Almost seven years ago, I graduated from the University of Maine and headed out into the real world. I took a job with a professional hockey team after an aborted stint as a financial advisor and had no idea what and where it would take me. There was no five-year plan, no long-term vision for the future. Life was day-to-day and that was ok for me. A year after taking that chance in Portland, another one came available a little further down the Pike in some place called Manchester. Some of my co-workers had gone there to work and the offer was open for me to join them. I needed a change and decided to take the plunge. In 5-and-a-half seasons after signing on the dotted line, I found a new home, grew up faster than I expected and helped created a new life for myself in an industry that I didn’t exactly go to college for. It’s been an amazing, confusing and exhilirating time full of accomplishments, learning experiences and fun.
This spring, this chapter of the book comes to an end as two weeks ago, I told my boss that this will be my final season with the team. (Yeah, feel free to take that statement in for a second. Believe me, it took me a while to say it).
In telling people, the big question has been ‘why?’ Honestly, there’s not one reason. I like my job even with the intensity, responsibility and stress I compound upon myself on a daily basis. I like the people I work with and they’ve been a huge reason why I’ve been able to stay in sports for so long. I like the area and have really grown to love living here, despite an implanted chip in my brain that tells me to move back to Portland a few times during the year. So why, Josh, why?
1) The Grind. A common question I get: “What do you do during the summer? Must be pretty easy, right?” Uhhh…not really. The summer for someone that works in a hockey front office is spent planning and preparing with some vacation time thrown in. While there’s obviously less weekends committed to work, there is still a good amount of shit to be done. Combine that with the actual grind of the season and there really is no down time to speak of, especially when your club is one of the best and you’re expected to stay this way. From October 7 through April 15, there are 28 weekends. This season, I have games on 20 of them. There are no make-ups days when I work a Saturday/Sunday. Multiply this schedule times the past six seasons and I’m ready to have a break. I’ve always found it strange that the media sometimes feels bad for athletes who have games on holidays or really tough stretches of games. No one ever mentions the front office people or the arena workers who don’t have multi-million dollar salaries to help offset their mental stress.
2) The Accomplishments: In all, I’m amazingly proud of what I’ve helped us accomplish here in Manchester. I love the city and how something as simple as a new arena and new team has become such an important thing to so many people. For example, we turned a recent game into a fundraiser for a fallen police officer’s family and raised over $50,000 for them. To say things like that make you feel good is an understatement. I can walk away at the end of this season with my head held high and proud of what I’ve helped create and to me, that’s really important. I never did get my Ice Girls approved, but that’ll be for another team. (Just kidding, ladies. Kind of.)
3) The Next Challenge. I’ve never been satisfied with what I’m doing but rather what else I can do. I have a variety of interests that I want to really focus on with writing being the main one. I keep talking about books and manuscripts, but I never set enough time aside to do it. Well, I’m tired of doing that and I hope that 2007 is the year when some of my visions start to take shape. I’ve been part of some interesting discussions lately involving some projects that will take some of you by surprise. I hate to be so secretive, but I hope the payoff will be worth it.
4) The Confidence. A few seasons ago, I’m not sure I had the confidence to really head out into the great wide world and direct my own destiny. Now? I’m more than ready. I have experience in a multitude of different areas and have an amazing group of friends and colleagues there to support me in every way. Seriously, the reason that so many people don’t fight to change their destiny is that they don’t think they can do it. I could have easily stayed at my current position for another few seasons, collected some great paychecks and been stable. But I want to try something else and the life training I’ve recieved has got me ready. I might succeed, I might fail, but most importantly, I have the confidence to try. Great friends and family and the desire to success will help do that to a fella.
SO, after all these statements, the big question remains and looms: Portland or Manchester? We’ll have to see. There are positive and negatives with both, but we’ll let fate make that choice. More on this another time….
As the book closes on this season in April, I will have worked more than 280 career games, including every Monarchs home game in the team’s history – one of only four people to make that claim. I have made amazing friends and amazing people who have done some amazing things. When I take my illegimate grandkids past the arena in 2043 in my flying car, I’ll be able to point to the arena and tell them about the glory days and what we created here (at which point, I’m sure they’ll throw me out of said car).
The final five months has arrived. Wow.
A quick shoutout to a band you’ve heard me talk about before – Portsmouth, NH’s band The Whatnot. I finally got a copy of their second cd, ‘One More For Pocket,’ and caught them Friday night performing at an awesome restaurant/bar in Dover, NH, called the The Brick House. I can’t say much more about them and urge you to pick up their discs (available on ITunes, Rhapsody, etc) or check them out live. Check ’em out at http://www.thewhatnot.com and click on their media player link for a few choice tracks.
thanks for reading, guys. The best is yet to come.
(If not, can I crash on your couch?)