Growing up in Dryden, Canada has afforded me a lot of great memories; roughhousing and wrestling in the snow with my older brother, playing road hockey with a rink with boards made by snow plows or the outdoor rink just two blocks away. We were toughened by the frigid cold and uninterrupted by the lack of internet. For my family, hockey was an influence from the start, if we weren't playing road hockey, we were at our hometown rink just enjoying the game for what it was. We always loved hockey and always loved playing the game of hockey.
I always knew that hockey wasn't only a hobby for me but a talent of mine, growing up moving from team to team and eventually advancing to the Ontario Hockey League, I was always one of the better kids on my teams. As I grew older, I started to see where the game could take me. It didn’t take long to realize that I would be on the road at a young age. I had a lot of fun playing in Ontario when I moved away from home. I didn't take the normal NHL hockey route, I played high school hockey during ninth and tenth grades, during 10th grade is when I was scouted by the Stratford Cullitons in Midwestern Ontario Junior B league. Everyone has their own path to the NHL, there is no right or wrong answer, this is just how things played out for me. A lot of parents and young players ask me if there is a right or wrong way to get noticed. Honestly, there isn’t. If the talent is there, the rest will take care of itself.
For me, as you can imagine, leaving home at 15 was different and probably one of the most challenging things I have done in my lifetime. It wasn't an easy transition but I was very excited to play at a higher level than I was used to and challenge myself, even though I was playing with 19 and 20-year-olds when I was 14 and 15 years old. It taught me a lot about how to protect myself and I was able to gain maturity on the ice and learn at a more rapid pace. By the end of my first season in Stratford, I felt like I had already outgrown the league but there was still a major decision to come. Should I follow my brother, Sean, and go the NCAA route or pave my own path to the NHL and head to the OHL. It was a difficult decision at the time and one never knows if they are making the right choice until much, much later. The OHL helped me when it was time to play in the NHL. I was already used to the rigorous travel and long arduous 66 game season, while playing three to four times a week. I was already used to becoming tired and run down. Then add in the grind of the playoffs and you really know what the long NHL season can feel like.
Looking back on things, the love of the game meant I had to grow up sooner than most, leaving home when I was only 15, it made me who I am today. I look at my kids today, and it’s crazy to think that at their age I was getting ready to leave home. Thankfully, I had great people looking out for me and my best interests wherever I traveled to.
Knowing how traveling at a young age helped me become a more well-rounded individual, Lauren and I knew how important traveling would be for our children. My kids are more cultured from traveling and experiencing different parts of the world, understanding where and how people grow up is so beneficial. Traveling opens your eyes to different perspectives, in return, making you a better, more in-tuned person.
We all want our children to have a better life than we had, but I also want them to have struggles and go through different adversities. Our kids today are already more aware of the world with the help of technology than I ever was growing up, but traveling is an excellent teacher.
“Climb the mountain so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”