There’s a common conception among people that hockey players are wild party animals. To an extent we are. You might’ve heard the stories of the Bruins’ epic Stanley Cup party bar tap, or other legendary tales from within the game. Or just recently how the NHL has a rising number of players allegedly using cocaine. For me, having a good time is part of the game, but for me, the parties are more or less a thing of the past. Boring old fart? Let me explain this
I’m not saying I’m teetotal, or that I don’t drink at all during the season. I usually have a beer after the game in the pub, but I very rarely get to a stage where I would be classed as drunk. For me, hockey is about setting guidelines and being disciplined in your day-to-day life, both in-season and off-season. Perhaps that is what fascinates me in the game so much – the personal discipline that is required. I usually schedule four times into the year when I allow myself to let loose a little bit; Cup Final (providing we win), Conference championship, Play-off championship (Providing we win) and end of season party. Last season I let loose three times out of the four. Anything else to me is excess and one thing I’m trying to cut out is excess. Of any kind. If we don’t achieve any of the big wins, then there’s no partying either.
I’m all for blowing out a little steam. We all need to do it and it is a very human thing to do. Some people like to go out, some people like to relax at home, go to the cinema and so forth. For me, going out during the season, or the reason why I go out so rarely is a conscious decision that has reasons behind it.
The first one is that if I go out, I know I will miss a workout that I have scheduled for that day and invariably, the day after will be a total write off too. If we didn’t take into account the above criterion when I allow myself to let loose and assuming that you go out every week it would mean that I would miss 104 workouts per year. That is 104 chances of making yourself a better player and a better person through hard work. In those 104 days, someone else will be pounding the streets and lifting the weight that I should be lifting to get better, stronger and faster. I would cheat myself and my team if I allowed myself to slack that much during the year.
Second reason is that I enjoy having clarity of thought. When I was straight edge, it was one of the things that I really enjoyed was that my thinking wasn’t cloudy (or impaired) and that I could rationalise all my actions to myself and be accountable for what I did and didn’t do. Now, if I for some reason skip a workout, that is on me and trust me, it will eat away at me like it does when we lose a game. No matter how well I reason the decision to myself, be it an injury or if I just need to sleep. Being hungover or drunk is a piss poor excuse to me. Sure you could train hungover, but the quality of your work output would be so diminished you might as well not do it.
Thirdly, like I mentioned, I’m trying to cut out excess and drinking would – in my mind – ruin the work that I have already done during the week. Hangover is a state, where effectively, your body eats itself as it is trying to get rid of all the toxins. That’s not to say that I only eat kale and that my body is chiselled from stone. Far fucking from it. I’m a human being, not an antique Greek god statue.
Fourth reason being – and I’m going to be showing my age here – I just do not see the point of going out. When I was a teenager and through university, I partied… I partied hard. I think I got all the ‘crazy’ out of my system.
Fifth reason is that I simply cannot cope with my hangovers. They are brutal and they last for days. After the end of season party, it took me three days to feel ‘normal’ again.
Hockey is a sport where nothing is given to you. You need to take everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. You need to be able to take possession of the puck by checking opponents, you need to create space for yourself and your line mates, you need to be able to take space away from opponents, you need to take your place in the roster and so on. The only way to do that is to be in good enough condition strength and fitness wise that you are able to take everything that is needed. Nothing is given to you and it is therefore so important that you are able to put in the work off the ice, so that life on the ice is that much easier.
This is in no way saying that everyone should adhere to my school of thought. Because that is what it is. It is my school of thought and I’m not going to be pressing my views on anyone else to say that “this is the way you should do things”. I’m not judging guys who go out (except if they turn up drunk or hungover for a game). It is a way that works for me and what I have found gives me the greatest focus. It is frustrating as hell sometimes and there are times that I just want to grab the bottle and drink it all away, but then, I tell myself that I’m being a fucking idiot.
Your shelf life as an athlete – and especially as a hockey player – is limited. Your career could end every time you step on the ice. The way I look at it, I want to enjoy every minute of the game and when – inevitably – the time comes to walk away from the game, I can look back and look at myself in the mirror that I did everything I could. I pushed myself above and beyond my limits and I left it all on the ice. No compromises.
I only wish that I would’ve realised all of this when I was younger, but I am happy that I HAVE realised it. This journey in hockey, fitness and self discovery has been truly amazing and long may it continue.