Todays the day. I have just boarded my flight to Berlin, a city with double the population of Northern Ireland. A one way ticket, a backpack of clothes, a suitcase of some more belongings, and two weeks in a hostel. That is quite literally all I have… which when you take into consideration that I made this decision back in April it really isn’t much, but I have done all I can do for now.
I need to apologise right now for this blog, because I started writing it about 3 weeks ago and I know it will get pretty rambling and lengthy. But please bear with me as there is a lot of people who have been a part of my life over the last quarter of a century who I need to thank for being there for me before I embark on this new journey.
From way back in Greenisland Primary School, where I coasted through 7 years of education before somehow getting an A in my final exam and sticking it to the teachers who doubted me; to Belfast High School, where once again I casually cruised through 5 more years of learning, gaining just enough grades to continue my higher education elsewhere, and making some friends who ended up being hugely important influences in my life. Guys like Hazer, Dill, Warren, Hollie, Emma… you were my first real close group of mates!
Then theres my working life. It all started in 2007, working a year and a half in Core Systems with Phil, G, Catherine, Jane, Julie… my first real taste of the office lifestyle. 3 years of my life were then spent in Dunnes Stores, who legally I cannot bad mouth because they were generous enough to donate £250 to my charity ice hockey tournament last month! I had my ups and downs while working there, and almost each and every person who worked with me made some sort of an impact in my life. Ursula, Sarah, Alan, Sheila, Gillian, Karen, Laura, Rebecca, Michael, Clare… due to the high rate of staff turnover there’s a literal butt load more people to mention that I cannot fit in here, but they were all amazing people to work with! Also, I still have that size 24 blouse if anyone wants to hire me for their wedding.
After three years in Irelands version of Marks & Spencer, I then moved to the actual Marks & Spencer where I worked on and off for a year, again learning new skills on merchandising, cash handling, customer service, and of course, endlessly flirting with every female who worked in the entire building. Not that I was very good at it, but it helped pass the time!
Last but not least, theres Product Earth Solutions, who rescued me from unemployment in January 2014. After just one month of hard work, I simply floated through the next year and a half doing minimal work for minimal pay, making endless “thats what she said” jokes, inventing any excuse for a chippy, and generally getting sloppy with the whole ‘close Facebook when the boss walks into the room’ thing. But I made some great friends there; Chris, Ally, Becky, Gary, Raymond… they all made going to work that little bit more fun!
Then theres the whole ice hockey side of my life. I went to my first game in 2002, and fell in love with the sport. I then first skated in 2006, and met a whole new group of people that would end up being hugely parts in my life growing up! Dawn, Victor, Julie, Dale, Laura, Adam, Toffer… again the list is almost endless, but they were all great friends to me throughout those years!
Back in 2008 the new Giants coach Steve Thornton asked Dale Cree (who ironically would go on to become MD of the company I’d work for 7 years later) to help assemble a team of ‘statisticians’ to give him an extra advantage in coaching. I didn’t actually like statistics that much to begin with, but I stuck with it. That team of stats guys would then quickly dwindle from 6 to just myself within a few months. It was around this time I actually started to get into it, and the rest as they say is history!
That history was winning 5 titles and 2 league championships throughout my seven years there, and I loved every minute of it! I need to thank Steve Thornton for getting me started in statistics, Paul Adey for our weekly coffees to chat stats and hockey, Todd Kelman for being my all time favourite Giants player (even if he did abandon us for Cardiff), and of course Doug Christiansen for continually helping me improve myself, and for still giving me guidance in my career path. Then theres the players like Tim Cook, Keefer, Lloyder, Sandy and Shieldsey to name but a few, and of course all the off ice guys: Glover, Dave, Matt, Jo, Brooksy, Bobby, Rachel, Michael, Laura, Kira, Paddy, Coach and Davy… again the list of friends I made at the Giants is endless, and they are all fantastic people who I will miss seeing on a weekly basis.
Then there’s Dumfries. A place I visited as a fresh faced 17 year old for my first ever ice hockey camp, and I had the privilege of returning in 2013 to be a statistician at the world championships, and again in 2014 and 2015! Meeker, Searlait, Craig, Scott, Jessie, Struan, Mitch, and more. All of you made my annual visits worthwhile!
Last season I even got the chance to partner with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. Each week I would watch up to three game tapes, spending on average 4 hours per game, recording analytics and statistics on every player. Helping provide future NHL stars like Max Domi and Mitch Marner with data to help improve their game is something I will always cherish doing, and I need to thank Rob Simpson and both Dale and Mark Hunter for that opportunity. Also, for all you hockey nerds with a keen eye on hockeys future, keep an eye out for Victor Mete!
Hockey analytics is as of right now a literal ‘one in a hundred million’ job. And even though I do have my name in the mix, hopefully someday soon I will get into sports analytics.
Last month I also had the honour of playing in the UK Forums All Stars Charity Ice Hockey Weekend in Sheffield. I was a late addition to Team Breast Cancer Care, and still managed to rack up £1,198 for a great cause! In total that one weekend with 130 players has raised over £70,000 for 8 separate charities!! There wasn’t one person I met at the tournament that I didn’t get on with. G, Dave, Kez, Astill, Nic, my first line buddies of Alex, Matt, Carl, Steve, and everyone else on Team Boobs! It was great to meet you all, and I’m already planning next years trip! And of course theres the Team NI lads; Aaron, Glover, Sauce, Maca (and Emma) and Dave. Together we raised almost six grand, and the fact I got to spend one of my last weekends at home (in Sheffield) with you guys was awesome!
One more thing hockey has gave me is a very generous 50/50 win in 2014. Yeah, the year when I was filling out my name and address when Drew Fata scored ‘that goal’. That night is all a bit of a blur, and not quite for the reasons you would think! But as I walked back to the hotel with two good friends in Mel and Stevie Robinson, they gave me the idea to go interrailing once again… which I did!
In two separate interrail trips in 2011 and 2014, I visited 26 cities in 15 countries. Along the way I made many great friends, from Ben, his partner, and the Sprogg family I met in Munich; soon to be wed couple Aaron and Sarah in Salzburg; the 5 girls from Belfast I went swimming with in Lake Bled; Bradley and Niall who we bonded over Top Gear and US Late Night Talk Shows on that interestingly endless train journey to Budapest; Kirstie for a great evening in Prague; my 2 fabulous Scottish pals Shannon and Mel, along with Brittany, Riley, Erin, Simone, Tim, Fran, and the three welsh guys who’s names I cannot remember, all whom I met in Berlin; Steve, Steph and Gary, and also Elizabeth, all in Copenhagen. There are a load more I have probably forgot to mention, but again I could ramble on for days with stories about everyone!
Then theres that elite group of people who are probably most glad I am leaving, the guys and girls I’d class as my best friends! Mark and Vikki for many, many chinese nights, and for providing me with God children! Sam, you were such an annoying cousin growing up, but our love for Top Gear and Tesco brought us closer together than I ever imagined! Mark Dornan, I think its time I finally admitted that I am obviously the Gus in our scenario… Good luck to you and your Juliet! Neil, my go to video nerd and endlessly annoying Boston buddy… same time next year? Stephanie, the main reason I have WhatsApp, and my personal rear of the year winner for the last two years! Sally, our heart-to-heart coffee dates were always a highlight, I guess you will just have to come to Berlin for our next one! Becca, you made me the man I am today, and despite how things ended you will always be one of my closest friends. You have all made huge influence in my life, and I can’t wait to have you all come visit me whenever and wherever I get settled!
Finally, I need to thank my entire family, but especially my mum and granda. We’ve had our ups and downs, but you two done whatever you could to give me a good life. Ever since granny past away a decade ago it has just been us three, and I can only hope that she would have been proud of what I have done so far, and what I’m setting off to do with my life. I can’t wait for you two and Gary to come visit me when I get settled in Germany!
Hopefully this blog served as a decent insight to my life and the future I am embarking on. And I also hope that I won’t be coming home in a few weeks with a maxed out credit card and my tail between my legs! If I missed anyone out, it was never my intention.
Thanks for the memories.
“At the end of the day you gotta go out there and just do it yourself, really. You gotta make mistakes along the way; and over the years you will find your own path.” – Sig Hansen