Former St. Lawrence University forward and 100-point man Mike McKenzie is navigating through the American professional hockey ranks. He currently plays in the ECHL for the Florida Everblades.
He is keeping a journal of his life post college and in the pro ranks and agreed to let me share it with you each Sunday. These words are his own. If you would like to ask Mike questions about minor hockey life or his writing, e-mail them to me (email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will pass them along. You can also follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMcKenzie11.
December 12, 2010
It's Sunday afternoon here in Florida and I'm feeling nice and rested after a much needed sleep-in. We played Greenville two more times this weekend and lost both Friday and Saturday, but I thought we played well in both games and it shows how close the margin is between winning and losing games. Both games were really tight checking again and had that playoff atmosphere.
To get into the holiday spirit, we wore special holiday jerseys for both games. Without getting into too much detail lets just say they were very colorful and bright and got the holiday message across.
Even though they were a little tacky it was cool to get to do something different like that and surprise the fans a bit. When we came out for warm-up on Friday night, I looked around to see the reaction from the people in the crowd and I swear I saw a bunch of people instantly pull out their cameras to take pictures and videos of our new threads. In this league you see a lot of different ideas to try to sell the game, especially in the south where the sport's popularity is growing rapidly but is still foreign to many. I have no problem with these different ideas and promotions and think they can be a useful tool for putting fans in the seats, especially people new to the game.
While the Christmas jerseys may have been a little off the board, Saturday's event was the complete opposite. The good-old Teddy Bear Toss has been a staple of pro/college/junior hockey throughout the past decade or so. It is a really cool event and, of course, supports a great cause.
On Saturday we had our toss and I was lucky enough to be on the ice for the goal and even pick up an “apple” (that means assist in hockey language for those who are wondering why I had a piece of fruit with me during the game). When we scored, bears of all shapes and sizes flew onto the ice. It was actually quite a scene. We started sweeping the bears into piles to help with the clean up and after a couple minutes of doing this, I looked up and saw people were still throwing them. That's when I decided to let the clean-up crew earn their keep. Tomorrow a bunch of us will be heading to the hospital to give out some of these bears to kids.
That is all for now people, we have our team/booster club Christmas party now.
December 13, 2010
Yesterday we had our booster club Christmas party. Lots of fun was had and so much food crushed (By crushed, I mean engulfed). Rookies had to go up front and sing a Christmas song, and we obviously nailed it.
We have a great booster club and the work they do is often behind-the-scenes stuff but it does not go unnoticed.
We had pracky (that's practice) this morning and after grabbing a quick lunch a bunch of us headed over to Health Park Hospital to give out some teddy bears. It is always good to give back to the community. When the sign-up sheet for volunteers went up in the dressing room for this, it was a no brainer for me to sign up.
Being a professional athlete, even if it is at a minor league level, comes with some responsibility to do some good for the fans and people of the community. It's not so much a chore as it is actually part of the job. Compared to guys in the AHL or NHL, we may not have as much money to donate or the fame to start a big organization, but little things like this go a long way and it is the least we can do.
Going to the hospital was really rewarding, especially after seeing how happy some of the little guys were to see us. We met a lot of great kids today that will be spending the holiday season in a hospital room.
One person that stood out to me was a teenage boy named Chase. He was actually our mascot, Swampee, a year or two ago. He was diagnosed with cancer not too long ago. He said, “Last year, I was here as Swampee visiting cancer kids and now Swampee is here visiting me, and I'm the one with cancer. It is funny how things workout.”
This boy now needs a bone marrow transplant and luckily his brother is a perfect match and is donating. Even though he will be spending Christmas in the hospital and knows how hard the road is ahead, his spirits were so high and had the most amazing attitude about everything. He really left an impression on me and made me think how fortunate my family and I am to be healthy. Meeting people like this certainly puts a bad hockey game or bad day into perspective. I wish the best of luck to him and his family going forward.
More to come later this week while on the road.
December 18, 2010
I’ve been slacking lately and took a few days off writing.
OK, now that you’ve all forgiven me, I’m in Charleston, SC, after a short stop in Greenville (yes we played them 4 straight times, thanks schedule-maker people). Great win Wednesday followed by a tough loss Friday leaves me here Saturday with a day off before our final game of the trip tomorrow.
It is that time of the year when everyone is starting to feel the grind of the long season. I have already played a total of 34 hockey games since the start of the Traverse City tourney. In college, a team is lucky if it plays 40 games in a year, so it has been a bit of an adjustment for my body to play so many games. I find it to be more mental though. If you don’t think about it, it doesn’t bother you. The minute you start thinking your body might be worn out or tired, you’re beat. Luckily our coaches understand it is a long season and they gave us the day off skating to give the boys some much-needed rest. I don’t like days where we don’t get to get on the ice but sometimes a day off can do more good than harm and that is definitely the case today.
Instead of hockey today, we had a team movie outing and went to see “The Fighter”. Really solid flick, would recommend it for sure. We also have a team dinner tonight which is always a good time.
Once we get home we have two more home games on the 21st and 22nd and then I get to fly home on the 23rd. I am really excited to get a chance to go home even though it is only for four days because some guys don’t even get that chance. It will be nice to spend time with the family and rest up for the second half of the season. This will be my last journal until after Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. See ya in 2011.