Growing up, there wasn’t much cooler than seeing the high school kids at the rink with their matching bags. There was status in having one of those bags. You were one of the guys. They had the team name, the team colors, and if your team was really good it often had the player’s name and number on it.
I went to one of (if not the) best high-school hockey programs in the country. At the time they were in the middle of a run of 20+ consecutive state championships, with a couple national championships thrown in for good measure. Our rink was notorious, our coach legendary, our team unstoppable.
My freshman year, I barely made the practice squad for the JV team. I was a good hockey player, but these guys were the best. I didn’t stand a chance to skate in games as a freshman.
Halfway through the season, my grandfather died. Without getting too into that story (that’s another blog for another day), my grandfather was the driving force behind my youth hockey career. Losing him was the catalyst that began my loss of love for hockey.
But that was still a few years away.
My sophomore year I dressed. As a gift for finally making the team, my mom and grandmother bought me a team bag. To them, much like my grandfather, I had to earn it. And finally, I had.
I’ve carried my equipment in that bag with pride for 23 years. To this day it remains a status symbol. I’ve played hockey all over the United States, and more often than not someone recognizes the bag and the school and the history and significance that comes along with it.
Eventually we move on from the things we once were.
I’m about to turn 36 years old, I have a daughter, a wife, 2 dogs, and a mortgage. I have lived almost 60% longer than I had when I was first gifted my old hockey bag. I’ve gone to war twice. Played hockey at Fenway Park. Studied at like 6 different colleges. Got my Masters Degree. Been tested for prostate cancer.
Why this year was the year, I’m not sure. I probably realized at some point that where I went to high school doesn’t really matter any more. Both as a person, and as a hockey player I’ve grown and done so much that those 4 years are barely a single shift in a game that spans my entire life. Or it could be that the bag is old, the zippers barely worked, and it had a smell that never fully went away.
So this year for my birthday I asked for a new hockey bag. There’s no point in holding on to something that should have been let go of years ago, but moving on is hard. Especially from what may be the last thing I have that connects me to who I was 23 years ago. But eventually, and inevitably, we move on from the things we once were.