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I’ve recently seen a huge uptick in twitter and facebook accounts that promote hockey life style. There are legitimate companies out there, like Gongshow, Bardown, Sauce to name but a few, that have made a business out of the hockey life style.

 

Some of these ‘hockey life’ accounts are actually quite funny, but some of them are just downright terrible and sometimes give a totally different view of hockey than what the players actually go through. There are accounts out there that think that hockey is all about parties and wheeling. Yes, that does happen, but players these days are some of the most fine tuned athletes. Given the rules of the team and the intense schedules, partying is not the first thing guys do when they finish a game. Like said, parties happen.

 

As a result of all these accounts I thought that I’d give an insight into what the ‘hockey life’ is all about.

 

As mentioned on the blog before, I have a regular day job that is the main breadwinner for our family. My hockey life revolves around my job, weekly off ice training, on ice training and games. The only time that I have for drinks is to have maybe a beer or two after games and then a few more at the end of season party before I start the off season training.

 

Hockey life to me is this: it means late nights in the car, driving to training and games. It means lonely nights in the gym when you’re working out trying to maintain a decent level of fitness throughout the season. It means getting up early in the morning before work and going for a run. It means sacrifices and accommodating attitude from the family so that the ‘head of the household’ is off most weekends chasing his dream.

 

Hockey life means that hockey doesn’t stop at the last buzzer of the last game of the season. It is a process that takes 12 months. It is far removed from the glamour that sometimes gets associated with the game. But the fact of the matter is, despite every sacrifice that I make, I wouldn’t change it. The locker room is like a sanctuary, where all the days’ worries and troubles wash away. The minute you step over the threshold, you feel like you are with brothers. It is through thick and thin with your teammates. Sometimes tempers flare on the ice and among teammates, but once you are over that it is back to normal.

 

So yes, hockey life isn’t all about wheeling and girls. It’s about hard work and brotherhood with a bunch of guys who come together for a common cause. That is essentially what hockey life is about. 


Grind of the years and the mileage throughout it. Maybe not the best body mechanics , but it has never slowed them down. Maybe not the best skilled players, but still there every training, every game, despite the aching joints and busted knees  and so forth. The body might be older than the person, but the mind is forever young.

 

The mind is the only thing that sometimes keeps these guys going. The feeling of being in the changing room and around ‘the guys’ is something they wouldn’t trade for anything. The war horse has been through it all. Bitter losses, big wins. The works. However, he still arrives at the rink with the same enthusiasm as in the junior years.

 

Sure the off season might be longer and training has to be smarter, the recovery process from games is not what it used to be, but being able to play the game is more than enough. There’s no better feeling than lacing up the skates and hitting the ice.

 

The late nights, the road trips, the stops at highway rest stops, trying to find something that’s plausible as food. There’s quite simply nothing that the war horses would trade all of these for. The body might not be the same as it once was, but the brain, the brain is still there and the smarts for the game will never leave.

 

The war horse might not beat a younger player for speed, but they will know how to make the play. The hands may not be as fast as they once were and he younger, YouTube generation, will be forever more creative.

 

But the war horse is not just someone who has the wounds to prove his career, he is there to guide the younger generation, he is there to show leadership and use his experience for the better of the team.

 

The war horse in this is not me. At least not yet. I can only hope that I will be a war horse one day. To me being recognised as a hardworking player who does not give up is one of the better accolades a player may get. Sure there are no trophies on the mantle, but the knowledge and acknowledgement that you left everything on the ice, every night is worth more than that. 

 

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The groups for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics ice hockey tournament have been set after the final qualification rounds came to a close. Where the pre-qualification tournaments may not make big headlines in the main hockey media, there was one storyline that I followed quite closely (well through social media and radio). The story being the one of Team GB.

British ice hockey may not be that highly regarded in the grand scheme of things, or the international hockey pecking order, but what surprised me was that Team GB made it to the final Olympic qualification tournament. Currently GB is ranked 21st by the IIHF and went on to play against teams like Latvia, France and Kazakhstan, all of which have experience from the highest tiers of international hockey within the IIHF. In fact, all of the nations in Team GB’s group featured in last year’s World Championships in Helsinki and Stockholm.

I think this is a good juncture to make a confession: I didn’t think that Team GB would make it. However, the achievement of the team should not be disregarded or mocked. Given the infrastructure for the game in the UK, where rinks seem to be closing quicker than they are built (specially in the South), or are in dire need of renovation, Team GB pulled of a minor miracle by making it to the final qualification round.

What the team who went to Latvia have achieved, is a foundation that the powers that be should start building upon. Team GB may not feature in the highest tier of the World Championship stage, nor will we see them in the 2014 winter Olympics. However, what the success of the team shows is that the fan base is there and now it is time to build. What the UK should focus on in an ideal world right now is to invest more into the sport and adapt a junior system that is being used by some of the top countries in the world. I’m a big believer that the future of the game of hockey is in junior development and now if ever, it’s time to strike while the iron is hot.

The process won’t be easy, but done right, I can see that Team GB has a legitimate chance for the 2018 Winter Olympics. However, having been around the game here for a couple of years, I sadly doubt that it will happen due to the way things are ran and the fact that hockey is a sport that hardly receives any funding. Sure there  recently was a funding of £100k, but more is needed. £100,000 will not build a programme that would nurture the game here.

I know this opens up a debate that hockey is a minority sport and that the £100,000 is a good enough investment and why should ice hockey be invested in. Well, even though a minority sport, it was good to hear the game being called on the radio and actually hear fans chanting “Let’s go GB”. The fan support is there and my Twitter stream was filled with tweets from the games. Team GB’s games were picked up by ESPN here in the UK, a great feat for the sport. I’ve thought this for the longest time, but the local leagues (Elite League and Premier League) should be shown on free-view TV. Having them shown and (what I find) often buried on Sky sports 2 is doing the sport no favours here. But as with many other things, money talks. I would be as bold as to hazard a guess that apart from the people who follow ice hockey actually know that the sport is shown on Sky Sports 2, or that the NHL is on Premier Sport.

 

EDIT: This was something that Graham Goodman said on Facebook and I totally agree with him. British players should cast their eyes to European leagues as well and seek contracts outside of the confines of GB. There were a couple of players who did not ply their trade in the British leagues and ultimately the international experience from different leagues (and potentially better leagues) will make the standard of the national team better. Many of the teams GB played against had A LOT of players on the roster that played in countries other than their own.

While Team GB may have lost all of its games in the tournament, it is nothing to be laughed at. Though any self-respecting hockey player will tell you that the losses sting and they suck, but in the grand scheme of things, this team that went so far, have the potential to be regarded as pioneers for the game here. They have laid a foundation on which to build the sport on and the powers that be now need to strike while the iron is hot or the achievement by these guys will have been for nothing.

Follow the author on twitter: @amateur_hockey

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