Friday, 27 February 2015

Huskies hockey was good for me

The Huskies men's hockey team salutes the fans at the Rutherford Rink.
    Believe it or not, there were times this season I was scared with a paralyzing fear about to going to the Rutherford Rink.
    When I was there, I didn't want to be anywhere else on during the 2014-15 Canadian Interuniversity Sport hockey season.
    For those that follow my posts on Twitter, they know I have battled with issues regarding anxiety. I went public with this realization when I discovered it in late 2012.
    My battles with anxiety were one of the 30 reasons that went into a big decision I made with my family. I would move away from my home of 10 years in Medicine Hat, where I had no family members, to Saskatoon, which contains a large number of relatives from my mom's side of the family.
    When I arrived as a permanent resident in late July, I had my heart set on going to most of the home games involving the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men's and women's hockey teams. I big time thank the players and staffs of both teams for being good about me being around the rink writing blogs and taking pictures. As the season went on, I really feel I got better with a lot of my issues on the anxiety front.
    The members of the Huskies men's hockey team know my story the best. I met most of those players through my time covering the WHL as a beat writer, which included covering the Medicine Hat Tigers for 10 seasons.
    I have long friendships with former Huskies captain Brennan Bosch, who graduated after last season, and goaltender Ryan Holfeld, who played his final game with the Huskies last weekend. Both were former members of the WHL's Tigers, and they know my story fairly in depth.
    When I was in Saskatoon on a medical leave in November of 2012, I visited with them at length regarding how I ended up in the situation I was in. I have always felt extremely safe in my friendships with them, but I never envisioned leaning on them in this way. I later discovered Holfeld's brother, Troy, has had battles with anxiety and depression, which I think also helped when I talked with the veteran netminder about my anxiety issues.
The Huskies women's team salutes the fans at the Rutherford Rink.
    I watched Bosch and Holfeld play with the Huskies on about four different occasions on visits from Medicine Hat. Through the Huskies men's team, I started meeting players from the Huskies women's hockey team. I watched them win their first Canada West title on March 2 of last year with a 2-1 double overtime victory over the U of Regina Cougars.
    Those visits were always so good for me, because I arrived at the rink just to watch the Huskies play without any worries about covering the game. I enjoyed going to games again, and some of that love of just going to the games was lost in my final years in Medicine Hat.
    While I worked with great people in the Hat at the Medicine Hat News, my troubles developed thanks to changing stresses in the workplace that affected everybody. As a result, the joy I had in going out to cover events wasn't always there.
    When I started watching Huskies hockey home games as a Saskatoon resident, there were a number of times my sense of anxiety would heighten, and I did not expect that would happen. I was always fine when the games themselves were in progress, but I did have shaky moments before and after the games.
    The first moment of slight fear came from actually encountering players from the Huskies women's team. The player I knew the best was Cami Wooster, who was the team's captain in the Canada West championship season, and she had graduated and was no longer around.
    She knew about my battles, but the other players didn't. I had a bit of a fear the players would look at me as being some sort of weak person or a life failure due to what happened to me.
    Marley Ervine and Brooke Mutch were two remaining players from the 2013-14 season I talked with a bit in the past. When I saw them for the first time this past season, I made sure to tell them my anxiety story. I always felt it was best to be up front with this.
Goaltender Ryan Holfeld gets set in the Huskies' net.
    I also thought their coaches had to be concerned that their players were befriending this dude that has had battles with mental health. All good coaches constantly worry about their players, but I have long ago learned it is more of a good type worry. The only coach I had dealt with before this season was assistant coach Julie Paetsch and those meetings occurred during a couple of social occasions involved with the Saskatoon Valkyries women's football team.
    As the season went on, I got to meet and befriend more of the players and staff from Huskies women's team, so those fears went away.
    At first, I only went to the Huskies games to watch. I then started to write blog posts. After I purchased a new digital SLR camera body, I began taking pictures and posting them on Twitter.
    As I became more comfortable, I would get brave and experiment with doing some of the things I would normally do once again.
    I would still have weird other type fears come out of nowhere. In November, I almost stopped straight out going to games. Out of the blue, I had this fear people would see me as this sad old sports reporter that was trying to hold on to a past life and should forget about writing blog posts or shooting games.
    My mind would reason only few people cared about what was going on with the Huskies hockey teams as the men's team would average just over 600 spectators per game and the women's team attracted about 200 spectators per game, who were mostly family and friends. It was far from what seemed like the endless amounts of people that gave their opinions on the three different WHL teams I covered over 15 seasons.
    When I was at the Rutherford Rink, all those fears were gone.
Brooke Mutch follows through on a shot for the Huskies.
    Also, a couple of other turning points helped in November. I ended up going out with the Huskies men's team on a social occasion during a time my mind was really troubled, and that helped a lot. I also learned the players on the women's team really liked the action pictures I took of them, and that really raised my spirits.
    As the second semester arrived, the road blocks in my mind weren't showing up. I decided that if I enjoyed going to the games I would keep going to them. If I enjoyed writing the blog posts and taking pictures, I would keep doing those things. Flat out, I just liked being there.
    I was feeling like my normal self throughout all of game day again. At the start of the week, I actually began looking forward to going to games on Friday and Saturday nights on a consistent basis again for the first time in years.
    The friendships I was making at the rink were helping me get better. I know in my life I will always have to deal with anxiety in some way, but you have to try and keep making baby steps every day.
    Thanks to the relationships I developed with the Huskies hockey teams, I believe I made a lot of baby steps in the 2014-15 season. Day to day, I feel like myself again on a more consistent basis.

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