Living in a Temporary Limbo

I love hockey. I have loved hockey since… forever. I honestly do not remember a time in my life when I didn’t love hockey. Like many sports, hockey is not only a platform for athletics and competition, but a platform for fun. From a young age I began playing hockey at an elite level and worked my way up. Each year the grind became more intense and I loved that. It was a sense of structure that became second nature to me. It was a habit where you would try out for a team right after your previous season was over. Soon after that you began training in the off-season already thinking about your next season with your new team. Then in early September hockey season began and the cycle began all over again. This was the type of structure I lived in for almost 20 years. As I grew up, hockey was not just a sport I played, but it became a part of who I am.

All of this came to a sudden stop with my final game at St. Lawrence University. After four years of living my dream and playing for Dartmouth College, my hockey career had finished. There were no tryouts, no off-season training, no upcoming season. My structure had completely vanished. After that game it was difficult to find a sense of normalcy. I was lucky to have 3 more months at school, something that was familiar to me. I still had my teammates, I still had classes, but I did not have practice, off season training, or meetings. At first, it was kind of pleasant. I didn’t have to dedicate hours during the day to practice, when I could be doing other things like, sleeping, homework, or watching TV. Depending on how you looked at it, I was free. Free from the time commitment, the stress of being captain, and the fear of fitness testing. However, that feeling only lasted a few days. I began starting to experience this intense feeling of loss. Even though I had kept some of my daily routine and structure being at Dartmouth, I had lost the main part of my days.

Even today, months later, I still struggle with my lack of structure. I scheduled a summer away in Europe as something to look forward to after I hung up the skates, but as fun as the trip was, it only lasted 2 months. Now I’m back home searching for a career that can somehow be intertwined with hockey (luckily, as a Canadian this shouldn’t be too difficult). I am surrounded by the sport, but every day I am reminded that now I am just a hockey fan and no longer a hockey player.

Knowing I was missing a part of me, I decided to include myself in the sport a different way. I’ve started volunteering for the Aurora Panthers, an Intermediate AA team that I played for seven years ago believe it or not. I owe so much of my life and growing up to hockey so what better way to give back than to volunteer with the very team I played for so many years ago. Not only can I help coach and get those girls to the places I wanted to be at their age, but it helps me gain a bit of that structure I was so desperately missing. I can be a part of their team, not as a player, but as a coach.

Every person’s story with hockey is different. Some players can’t give it up and continue to play long after their college career, and others never touch their skates again. There is nothing wrong with those stories, but they were not the path for me. Change in life is inevitable, so even though I am not a player anymore, I still want to keep hockey in my life somehow. I want to be in that space between still playing and giving it up all together. I am looking for a job, but once I find what I want, I hope it will help build a different kind of structure in my life. Similar to my hockey career, I will put everything into it, because that is just the kind of person I am. I will continue to volunteer with the Aurora Panthers, because it is something I enjoy. When you’ve been in the game for as long as I have been, it can be very difficult to give it up. I am hoping that this volunteer opportunity and a future job will help fill a piece of that hockey shaped hole in my heart.

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About the Author

Hailey Noronha

Hailey graduated from Dartmouth College in 2018 after being a member of the Women’s Varsity Women’s Ice Hockey Team for four years. Since her graduation and retirement, Hailey has spent two months travelling in Europe – serving not just as vacation, but also as a distraction from hockey. Since her arrival back home, Hailey has been seeking a career in the sport world. Sport and hockey are a few of Hailey’s true loves, and she wishes to keep them in her life in both a recreational and professional setting.