This may all come off as vain, but guess what, I'm the E.O.C. of TJHP (also could be a rapper known as MC TDC with how this sentence is flowing) so I can pretty much do what I want.
This article though is about my journey to where I'm at now.
At 4:04(?)pm this afternoon, the Earth will have done a complete orbit around the Sun with me on it exactly 30 times.
But the number isn't the important part, it's what I've done in that time.
Starting at 18 I jumped behind the bench as an assistant coach to the JV and Varsity team for my Alma mater HS program while also trying to play ACHA D2 hockey (that didn't pan out).
I took a couple year hiatus from competitive hockey and coaching to "explore other opportunities" (girlfriend, numerous part time jobs, community college, men's league, joining a band) that gave me a nice little break from the grind of what hockey had been the previous 12 years.
But then the itch came back, and I wanted to get behind the bench again. I wanted to teach and coach kids and older players the things I was never taught so that they could possibly make it farther than I ever did. So I applied and was hired by the local program I had family playing in and I worked my ass off to learn as much about skills, the mechanics behind them and how to teach the progression. I brushed up on effective ways to run practices that were different from when I played. I was lucky to be mentored by some highly respected and knowledgeable hockey people in the local hockey community. That mentoring took me from teaching learn-to-skate and running a house league team, to running my own private skills instruction, camps and coaching at a higher level of travel hockey. I ran into plenty of issues and learning experiences too, and it wasn't all rainbows and butterflies, but I learned from those issues and mistakes and how I could have avoided or done things differently. Even to this day I'm still "living and learning".
I was able to work with youth players of all levels: House, AA and even AAA. Heck, on Monday one of the first kids I worked with giving lessons to when he was a squirt was just drafted into the USHL and has an NCAA commitment (I'd love to take any form of recognition, but just being able to have worked with him is enough).
Then things started to stall a little bit. I was still constantly learning whether it was reading books, watching YouTube videos, watching or attending seminars, but I wanted to take the next step.
Its weird how life works, as I got lucky at the right time.
I reached out to Eric Hofmann, a long time friend, about getting into the junior hockey jungle, and just as luck would have it, he had an opportunity for me to work with a now defunct Tier 3 club out of Minnesota, the Rochester Ice Hawks as the Midwest Regional Scout (franchise didn't get sold because of me). From there I was literally thrown right into the fire (which you can read here) and I met a ton more people working for the club as well as junior hockey community that constantly provided me with information and the ability to grow. I traveled out to Indy one weekend, and a few weeks later I'd be in Denver. You learn a lot about yourself when trying to recruit players for a Tier 3 program and constantly hearing "I want to play Tier 2" or just plain getting ghosted without an answer (which you can read about here).
I also quit my full time job in sales and stepped into making hockey my career. I upped my hours around the rink as the skills instructor for the house and travel program, increased my clientele for private lessons and worked a season being an assistant coach for Robert Morris University ACHA program.
Eventually I hit the jackpot after a year of being an Assistant Director and was handed the keys to the travel hockey program I started with and now oversee the development and creating the curriculum for 100+ youth players and working with 15+ hockey staff members as the Hockey Director.
Once things headed south with Rochester, I took a breather from scouting and recruiting. But, Hofmann came calling with another opportunity and I'm back in the swing of Scouting/Recruiting again with the Steele County Blades of the USPHL (though I still show have no favoritism towards anyone league as evident by my thrashing of certain leagues in articles, including the USPHL).
I got involved here at TJHP because they think I'm a pretty decent writer (jokes on them) and because of that I've been involved even more in the collective hockey community meeting and connecting with people all across the US and North America.
At the end of the day, what I really want to say is that I hope someone out there reading this, especially someone younger than myself who just got done with HS, Juniors or College hockey and has the itch to give back to the game in some capacity, can see that it is possible and that the experience and time spent can be amazing. Whether its going to Canada to coach a PW AA team, watching and working with young players who go from barely able to stand on skates to leaving your program because they've gone on to higher level leagues because of their skill development, working with people who've been in the business before you were born and hearing their stories or meeting new people in general, hockey has been very rewarding to me.
I've been able to interview some great hockey minds as well as just enjoy the hockey community on twitter and all the banter but also information out there. I've learned to be humble, honest and be adaptable. I've learned to listen and see things from all angles. I've gotten better at dealing with confrontation and not be a "people pleaser" when I feel someone else is wrong.
All of this was because I took the initiative to take on extra projects or tasks in the club and put myself out there, and trust me it's scary when you are young. I didn't always have confidence in certain areas, but the only way to get confidence is to go through the experience and I've gotten there. Maybe it's dealing with an unhappy parent (those are tough situations to navigate) or working with kids who are difficult to motivate, each time you have that opportunity, you learn new things and get more comfortable.
Am I perfect? Absolutely not (I am awesome). Do I live a luxurious life? Nope. Am I making hundreds of thousands of dollars? Negative. Do I consider myself one of the best at my jobs? Not even close. But am I doing what I love? Hell yeah, and I'm still just barely scratching the surface of what's out there and what else I can get from the game.
When you hang the skates up, you can still get a lot more in your life from the game besides 10:50pm beer league games.
So here's to the last 10 years of life off the ice, whether its on the bench or in the stands, and I look forward to what it offers me and allows me to continue to grow and become a better person for hopefully another 30-40 years!