One of the most overlooked benefits of being involved in the great game of hockey is the development of lifelong friendships.
From mini mites to the National Hockey League, every player can tell you how important it is to be well liked in the room. The relationships that are built in that space, and on the ice, are often carried on for the rest of our lives.
Players can be traded, released, or simply age out; it doesn't matter, the memories are carried on forever.
Personally, the friendships that I have in the game had been cultivated over the last 50+ years. That has not always been good news for those friends. Despite the controversies, the bond has carried us through it all.
My father Tommy Heisler, and his best friend Jim Vose, built a childhood friendship that has continued on decades after my father's death. Papa Jim has stood in my dad's place through the good times and bad. It hasn't always been easy, and he's brought down the hammer when needed, but the man has been instrumental in molding me into the person I am today. He also serves as the grandfather for our children and even stood by my side earlier this year for our spiritual wedding.
Do I have friends that I can count on to that extreme? Yes. When battling kidney cancer, a number of friends from the game help support my family, both emotionally and financially, when it was needed the most. For that I'm eternally grateful.
It's always hard to say goodbye at the end of the hockey season. Players go through a time of hockey withdrawal while reuniting with family and friends back home. Social media outlets make it easier to stay connected to teammates but inevitably players are often scattered between one season and the next.
For Junior hockey players, these are likely the best time of life, the memories will last forever. Take the time to do what it takes to be a great friend, the investment can often pay out over a lifetime.