He found better emotional health and a new community (w plenty of homemade trophies) when he joined the league.
I didn’t play hockey until I was 25 years old. I’d just moved to a new city and didn’t know anyone, and, in my search to find a job, I needed something to pass the time and stay in shape. Not wanting to victimize myself to a running routine, I found and joined an introductory men’s league, figuring that, worst case scenario, I’d learn how to skate and have a cool story or two to tell my wife.
Five years, four tournaments, and countless leagues later, I’ve fully embraced the beer league life. I captain a team, attend watch parties for the Stanley Cup final, get together for drinks or food, and try to talk everyone I know into skating along with me. Despite having played sports for most of my life, I haven’t considered myself an athlete until this even though it’s the least athletic endeavor I’ve undertaken. What I’ve realized, though, is that it’s the intangibles that have made it valuable to me. My marriage is better for it, I’ve increased my social network, and I feel better about myself in ways I didn’t think I could. Simply put, it’s taught me a lot of what I needed to know to better myself as a husband, friend, and worker.
Lesson 1: Find a community
When I first moved, I didn’t realize how much of a community I lacked.
I had my friends from college, but they were scattered across the country. In joining an introductory hockey league, I forced myself into a situation where I had something in common with everyone around me: we all wanted to play, but none of us could. By meeting these guys at ground-level and building ourselves up as a collective whole, we grew not only as teammates but as friends, too. Any beer leaguer will tell you that half the fun is in the pre- and post-game, and there’s no better way to do that than by coming in on neutral, judgement-free ground. We were all bad, but we all got better together because we relied on one another as a part of the game. In the years since, we’ve helped each other move, gone on road trips, and celebrated each other’s accomplishments both on and off the ice.
Hockey sparked this, but the relationships that developed as a result of it provided me with a community we enjoy and rely on.
Lesson 2: Be proud
When I finally landed a job, it was a bad one, but it paid the bills. Playing hockey gave me something to put value in even when what I wanted value out of couldn’t provide it, and learning how to do something new distracted me from what was otherwise a bad situation. Having something to fall back on during hard times can help keep your emotional health in check, which benefits you both personally and professionally.
Lesson 3: Don’t be too serious
The trophies I’ve won as a beer leaguer have been made of an old keg, a plastic bust, and a wooden barrel.
My goalie’s jersey doesn’t match the rest of the team’s, and the largest crowd I’ve played in front of is five or ten. While I’d love to lift the Stanley Cup in front of a full arena, I never will, but the reality is that that’s okay. When you play in front of three people for an old keg with a mixing bowl welded to the top, you can’t take yourself too seriously. Having something you can laugh at and enjoy, even in the most competitive of ways, can give you the boost you need to get through the things that might not be so easy.
This isn’t to say that joining a beer league hockey team will solve everything. It didn’t for me. What it did do, though, was meet me in my harder times and give me something to fall back on (even when I didn’t need it). By putting yourself out there and trying something new, you might just give yourself what you need to make the next step, lift your spirits, or just bring something new to your life. Whatever it is, find something you love, even if it ends up being a hobby you do for an hour or two a week. It’s worth it.
Photo: Getty Images
And thank you for sharing this!