Sometimes I will just stop whatever I’m doing and think back to my youth hockey days. I remember when I first began, and could barely stop. I remember looking up to the older girls wanting to be as good as them. I remember playing mini hockey in the hotel hallways. I remember the van rides at tournaments, trying to fit all of 17 or so of us into one van so we could jam to some music. I remember the important buildup to games—the warm-up, the cheers, the vision of scoring.
I remember the awful feeling after skating suicides, but knowing that it was all worth it. I remember our coaches’ inspirational speeches before games. I remember the competitive spirit I had, that I will never have again. I remember the joys of winning, and the heartbreak of losing. I remember the last game I played, when I sat bawling on the bench, rocking back and forth, knowing that we were about to lose, not make it to Nationals, and that this was it for me. This was the end of my hockey career. It was awful. There was nothing we could do about it. This was the end. I was done with youth hockey forever.
Youth hockey took up my life. I practiced 4-5 times a week, plus off-ice training, games, and out-of-state tournaments. It took up my life, but I didn’t mind. I loved telling people, “Sorry, I have hockey.” I knew I would rather be at hockey than any other place.
I sacrificed school dances, parties, and a normal social life in high school. Even though I missed these events, the ice rink with my teammates is where I wanted to be. These were my best friends growing up. They knew everything about me, and helped me through the toughest days of my life.
When I was eleven, my sister was killed. The only thing that saved me was ice hockey. My team took my mind off of everything. To this day I still sleep with a stuffed animal frog that was given to me for comfort by a teammate. Hockey gave me a second home, a second family, and 16 plus other sisters that I could count on. When I was sixteen years old, my grandma died. I played hockey that night in honor of her. I played an awesome game and scored two goals that night, dedicated to my grandmother, of course.
Hockey took my mind off of everything. It was my therapy through tough times. Hockey helped me out of my worst times, and gave me some of my favorite times. I miss the excitement and competition. I miss the dangles, the snipes, and the cellys. But most of all I miss my team. I miss what we were. I would do anything to go back to my youth hockey days.
Hockey was my life growing up. The ice rink was my second home. My ice skates were my favorite pair of shoes. My jersey was my favorite shirt to wear. My warm up suit was the most comfy thing I ever wore. My team was my family and each year it seemed that my team grew closer.
Hockey gave me character. It gave me courage. It gave me hope. It gave me strength. It gave me free therapy. It gave me the best feeling on the earth. It gave me a family that I will never forget. Hockey gave me so much that I cannot even begin to list it all.
We are told to not look in the past, but sometimes it is so tough. Youth hockey with my Colorado Select team was some of the greatest times of my life. Today I play club hockey at my college, go to drop-ins, and play on an adult league tournament team at home, but nothing compares to the teams I was on growing up. The feeling is something that I will never feel again.
I am just happy I lived in the moment and loved it as much as I could. My message to any reader is to never take your sport for granted, because it all ends at some point. Live in the moment, and remember them. My youth career has been over for quite some time, but the lessons, love, and memories last forever. Hockey, thank you for the best of times.