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Calvin Elfring: Time To Say Goodbye

After 17 years of professional ice-hockey and the previous two seasons spent with the Stena Line Belfast Giants – Calvin Elfring has an important announcement to make.

All of us at the Giants organisation would like to acknowledge Calvin’s commitment and professionalism both on and off the ice in Belfast as well as thank him for the role he played in helping the Giants to our memorable fourth league title in the 2013/14 season!

Written by Calvin Elfring
– Stena Line Belfast Giants 2013-2015

Time to say goodbye!!!

Well, that was a great ride for 17 years! I have decided that Saturday, April 4th was my last professional ice hockey game. Some of you might say, “but wait, you played in a 3rd place game on Sunday”! Well that officially started my beer league career. Who wants their last game to be a consolation game after being eliminated from the playoffs, not me 🙂

Unfortunately, a professional ice hockey player’s career is like a good bag of crisps, it comes with an expatriation date. Some players expire after 1-2 years, some play the game for 20+ years; I was lucky enough to have a long and fulfilling career! I feel this is the right time to walk away from the game on my terms. This is the first year that I have noticed a decline in my abilities. I would play forever if it was physically possible but it isn’t and I don’t want to be like an expired bag of crisps that when you bite into one, it is stale, your nose puckers up and leaves a bad taste in your mouth followed by an ‘eewww’! I want to be that fresh tube of Pringles; once you bite into one you keep wanting more. I have had tremendous amount of support asking me to play again, it feels good to still be wanted. I am happy to be walking away from the game that has consumed my life for as long as I can remember on my terms!

I am walking away with only a couple regrets. The first regret, I never played in a NHL regular season or playoff game. I was lucky enough to attend training camp and skate beside the best in the world but never cracked the lineup. Secondly, according to the stats, I will fall 13 games short of the arbitrary number of 1000 pro games. The second regret to me is a minor one! The milestone would probably have passed without too much fuss. Unlike the NHL where players are presented with a silver stick, I assume my teammates would have spray painted an old stick silver and placed it in my stall as a joke.

Being a semi talented hockey player has given me more than I could ever give back to the game. My unbelievably talented and beautiful wife and I met on my journey; our kids were born along the way. Hockey as a career enabled my amazing wife to stay at home and raise our kids while I “worked” usually from 9-12 leaving most of the day to spend with my family. It provided me the opportunity to educate myself! I received scholarships and graduated with a BA in economics and later in my career an MBA all because I was good at hockey. Which if you asked my grade 10 history teacher, who once said “you’re going to college, when you were in my class you couldn’t put together a coherent sentence?” Sad to say he was right at the time.

Hockey has given me the gift of travel. As a family, we were fortunate to live in 4 different countries and visit many more. World traveler was something I always wanted to do as a child and hockey has given me that gift. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the communities where I have lived and was in a position to help and learn from them. I have learned as many lessons away from the rink than on the ice. I have encountered so many children, teens and adults who have humbled and inspired me through my journey. One of the most rewarding aspects of playing a game for a living is meeting people who are dealing with illness, sickness and other difficulties in life and they are thanking ME for putting a smile on their face or allowing them to escape from their troubles for 2-3 hours on game day. I say thank you to all the fans that humbled me and make me appreciate my family and the life I live.

I am not sure what to expect from the next phase of my life, but I know I will miss playing hockey for a living. I will miss bringing my kids on the ice after games and practices. There was nothing better than being on the ice with my kids after practice having the ice to ourselves and seeing their faces light up as we do a lap after a win. I will miss napping; a standard 2-hour nap on game day and a 20 min nap on training days! Every job should allot paid nap times for workers! I was always more productive with a nap! I will miss the crowd, for better or worse, I will miss it. I assume whatever avenue I choose, on the completion of a task I will not be cheered or booed by 1000’s of coworkers/spectators!

I walk away knowing my children will remember daddy was a professional ice hockey player! At the moment they don’t know if I am good, average or bad! My son asked me this year “are you better than Wayne Gretzky”? It breaks my heart a little to walk away from the game. I remember walking out the door for my last road trip, I said to my son this might be daddy’s last weekend of hockey. He said “forever”? I said “yup”! He broke down and started crying begging me to keep playing! We embraced for about 5min crying together. Tears of joy for me and genuine tears of sadness from him knowing how much the sport has meant to the both of us. This is a moment I will never forget; I am tearing up as I write this!

I won’t miss opening my Facebook/Twitter feed and read how much my team sucks at a particular point. Or private messages saying I suck and your team is a pile of …! It is not easy and sometime fans think we don’t try or care, but I can tell you whatever the fans are going through, it’s worse for us! Sleepless nights, fear of loosing our jobs, not receiving a new contract offer and public ridicule. I always say fans pay their money and they are entitled to do and say what they want but remember we are human too! It’s too late for me but maybe be a little nicer for the next generation?.

Hockey has dictated when and where I can celebrate holidays! I have missed countless birthdays, valentine days, Easter Sundays and have had to rush many Christmas mornings because a practice was scheduled. I won’t miss my wife saying “great, you have a game on my birthday, I see you have Monday off, I guess we will celebrate then!” Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for pity nor would I change one second of the journey. These are just my thoughts being put on paper.

First and foremost I would like to thank my family, who have supported me from the start of my journey until the end! Secondly, I would like to thank my teammates and friends who have supported and embarked on this journey with me. Thirdly, to the communities and fans who have embraced my family and I along the way. It has been a great ride I walk away happy and fulfilled!

I will leave you with this:

Here’s to tall ships.
Here’s to small ships.
Here’s to all the ships on the sea.
But the best ships are friendships…
Here’s to you and me!

Slainte
Pröst
Cheers

Calvin Elfring #24