One day you’re sitting in your office writing about breakfast cereals designed to improve your sexual performance and the next you’re staring a 25-year-old Russian giant in the chest while sheepishly looking for a puck.
That’s right. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a hockey player now. Well, probably. I’m waiting to hear back from the coaching staff of the Florida Everblades. You see, the ’Blades held free agent tryouts recently and, to mix sporting metaphors, I think I really hit it out of the park.
Forty-five guys came from as far away as the aforementioned Russia and as close as my house to show Head Coach Greg Poss we had what it takes to join the former ECHL champions.
Didn’t know Mr. Adventure was an extraordinary hockey player? Well, these were open tryouts. All you needed was $300 and a way to get to Germain Arena. And though Mr. Adventure hasn’t actually paid out of pocket for anything since 1996, he does have transportation capable of delivering him to Estero.
The problem is that I’d never actually played competitive hockey. Or hockey. In fact, I hadn’t been on the ice since 1998 when I covered the U.S. Olympic Trials in Lake Placid, New York. And even then the only reason I was on the ice was because the mini- fridge in my room was broken and I didn’t want my milk to spoil.
Nevertheless, when I walked through the doors of Germain Arena and saw that big poster of Swampee (the mascot) and felt the cool air of the ice rink, none of that mattered. (Especially the part about the milk.)
What mattered is that I had the fire in my belly and believed I had what it took to beat people up competitively in front of others while referees feign outrage. Need more proof? I regularly wear gloves—even in summer—just so I can throw them down and attack the person nearest to me. And from what I understand, that’s hockey.
And with the wonderful dental plan offered by Gulfshore Life, I was pre- pared to throw caution—and possibly a bicuspid—to the wind. I ask you, who among us doesn’t want to punch a foreigner in the throat occasionally?
That’s certainly the vibe I got from Ivan (the Russian). The guys were split into two teams (red and green), and coaches would rotate players in and out to see who had what it took to be a member of a team that won the Kelly Cup just two years ago.
Not surprisingly, I was ready for the challenge. What I wasn’t ready for is the smell of a hockey locker room. Imagine collecting aged sweat in teak buckets—then pouring those buckets out over old socks and onto musty basement carpeting. Holy Mother of God. Trust me when I tell you there is not enough Febreeze in the world to correct the malodorous offense that greets your olfactory.
By comparison, the offices at Gulfshore Life have virtually no smell whatsoever. Zero. If Yankee Candle were to offer Gulfshore Life as a scent, it would be an empty glass jar with a $24.95 price tag stuck on the outside. But I digress.
What is cool about the Everblades locker rooms is that they featured the old lockers of the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL. Peter Karmanos Jr., who owns the Hurricanes, also owns the Everblades (not to mention Germain Arena), so when the Hurricanes got newer, fancier lockers, the ’Blades got their hand-me-downs. Better still, all of the guys trying out for the team walked into the locker room to find Everblades jerseys with their names on them hanging from their locker. That alone was worth the price of admission. A-D-V-E-N-T-U-R-E.
Unfortunately, trying to put on those jerseys over a plethora of pads and guards and gloves requires a degree in mechanical engineering. By the time I finished pulling the jersey over my head and laced up my skates, the rest of the guys were already through two periods of play. And by the way, taking the gear off is actually even harder and apparently requires a buddy.
Even so, you may be asking yourself, “Why on earth would you want to be a professional hockey player?”
They say there are no stupid questions, but that’s downright moronic. The Everblades provide glamour (professional athletes get their socks darned nightly!), travel (Elmira! Reading! Toledo!), and camaraderie (some of your co-workers will speak English!). Being an Everblade has it all. Not to mention convenient outlet shopping next to the workplace. And then there are the Everbabes, the team’s cheerleaders, who were also holding tryouts, for girls interested in wearing hotpants in below-freezing temperatures.
Speaking of which, if there is a downside to being a professional hockey player, it’s that the job takes place almost exclusively on ice. There’s no secret that the ice is a fickle mistress: capable of keeping your eggs viable long after the prospect of a worthwhile relationship is gone, or, more likely, chilling a bottle of Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque in an effort to warm up those eggs. But damn, it’s not for standing upon.
All I can say is thank goodness for the elbow pads, the shoulder pads, the kneepads, the gloves and the helmet because it turns out I’m not good on ice. Or skates. Or those things put together. None of the other guys seemed to have a problem. But my ankles haven’t hurt like this since I left the touring company of 50 Shades of Grey—The Musical.
Luckily, after a few minutes of hugging the goal, it was understood that I was on a level completely different from the other players and PR Manager and Broadcaster Alex Reed decided it would be best to just film my abilities to show to Coach Poss at a later time.
It made perfect sense—assuming you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller Blink.
In a nutshell, the book states that we’ve developed the ability to absorb an amazing amount of information about a situation in a fraction of a second—a blink, if you will. And in that short span, almost subconsciously, we’ve gathered enough data to make quality, informed decisions. In fact, if given more time to think about something, we’ll probably muck it up, overthink it and make the wrong decision. That means that the little voice inside your head that makes you think there’s something not quite right about the person sitting next to you at The Cheesecake Factory—is probably spot on. My point? It doesn’t take long to recognize greatness.
Hmm, I wonder why I haven’t heard back from Coach Poss?