You’ve played your last game, run out of minor eligibility and there are no scouts clamouring to sign you… What now?
First, try to focus on all the friends and memories you’ve made over your hockey career. Some of my best friends are people I played hockey with at 15. They were in my wedding party and over 25 years later we still stay in touch and get together to play.
Where do I play now?
You still have plenty of ways to get your hockey fix. If you still have an itch to scratch it’s time to research Adult or “Beer” leagues. You could reach out to friends and find that older brother or cousin who runs a team. Ask a lot of questions. What’s the team/league like? Are there special rules to protect players? How much will it cost? (Yes, your parents will no longer be footing the bill for your hockey. It was bound to happen!) You could also form your own team with friends.
You can find both independent and cross-Canada leagues. Check out the Hockey Canada website for their agreement with the Adult Safe Hockey Network operated by Canlan Ice Sports or CARHA Hockey. Both offer some form of tournaments, Regionals and National, to keep those competitive juices flowing.
What else can I do with my skills?
If playing once or twice a week isn’t enough to keep you going, then you may want to research volunteer coaching. Minor hockey organizations are always in need of volunteers and it’s a great way to give back to the game you love. Check with your local organization or any friends or relatives who are involved and see what time commitments you can give.
I coached for over a decade when I was single and had more time on my hands, which I think allowed me to be a little more impartial than I would have been with a kid on the team. Coaching gave me a great perspective on the game, as well as how to relate to kids, fellow coaches, executive members, referees, parents and so on. My coaching experience made me a better parent, coach, husband and person.
What about making a few bucks?
So okay, you are no longer vying for a spot with the Maple Leafs or Canadiens, but you still want to make some extra bucks with your skills. After all, it’d be nice to get some value out of all the money put in to your career. Why not referee?
The game couldn’t be played without refs. Their job is to ensure hockey is safe and as fair as possible. I started refereeing later in life and I really came to enjoy it. You stay more in tune with the game, learn how to react and deal with various situations and make judgment calls, all the while making extra money for your next trip or big purchase.
Be prepared for some yelling, swearing and all-around belligerence as well as joking, laughing and camaraderie. Before you decide to put on the stripes, do your research! Ask your local minor hockey association about schedules, training and cost of equipment. A high percentage of kids who sign up to ref only last one season or less. Those who survive learn some life lessons in a hurry.
At the end of the day, hockey is a great game but it’s just that; a game. We learn from it and hopefully make life-long friends.