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No going back, so capture the moment

Over the course of the last few months I have been tasked with making some difficult decisions as an athlete.
As a hockey player, I have been able to experience some tremendous experiences that have offered me opportunities to participate in extraordinary events in some awesome places.
I have traveled from ice rink to ice rink across the south and have had the chance to play in some huge games.
Throughout the years I have met and worked with hall of fame players and coaches, as well as some Stanley Cup champions. As a matter of fact, I have had the opportunity to become close with my favorite modern-era player.
Who gets to do those kinds of things in a sport that is non-existent in an area such as Atmore?
Earlier this year, I fulfilled my lifelong dream of visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada. As I browsed through the hall, I observed the jerseys and memorabilia of players and coaches who have been my role models.
During that visit I walked into the most beautiful room that I have ever had the pleasure of laying my eyes upon within the Hall of Fame and noticed a lone trophy upon a pedestal at the end of the room.
As I neared the most important and beloved trophy of the sport, thoughts of all the players who have hoisted it above their heads in victory over the past 100 years raced through my mind.
I then reached out and laid my hands on the Stanley Cup, and tears began to roll down my face. Over the past 100 years, many have only dreamed of winning or touching this most coveted piece of hockey history. As my hands touched the smooth silver, I realized that a lifelong personal dream had just been fulfilled and I reached out and kissed the cold metal.
As a hockey player, injuries plague your body over the years. I have suffered numerous concussions, fractures and other injuries. Dreams and goals have been met over my playing career, and I have had my moment with the Stanley Cup.
Although I was unable to achieve the goal of winning it, just touching it gave me a victory.
Over the years, I have enjoyed the company of many teammates who have become brothers and family. Good, bad and sad moments have been shared on and off the ice. I have no regrets other than I am not ready to hang up my skates.
But the time has come.
I made the decision a few months ago that it was time to give up the sport that I love as a player. After the first half of this hockey season, I have decided that I will no longer play the game that I love.
As I make these decisions, I think of the players and coaches of local high school sports teams. During my high school career, I wasn’t involved with school sports. Hockey was my passion and it isn’t offered in Alabama.
Upon graduation, many students will call an end to their athletic career. I have often wondered about feelings that an athlete has when he or she makes the decision to end a playing career. I no longer have to worry.
It’s actually a dreadful, difficult decision to make as a former athlete moves forward and has so many good memories to cherish.
One thought that never crossed my mind was retirement from hockey for good.
Every year has been filled with pregame rituals that seem weird to some but worked for me.
Every player has pregame routines such as this. Memories and routines are the things a player holds onto after retirement.
The message within this column is quite simple. This year’s seniors will have one last season to make and hold onto memories. Make those moments count and leave everything on the field, court, pool or whatever is your playing surface. You lay the cornerstone for your own legacies.
I followed my dream of being the only successful hockey player from the area and was victorious.
Find your own personal dreams and pursue them. Capture the moments of opportunity you are offered, because there is no going back.