By Josh Martin, Sports Editor
Every athlete grows up imagining that they’ll turn pro. Playing a sport professionally in front of thousands of fans while making millions of dollars is the dream, but often just that—a dream. There’s always that one day when an individual realizes that those hopes and dreams are something of a fantasy.
Joining hockey at the late age of 12, my days were doomed before I had even started. What were the odds of a boy who could barely skate making it to the NHL? The story of late-bloomer Ed Jovanovski gave some hope for at least a couple more years in my career. The fact that the former Vancouver Canucks defencemen began playing organized hockey at the age of 11 and made it to the big leagues gave me the silly notion that perhaps I could do the same. It wasn’t until a couple years later when I was still playing on the house team that I realized “Jovo-Cop” was one in a million—a sad truth, right up there with Santa Claus.
It happened with my friends around the same time I imagine—realizing they weren’t the next Wayne Gretzky. Some realized it sooner than others, perhaps those of us who were not quite good enough to make the cut for the rep teams and excusing it with, “I just want to have fun this year,” or the classic, “I want to play with all my buddies,” in order to save our egos’ from a bruising. In the long run, maybe those of us who didn’t make the team or didn’t even tryout were let off a little easier with reality—the dream being cut short several years earlier than others.
For those who were good enough during those years of minor hockey of making the cut onto the rep teams, I feel for the most. After dedicating the majority of his life to hockey, including going to a hockey academy away from his friends in all of high school, leaving to the east of Canada for junior ‘B’ action in Ontario, and spending dollar upon dollar on replacing broken hockey sticks, getting new skates and gear, my friend has suffered the brutal rejection call harder than anyone I know. It was almost worse seeing him slowly come to the conclusion rather than realizing it for myself when I was an early teen. Like a little kid who would set out the cookies and milk every Christmas Eve, except this year they were still there in the morning.
The realization that you’re just not good enough is one of the toughest ones in life and perhaps the most important. Rejection is bound to happen and in this case it comes in the form of professional sports for me and my friends. But to those few kids who made their dreams their reality, we’re now watching them in arenas all over North America. That could maybe be you one day, but most likely not.