What it Feels Like to Be a Triple A Hockey Player

Charles Hulting // As told to be Charles Hulting

What+it+Feels+Like+to+Be+a+Triple+A+Hockey+Player

Charles Hulting

The hard work, dedication, and effort is what people do not see behind an AAA hockey player. After school, I go to practice to watch films, workout and finally go on the ice. I get home at 11:00 p.m. three nights of the week and wake up the next day exhausted. I push myself every day, trying to get better to compete with some of the best players in the country. The seven-month-long season takes hard work, dedication and effort all the way through, but the work doesn’t stop when the season is over.

I start my days in the offseason with a big breakfast that contains a lot of calories. Around noon, I go out to my garage with my dad to do my workout for the day. The workouts are to build my body so I can be bigger and stronger for the upcoming season. I have to have the motivation every day to get stronger because a day I take off, someone else is getting better than me. After a difficult lift, I go for a long run to keep myself in shape so I am ready for next season. I usually put my Airpods in and listen to music to give that little bit more motivation to push myself harder. After the run, I stretch and call it a day. I have a protein shake and have a big lunch to fuel my body.

That was the routine I did over the summer. Trying to stick with it was hard because there were some days where I just wanted to relax and have a day off, but I knew I could not. That’s the thing about playing a sport at the highest level; there are no days off. The journey to be great is not easy, but with motivation, anything is possible, and that is what I stand by.

After the hard work in the summer and trying out and making the team, the season starts at the end of August. This is the start of the gauntlet, the first month or so of the season of just strictly practices with no games. These practices are grueling because of the conditioning and the amount of time we are on the ice. We start these practices with agility and footwork, then we go into one-on-one battling with another teammate, then lastly, we do over and backs which is the hardest part of the practice. When the practice is over, I am completely drained of all the energy I have in my body. It’s eleven o’clock by the time I get home and I’m ready for some sleep.

After the first month, we play a lot of games. To play these games, I had to travel all across the country because of the virus, so I was never really home on the weekends. Playing in a different state almost every weekend is fun; I was going to a city that I have never seen before and playing teams from other parts of the country. This might seem like a blast, and most of the time it is, but sometimes it’s hard to get all your schoolwork done on time while you’re traveling. Sometimes it is hard to see your friends during the season because of the travel. I’m gone almost every weekend, and sometimes it’s hard to sleep because you got a lot on your mind, whether it’s school or your thinking about the upcoming game. When I am out of town and I see my friends all hanging out, sometimes I wish I was home and not on the other side of the country. That is the price that I have to pay, this is what I signed up for, and the hockey season is what I trained for.

Right after winter break is the most important stretch of the season, but it can be the most challenging part to stay motivated throughout the year. After being at the rink for three to five hours a night, the game takes a toll on you. It takes a lot to be your best while my body is aching and barely being able to keep my eyes open. This is the time of the season where you need to be your best. My team starts playing some of the best competitors around this time, so everyone has to be playing the best hockey they possibly can. We typically would be playing some of our in-state rivals too, but we were unable to play two out of the three teams with the virus. Not playing the instate teams in the regular season is a setback because I like to see my competition.

The end of the season is my favorite time of the year. I fly out to Colorado with my team to try and win our league playoffs. This part of the season is what my teammates and I have been working for all year. Not coming away with holding a trophy in my hands would be disappointing because these are the moments I train and work for all year. The games are extra physical and everyone fights that much more to get that extra space on the ice. These playoff games are the most exhausting and competitive.

The state playoffs are the very last stretch of the season. In this tournament, we only play the teams that are in our state. Whoever wins the tournament goes onto regionals. I’m just as excited to play in the state playoffs in the future as the league playoffs. As I said earlier, not coming away with holding a trophy in my hands would be disappointing because that marks the end of the season and the last time I might see some of my teammates.

It takes a lot more than just going out and playing the game. It takes preparation, engagement and motivation. It takes hard work in the offseason to translate your skills into the season. Lastly, it takes dedication. Trying to maintain a good GPA in the season is not easy, so you’re not just determined in hockey but in school as well. I do not think many people can do what it takes to play a sport at the highest level, but if you’re determined, anything is possible.