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COLUMN: Pick-up league helps reporter rekindle love of hockey

'Having the outlet to play hockey on the weekend with friends new and old has been crucial for me,' says Tyler Evans, who has rediscovered his passion for the game

My love for playing the game of hockey has been rejuvenated this year.

During my high school days, more than a decade ago, I started to fall out of love with the sport that I once centred my entire life around.

I only played house league growing up and was never particularly good, but my passion for the game was always immense.

After I retired from organized hockey when I was in Grade 9, I began playing on Saturday nights at the Brian Orser Arena as part of a pick-up program run by Orillia Parks and Recreation. Those were some of my fondest memories of playing the sport because it was truly non-competitive.

Once I aged out of that program, the hockey bag got stored away in the basement, to never be opened again until this year.

Just weeks after contemplating donating my old hockey gear to get it out of the house, a good friend of mine brought up the idea of revitalizing the old Brian Orser pick-up league — but for adults.

For me to lace up the skates again, it would have to be non-competitive and with the right group, playing only for the love of the game.

We first rented the ice at the Chippewas of Rama First Nation’s Mnjikaning Arena Sports Ki (MASK) on Friday nights because of the nostalgia of watching the Couchiching Terriers Jr. A team as a kid. We then put an ad on Facebook, hoping to find like-minded players to join us.

In the ad, I made it quite clear the new pick-up league would be totally non-competitive, which made it a hot commodity. We had 20 players sign up within a couple of hours.

The group consists of guys like me who hadn't played in years hoping to rediscover their love for the sport, old neighbours, a set of brothers, and a grandfather and his grandson. It's the perfect group of guys to play with.

After a successful start to the season, we have since grown our pick-up hockey into something even bigger. Now, we also play on Sunday mornings, have sponsors, and have two sets of the coolest jerseys I've ever seen, although I'm biased after helping to design them.

Our pick-up hockey group has been a hit and something that we are excited to keep growing, as long as we can maintain the same low-key and fun environment.

For me, personally, playing hockey with this group has been invaluable. Post-holiday depression hit me harder than normal this year, and having the outlet to play hockey on the weekend with friends new and old has been crucial for me.

Every Friday after hockey, the group goes to Studabakers Beachside in downtown Orillia for wings. There we get to know each other a little more, we share old stories and lots of laughs. The companionship that has been built through this group has been incredible.  

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the Chippewas of Rama First Nation for hosting us, Studabakers, Famous Archies, and Cordery Electric for sponsoring, and everyone who has taken to the ice with us this winter. It's been a real treat and a highlight of my days playing sports. 

Tyler Evans is a reporter with OrilliaMatters.

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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