The last competitive game of my career was played on Sunday, March 5, 2017 — and now it’s all setting in. Actually, it set in as I watched the puck sail into the top right corner of the net in overtime and the final buzzer went — the final buzzer for 15 years of my life.
Time moves forward and stops for nothing for no one. Before you know it, something you thought would never end has come to an end.
Whenever I close my eyes, I can see it — the high ceilings, the bright lights — everything! I can feel the warm chill of the ice and the crowd. I can feel the sweat trickle down my face and hear the sound of steel scraping on the ice. Ah, the bittersweet symphony of emotions I shared with teammates and, better yet, family members.
Then I open my eyes and reality comes back. Something I never thought would end has come to an end.
Fifteen Years! I wonder how many times I’ve laced up the skates, how many passes, how many hits, how many wins and how many losses. My life as a hockey player, which I clung to so dearly and worked so hard for, can now only be explored within my memory.
It’s been hard because I’ve been through a lot. Nobody really understands what I went through: a new city, a room full of unfamiliar faces, a lonely and empty feeling, and endless hours spent driving to play. I did this not once, not twice, but three times! It forces you to be older than your age and teaches a lot about life and suffering. It taught me a lot about myself and, at the end of the day, I am eternally grateful for the experience.
It’s a long story, a 15-year long story. It’s made me feel like I was on top of the world and then, other times, in the bottomless pit of depression. I learned to be strong and never back down. I think that’s the point of hockey, and any sport for that matter. Boys come to the arena, have a hell of a ride, and leave as men prepared for the real world.
I’m broken now — my legs are in rough shape and my knees are pained. I have scars arranged around my body — mementos and souvenirs each with a story to tell. I guess many years of physical work and persistence does that to you.
Although I’m tired and strained, I feel stronger after my hockey run. It was a great run! Riley Cousineau the player will forever last in my memory as a symbol of my childhood. I feel like it’s not the end but the beginning of the next chapter in my life. For my entire life, hockey has been preparing me for the rest of my life! So, thanks hockey, thanks for everything. It has been an honour serving and a pleasure doing business with you.
Thank you mom and dad for your never-ending support and love. Thank you for taking me everywhere from London, to Pittsburgh, to Cleveland, to Ottawa and Timbuktu. Finally, thank you for encouraging me to see through the grey. Without you, this would not have been possible. I also extend my thanks to Sam and my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and friends for making time in your busy schedules to get to a game here and there. It means the world to me.
Thank you to all my coaches, for teaching me all the valuable lessons that extend outside the rink and special thanks to Dan, Shawn, and Ralphie who provided me the best last year of hockey that I could ever ask for. Words cannot describe my gratitude! You guys renewed my faith and love for the game of hockey. You taught me to never stop grinding for what I want in life. I will never forget your effect on me.
Finally, thanks to all my teammates and friends I’ve accumulated over the years. Thanks for the memories!.
It’s amazing isn’t it, the power of sport! What a time it has been — the time of my life.
That’s hockey for me, in a nutshell. Thank you hockey! We’ve had a long run you and I.
Submitted by Riley Cousineau