Driving home last night, I had several thoughts cascading through my mind.  The most pervasive thought: I have reached the end.

No, I was not looking to harm myself.  I was thinking about how, with that drive, my time as a team manager, my time as a representative of an individual youth hockey team or youth hockey organization, was over.  It was the end of three years of being a representative of Micah’s last hockey organization.  It was the end of ten years of working for teams and organization for the benefit of Micah and his immediate teammates.  It was the end of my time working within hockey on someone else’s terms–and the beginning of working for youth hockey on my own terms.

True, no one forced me to work for one organization for the last three years.  In fact, as Micah would constantly remind me, I did not have to work for any organization.  He would have been just as happy if I was just a standard goalie dad–take him to practice, be there for his games, encourage him, etcetera.  I saw the global perspective though–I wanted to make Micah’s hockey experience better by doing what I could to make the whole landscape better.  Sometimes that meant working on an upcoming tournament Micah’s team would be participating in, or going to Board of Directors meetings to find out what was new and upcoming around the rink, or helping develop the schedule of games that Micah’s team would play.

Helping develop the schedule–that opened the door from working for the good of Micah’s team and organization to working for the good of all youth hockey players in the state.  As part of that move, I became a part of the primary state youth hockey league–and before long, I was helping run the league.  For the past five years, I have been a director, co-director, chairman, or co-chair of the state hockey league.  Is it a power trip?  Not really.  Most people don’t really bat an eye at the idea that I help run the state hockey league.  Is it all about making the big bucks?  Not at all.  Even though youth hockey is big money in this state (millions of dollars passing through the rinks), up through this season the people that have run the state hockey league have been purely unpaid volunteers–yours truly included.  Why do I do it then?  My love of kids, my love of youth hockey, my insane desire to work hard to make people smile.

The end was not easy.  There were more reminders of how I was doing all these things at the rink without my son on the ice.  There were more greetings and hugs from Micah’s former teammates.  There was frustration over spending the entire day–from 7:15am until 8:30pm either at an ice rink or in transit between ice rinks, with only a brief moment spent with my family.  There was an uneasiness every time I closed my eyes, as I continued to remember the moment my daughter called me on that fateful Thursday night.

This was only an end, not the end.  I will still help run the Arizona Youth Hockey League for at least one more season.  I will continue to work with my friends and hockey family with the PWC to put on a fantastic Cactus Cup MLK Jr Weekend hockey tournament (arizonacactuscup.com, if you might be interested in a great January hockey tournament in Arizona).  I will continue to be the public address voice of the Tucson Roadrunners.  But those will be the extent of my regular contact with hockey and youth hockey in the immediate future.

So, the beginning?  It is the beginning of the next stage of my life.  I’ll likely spend a little more time with baseball than hockey.  As I said in an earlier post, small moves…  Not going to jump into anything huge right away, but small changes.  I will spend more time with my family.  I will have more quiet evenings without needing to run to the rink.  I will learn to enjoy vacations that do not revolve around a hockey tournament.  And maybe I’ll start thinking about auditioning somewhere…for something…

More changes to come…