Sneak Preview—New Series
Clearing the Ice:
This Piece of My Heart
From the first time my dad laced up a pair of skates when I was three and helped me wobble across a frozen pond, I knew I’d play pro hockey. Just like every other kid in Canada who played pick-up games wherever frozen surfaces beckoned. By five, my brother, Tom, and I played in local leagues, pretending we were Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and many other heroes from the NHL. I craved the feeling of racing up and down the ice with the puck on my stick. We spent hours practicing slap shots into a home-made goal. Never could convince any of our friends to play goal, so we crafted crude cardboard goalies. I sure wanted nothing to do with that position. It was more fun to smash the puck through that cardboard cut-out.
School was okay, but hockey was life. As we grew older, my brother spent more and more time with his head in textbooks, while I focused on the skills I needed to play pro hockey. I set goals. I needed to play on the best teams, in the top leagues. When I was old enough for Major Juniors, I knew I must play in the Ontario Hockey League—one of the leagues the NHL scouts followed. Everything I did centered on that goal. I spent more summer time in the weight room with a conditioning coach than I did joining my brother and our friends running around town, swimming in lakes, flirting with the hot girls.
None of that mattered, though, when I was invited to play in the OHL. The ultimate goal beckoned. The NHL Entry Draft. Get drafted by my hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite doing the absolute minimum to graduate high school, I had numerous scholarship offers from universities in the States. At the same time, The Leafs chose me as their first-round draft pick.
Easy decision. The signing bonus helped pay my brother’s upcoming med school tuition and took some financial pressure off my parents. Besides, I was ready and prepared to take that next step.
Flash-foward, I’m spending this summer prepping for my fourth season with the Leafs. I intend to use the summer down time to enjoy hanging out with friends and family, keep in shape, and erase all memories from that disastrous two-year joke of a relationship that imploded in May.
Not that I plan to revisit that first year or so in the pros. I’d eagerly sampled the attentions of a never-ending line of women who wanted nothing more than to spend one night with a professional athlete. Believe it or not, one-night-stands with absolutely gorgeous women whose names I never bothered to remember becomes tedious. And that steady relationship I tried for two years? Finding your so-called girlfriend in your own bed with some other guy certainly opened my eyes.
Maybe it’s time to cut the fun and games and concentrate on things that are important—win the Stanley Cup, give my brother any support he needs as he starts his Internship Rotations, help Mom and Dad around their house. A grown-up at twenty-four?
I’m not particularly looking, but if I do meet someone who interests me…well, I’ll just see where things go.
Neither Caryn nor Andrew expected their two very different worlds to collide on a beautiful June day…
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Coming May, 2016: This Piece of My Heart