I’m a writer and a fighter. After 9 years in the minors I made it to the NHL. Here are some stories I picked up along the way and some words I wrote.

Inspirational stories delivered weekly.

Icy Things

I always thought it was possible, from day one.

Even junior year of high school when I was on the Varsity B team, I knew. Something special was in the works. This was my break out year. This is the year I learned how to forecheck. I learned to be the savage beast. For my whole hockey life, up until then, I was a defenseman.

All that changed when Coach unleashed me for a shift at offense. It was instantly clear that I could do something out of the ordinary. I learned that I could put myself into a particular state of mind. I could become the hunter, and god help the hunted. I relentlessly smashed my opponents, and have been doing it ever since.

That day I was forever branded: power forward.

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What is the sound of one puck clapping against a cool ice surface face-off frenzy of fiendish foes? For those of us in the know, we inherently hold a special place in our hearts for that unmistakeable clap! of a perfectly timed and perfectly placed puck drop. The smooth, mysterious face of that rubber disk hits the surface of the ice and something happens. That clap radiates right up into the rafters of arenas and into molecules of our very existence as hockey folk.

There’s the sound again -listen- a precision saucer pass soars through the air, and again, clap! lands perfectly on the ice inches from the tape. I’ve always been enamored by the sound of the clapping puck. Even as a youngster, I would hold a puck in each hand and clap them together. Somehow it made me happy, and still does.

There’s a strange frenetic energy in a hockey puck. It’s some unidentified flying object in a world of balls, the standard among all other sports. But our sport requires the biggest balls of them all.

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I won’t get into the back story of how I ended up in Europe in the first place; that will come at a later date. Today I won’t talk about living in a ski lodge in the middle of the Julian Alps in Western Slovenia, feeling shamed and empty, hiding from the world and afraid to fail. I won’t delve into any of that now.

I’ll start where the new version of me started.

Sometime in May in the year 2010, is where the shift happened. I know the exact location where it happened; I know exactly what I was doing. It was in a parking lot, in a park, and I was running as fast as I could. What was I running from? I felt the shift, and it was as real as any crack of lightning or plate tectonics. It was a definite and tangible shift.

I’ll get into all of that, but first you need some back story.

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How to Be Excellent

We all have good days and we all have bad days. We have days where we are firing on all cylinders, clicking, buzzing, emitting vast clouds of potent energy out into the world. We know and embrace those special days, and acknowledge when we are lucky enough to experience that. We live out that day in the Zone, and go to bed, curious(or oblivious) to what the next day will hold.

We wake, and wait, and see what comes our way.

I’m trying to break this pattern. I’m tired of being on top of the world one day, and dangling in space at the tip of some Antarctic icicle the next, jutting out into oblivion at the bottom of this spinning orb. I’m tired of inconsistency. Aren’t we supposed to be at our best every day? Is that even possible?

You can relate these thoughts to any aspect of your life, whether it’s your job or you relationship, or simply your existence. I relate the good days and bad days in terms of hockey.

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Excellence Revisited

I think I’m on to something. Has anyone else tried these magic words?

“I’m going to be excellent today.”

I’ve been saying this to myself pretty much all day, every day for the past week. I’ve come to the conclusion that they are truly magic words. I say it before bed, and right when I wake up, and on the way to the rink, and in between drills, and any time the Doubt Demon makes an appearance. That’s when I say it with the most authority. Any time the Doubt Demon breaks through that dimensional barrier and shows his fangs and claws, I now stand firm, and announce my excellence. I won’t let that wretched worm influence me anymore. I’m stronger now. My words are stronger now. My words have magic. So do yours. There is excellence brewing, and no room for negativity or second-guessing.

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Best Version of You

It seems that it is not only athletic folk who deal with maintaining consistency and the pursuit of excellence. I’ve received emails from many different people from many different walks of life, telling me how these articles on excellence have affected them. There is certainly a common vein that exists in all of us. We want to excel.  We want to be great. But no one ever tells us how. I truly believe that each of us has our own path to greatness, and it is impossible for anyone else to understand it. We can begin to grasp the idea or the notion, or see the accolades of our peers and appreciate those accomplishments, but we don’t get to see what’s at the true core of someone else. And we don’t get to gauge how different or similar our thoughts and ambitions are.

Maybe we get to read some Tony Dungy book and hear a motivational story, but we weren’t there for those billions of tiny victories that lead to his greatness. Those stories are ours, and ours alone. I can try to translate it into words, but my journey remains inside of me, just as your journey resides inside of you. You know where it is, and what it is. You know your calling. You hear it. But there are so many obstacles.  Too many unknowns, uncertainties. You may have to take a leap to chase your dream. You may have to take a leap to figure out what your dream is. Maybe right now, that is your path. You must find your dream. Finding it may be the hardest part. But once you know it, and embrace it, and live it, and breath it; you are simply following your path. That’s the easy part.

So now what?

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How to Quit Chewing Tobacco

Two and a half years clean, (Update: Five years), quit, cold turkey. I can honestly say that I don’t even think about it anymore. And if at some odd, random time I do think of the Worm Shit I used to stuff into my mouth all day, I acknowledge how much of an idiot I was for spending those thousands of dollars. From age 17 to age 28, eleven years of living as a drug addict. How many years have you been dipping? How many times have to tried to quit? How many times have you told yourself that you’ll quit tomorrow, or after you graduate, or after you write your final paper, or after the baby is born, or after the hockey season, or next week, or next year, or never “cuz we all die someday, and I’m gonna die with a big ol wad of the Grizz in my lip.”

I’ve heard it all before. I’ve said it all before. I can honestly tell you, that it will be worth it. I know what it is like. You can’t even begin to imagine yourself as a non-dipper. You can’t even see that version of yourself. You are blinded by the Dip Demon. He is real. He devours souls. He lives in every addict, in every can. I have seen him. I have looked him in the eyes. I drove a stake through his heart over two years five years ago, and haven’t looked back.

I challenge you to quit. I guarantee your life will be better.

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Death of a Demon

Ok, day 1 of your quit. Now what? No doubt you have been introduced to your very own Demon. Did you see what he looks like? Have you smelled him? He smelled you. He smelled your fears and insecurities. He captures these emotions and tucks them away into some hollow cavern. He will use these later, in your most desperate hour.

Or maybe you haven’t been introduced yet. After all, it’s only day one. Maybe it has been a breeze so far. Maybe you have been busy, and haven’t noticed. Just wait it out. He will emerge.

But know, too, that behind the Demon is a path to your true calling and destiny. Ask yourself how long he has blocked that path. How many times have you been forced to maneuver your way around his and tread through lizard-filled bogs, of mist and hanging vines, that creep and wander like spider legs across the mossy ground, scratching and feeling for a vulnerable addict, in constant wait to offer shelter and a warm, tangled embrace.

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