By, Brendan Collins
“Let’s play some pond hockey today.”
The words were from a dear friend and former teammate on our local Mite 9 travel team. Kyle Robillard was inviting me to a pond covered in snow and with no guarantee of how deep the ice was.
I figured, ‘Why not?’
This, after all, is where our sport started, kids putting on skates on local ponds, rivers, and lakes. Not only that but Kyle’s girlfriend was out there with a shovel carving out an ice rink in the deep snow. My pride kicked in; I had to help. I laced up my skates for the first time in a year and hit the ice with a shovel in my hands. The three of us carved out a mini hockey rink as big as we could in the deep snow, and after over an hour of hard work we had ourselves a playing surface. I reached out to everyone via text messages and other social media, asking them to come down and join in a pond hockey game: the Sunday Game.
Within an hour there were an additional five players. I went back to my car to grab my stick and hockey gloves and when I opened my bag I saw my custom-made #24 BU Travis Roy jersey. When I saw it my body went numb. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun Travis would have being here at this moment, and I realized how fortunate I was to be able to play. I also realized that all the years of intense competition to play college hockey, and the emptiness after my career was over, had masked much of my pure love of the sport. I have been a hockey scout for the past two years and a coach for two years prior to that, and with all those hours in the rinks watching hockey I lost my pure passion for the game. Don’t get me wrong. I love going to hockey games and analyzing players. It’s fun and I enjoy it very much, but it’s not the same thing.
Since that original skate we decided to name the rink the Combination Complex and made several upgrades to the surface in preparation for the next Sunday Game, a tip of the hat to the film Mystery, Alaska. Kyle manufactured goals out of wood pallets. I, with the help of my boss, constructed a homemade Zamboni. Chris Adams came with his four-wheeler and plow to expand the playing surface. We brought our Zamboni onto the ice for the first time before the start of the second Sunday Game, and it worked beautifully. The addition of goals, a grill, a clean sheet of ice, and a good group of players took the Sunday game to the next level. Everyone from Kyle, Chris, Steph and all the others who showed up to play took this from a pick-up game to a weekly event that every player looks forward to.
We just finished our third Sunday game this week. When I saw the players fighting for a puck along the snowbank, the smiles and laughs between periods, and the joy of someone scoring a goal, it took me back to dusting off my bag and seeing that #24 jersey. I wear that jersey every week Travis, and while it may sound corny to some, it makes me feel like we are both out there together. No matter how cold it is, no matter how much work it is to get that rink in top shape for the puck drop, I will be there because it means more to me than just a game. It is where our sport was born. It is where my love of the game was cultivated and it is where I can throw on my hero’s colors and, even if it’s just for one moment, I am Travis Roy scoring the game-winner against Boston College in the Beanpot finals. And when the sun sets behind the Vermont mountains and it’s time to pack up and go home, I realize that I owe everything in my life to the man who wore the #24 jersey. And I can’t wait for next Sunday to be him, again.