The Rink Rat Letters
- Finding a new hockey community in a new state. -
“I’m new. I don’t know what to do!!!” - Joe Dirt.
I am not the first person who has had to move to a new city and in my generation, it is becoming more common to move in order to find suitable employment. So, I don’t expect anyone to be sympathetic when I say, “Moving to a new state is frickin’ hard.”
I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and beside one year living in Ohio, most of my life was within a 100-mile radius. I played youth hockey there. I worked several jobs there. I went to university there. I started a career there. My brother and I started a youth camp there and all of my friends were there.
Building relationships is hard and when you have spent time and effort on people you expect those relationships to last forever. But that is not always the way life goes.
Finding a job to me was not a big thing because I have skills people need. However, finding a good group of hockey guys is the thing which scared me the most. Finding those guys who check all the boxes for good players and good friends are hard to come by. Those guys who you can gas on the bench and they take it in stride because they respect you as much as you respect them.
In Grand Rapids, I was absolutely spoiled. League dues were always paid and league championships were won. If you played like poop, someone was going to be in your ear telling you, “you are playing like poop.” Then share their beer, smuggled onto the bench in their gloves. These guys were gems.
This type of comradery only comes from being a good guy and knowing what good guys look like.
So, you can see why moving to a new city where I know literally zero people was a problem to me. That niche of people is hard to find and even harder to get into. But Pittsburgh is not a normal city.
I was a workaholic from Michigan who moved to Pittsburgh with no job. It didn’t take long before I became a little stir crazy. So, I talked myself into going to morning pick-ups. There were a couple ACHA boys out there but no one who shared my passion for the game. RMU has pick-up in the loosest sense of the word. There is ice and sometimes people go but to say it is like Michigan is just a lie.
When along came a long-hair with a bag of biscuits. I was an ex-college hockey player and he was just beginning but you could tell right away we were on the same page. He gave me his card and the rest is history.
That's all it takes. One interaction with the right person.
Since then, I have yet to find my way into one men’s league game but I don’t care. I get to skate and talk shop with guys I care to talk shop with. Pittsburgh is still new and has some work to do before I feel the same love for her as I did for Grand Rapids but she is off to a good start.
And the lesson is this. People are people no matter where you go. As long as you are willing to be yourself and meet new people you will find your people wherever you go!