Why This Truly is the Greatest Game on Earth

Updated: February 13, 2014
Gilly's Gab | Todd Gillingham

(Reprinted with Permission – original article can be found here)

One of the most common questions I have posed to me since I’ve retired from the game of hockey is….”So Todd, you must miss the game and not playing anymore?”, up until today I can honestly say that I have answered this question the same way every time it has been asked to me and that was with a very affirmative “NO, not one bit at all!”

So why all of a sudden have I had a change of heart in how I feel about the game you may be asking yourself? Well, this week the St. John’s Ice Caps are hosting the annual AHL All-Star Game and because of this I had the opportunity to sit down with 2 ex teammates for a coffee and just chat about life. I have never been one to sit back and have any regrets at all about my career and how I approached it or even felt any remorse like so many do once their playing days are over. Yes, it is a very difficult path and your life really seems turned upside down once your career is over if you are not prepared and do not have the support system in place to help you make that transition a smooth one. I have at times during the change in careers questioned what it was all about and if it was worth it and even probably felt like I was owed something for sacrificing everything I had for a win or team-mate and some may even question that as well. However, today was probably the first time in a long while that my love and passion for this game was reignited.

I woke up this morning to read an article in The Telegram on my ex-teammate and Captain, Nathan Dempsey, who is one of the most well known and respected players to ever play professional hockey in this province. I made a point of reaching out to him then to see if he had any free time to grab a coffee and chat and within minutes he had gotten back to me and said he was meeting another ex-teammate, Greg “Birddog” Smyth who was a teammate of mine for more years than any other player I have ever played with during my career. Birddog still resides in St. John’s and unfortunately we don’t get to see each other very often at all but this was a day I was going to make sure I was able to get there with the both of them and it was the best thing I have decided to do in a long time.

The odd thing about all of this is that the 3 of us are all very different people but during our time together in St. John’s we all strived towards the same goal and that was to be successful and the best teammates possible, something that isn’t always there in today’s game. We sat and chatted about our lives now, our times together on and off the icc and how our lives have changed and our feelings about the game today and how it is a completely different culture than we played together. After leaving that get together this afternoon I sat in my car and thought about everything for a few minutes and realized just how lucky I was to actually be able to call these 2 guys not only teammates but friends. You see we all came from different eras and all approached the game differently but in the end we had one goal and that was all that matters. The unfortunate part about it all is that you don’t truly realize how important a part of your life that is until you are reminded about how much you learn and grow from having such people in your life even though you may only get together once every blue moon and probably never have the chance to tell them face to face because after all we are big tough hockey players who aren’t suppose to show emotion of any kind!

If you are into hockey either bit at all you must be well aware of the struggles I have openly discussed in my blog on mental health and the difficulties it is for a transition from one career to another or the culture of the GAME in the 90’s. If you are aware of this then I am quite sure you are in the know about the battles that my 2 ex-teammates have gone through and are currently going through in their lives and believe me if you were to sit down with either of them for a candid chat you would swear that they just won the Lotto Max because they have a zest for life like no other. I guess the point I am trying to make here is that even though we all have different life battles and issues in the end there is always someone experiencing things harder than you and I and to be able to sit down with them today and reminisce as though we just got off the plane ready for a 5 game in 8 nights road trip was an amazing thing to experience.

Its been more nearly 2 decades since I last played with Nathan and even though Birddog and I live in the same city our life paths don’t allow us to get together very often. When I walked into meet them today it was as though time had stopped and we had returned to the mid 90’s in Saint John, NB and just sitting down at Rocky’s for a beer and dinner and getting ready to go to war together the next night and be a part of the amazing GAME that we all love and have so much passion about!!

So….Next time someone stops me in a the restaurant, airport or wherever and says Todd, I have to ask you…”Do you miss the game at all?” I think my answer from here on will definitely be 100% YES and the reason for that is that you don’t meet people like this anymore in everyday life and I truly realize now how special it was to not only be on a team with guys like this but to be part of a family and fraternity of guys that all have one goal in mind!

Cherish every moment you have and live it to the fullest as you never know when the ride is going to be over.

Until the next time we cross paths again or are trying to decide to reach out to an old friend or teammate, DON’T hesitate to do so as you could end up being and feeling as lucky and fortunate as I do today!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Thanks again & God Bless!!!

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