.

At the end of the game I had gotten a pass on a breakout and attempted to pull an old trick from Bantams. I took off as hard as I could, lowered my shoulder and attempted to plow through the rather large defender. We hit and he stumbled backward, my shoulder had a sharp pain and the game continued. Probably a bad idea.

I played the next game in a lot of pain. I couldn't hardly shoot or pass even. That was it, I was done. I was one of the last ones cut. The only two that made the team were in the Jr.A league the year before, one was on the team. I had a lot of fun but it was over. I went home and dealt with my shoulder. I still loved and always will love hockey. It holds a special place in my heart. I can barely watch now without wishing I could still be playing somewhere. Wondering what might have been if my shoulder wasn't trashed.

I pretty much stopped watching and collecting along with playing. That was in 2008 and I am 21 now (22 in March).

Since then I joined the USMC and was reinjured in a training excersize involving my shoulder again. I was medically discharged in the fall of 2009. I dug out the old binders because I had found a card in a box in my barn and started trading here and on other sites. It's almost given me a new light. I work now as a flyfishing guide and instructor. Lots of shoulder use. It does still bother me some but I feel like if I changed my game I could try to play again. I am not too old to give it another shot.

I am hoping to buy a box of my favorite set, Black Diamond soon. When I collect I feel like I did when I played. It brings back good memories. I wonder what would happen if I made one last attempt?


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