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Sookies Snap Shots: Road to the Prosdate: 02/06/2012
The Biography of a Hockey Player [Part 1]
Not to sound creepy or anything, but I enjoy finding out about the pasts and backgrounds of professional athletes. Knowing their past helps me understand how they came to be as a player, and it makes me realize and appreciate how hard they’ve worked for practically their whole lives to become who they are now. I admire them for finding out their passion in life at such a young age, because God knows how hard that is for many of us “ordinary” people.
But apparently professional hockey players have a slightly different life story than athletes of other sports. This brings us to a couple of weekends ago, at the Knoxville Ice Bears post-game party. “A lot of people think that hockey players play high school hockey, college hockey, and then get drafted into playing pro. But it’s not like that – it’s a lot more complicated for hockey players.” Jason Ford, our brilliant defenseman, informed me. So, with Jason’s help, I am attempting to explain the typical hockey player’s life based on that of Ford’s, in hopes that you guys will feel the same appreciation of the hard work that our players have put into becoming a professional hockey player.
Players have their own unique story about how they first started their “career”. In Fordy’s case, it was thanks to his dad. “When I was 4 years old, my dad took me and my sister to the local rink and showed us a high school hockey practice, asked us if it was something we would like to do, and we said yes.” That Christmas, he and his sister got a full hockey set as a present. Soon after, they started skating at a pond at their house, and were enrolled in Mini Mite, a level of youth hockey, in Concord, NH.
Background information: In a typical youth hockey organization, there are different levels in which the “player” can play in depending on the age. Typically they start at Mini Mite, then work their way up through Mite, Atom, Squirts, Peewee, and Bantam; all the way up to Midget.
Jason didn’t start his traveling hockey career until he was 9, as a Peewee hockey player. Traveling was mostly limited to within the state at this level, but there were these magnificent things called the weekend tournaments, the time when they could travel to Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, or Rhode Island. These tournaments are a big part of youth hockey in general – they are a sort of mid-season event, where teams from different leagues would travel and play each other to gauge where the team is at. “Most kids would say that was the most fun part of youth hockey,” Jason explained. “You get to be away from home and stay at a hotel, and go to the pool, and play “mini sticks.” Mini sticks is a small game the children would play, where they push the beds aside in their room, and play hockey on their knees with little sticks and a ball. (And according to Ford, he was the mini stick champion. But I guess we will never find out if that’s true.)
By the age of 13, Jason had already decided that hockey was the path that he had chosen for himself. Unfortunately, he was “dragged down” to Florida, and played for the Tampa Bay Stars for a year. On the bright side, his team won the state championship that season. However, Fordy knew that being in Florida wasn’t going to help his hockey career much since there wasn’t a lot of hockey down there. It was time for him to leave the state to pursue his dream. “I told them, ‘I don’t really want to keep playing in Florida. I want to go somewhere where hockey is more developed, with better coaches and better players.’” Soon after, Jason was on his way to Toronto, to pursue his dream of playing hockey.
Come back to Sookie’s Snap Shots next week for part 2!