Dreams are the lifeblood of doing, providing us a reason for the time and effort we put into reaching them. When we have a clear goal in mind, chances are we will do everything in our power to attain that goal.
Travis Crickard is like many people in that regard. He had a goal and pursued it. As a kid in St. John’s, Crickard — like thousands of other minor hockey players in Newfoundland and Labrador — dreamt of playing in the National Hockey League.
From hockey schools to goalie camps to playing with Avalon minor, Crickard chased the dream.
At 16, he left home for Hamilton, and a spot with the AAA midget Bulldogs. From there it was two-and-a-half years with the Flin Flon (Manitoba) Junior Bombers — the same team NHL greats Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach once played for. A trade to Woodstock, New Brunswick, ended his junior career, but opened another door.
As he grew older, some dreams faded, but the main one still remained: a life in pro hockey.
A new coach had been hired at a small American college, State University New York-Potsdam. Because Aaron Saul was hired too late to recruit, he needed players quickly. So he trusted other coaches’ opinions. Crickard, a goalie, was soon in Potsdam, on an international student grant, filling a key position.
Along the way, he never lost sight of the big picture: playing in the NHL, even though in his first trip to Potsdam he was told no player from the school had ever reached the big leagues.
Eventually, as Crickard matured, the dream of playing faded, and he focused on school, graduating with a degree in health science, with two minors — pre-med and coaching science.
The road after college took him to Ottawa, where he pursued a master’s degree. Wanting desperately to stay in hockey, he applied to various junior teams but was shut out. A major midget team took a flyer on the youngster, and brought him in as a volunteer assistant. One year later, after the head coach left abruptly, Crickard was handed the reins.
“I learned a lot in midget,” Crickard said this week from Ottawa. “The head coach let me do a lot. I told him I wanted to do everything and he let me run the defence, run practices. I wasn’t just a puck pusher, like some young assistants.”
The transition wasn’t an easy one. Crickard said it was like he had to start over completely. As a kid in minor hockey, he had to learn how to play. Now he had to learn to coach. But the good student did learn, and now he’s moving up from midget to junior, and earning a paycheque in hockey.
Recently, he was hired as an assistant coach with the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67s, under Chris Byrne.
“I’m really excited to be in an atmosphere like that and learn from these coaches in this league,” Crickard said. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”
So now the dream shifts. The National Hockey League is still at the end of the rainbow, but Crickard knows the timeline and position have changed. Just 26, and one of the youngest coaches in the OHL, Crickard plans to soak it all in, learn, teach and learn some more. He’d like to become a head coach somewhere someday, but is no hurry.
“My plans have changed and (the NHL is still) my goal. If I focus on the outcome, I’m going to miss what’s important. By no means am I in a rush. Chris is just 40. I’m not in any hurry to get to the next level. It’s a long process, and that’s what I have to focus on.”
A long road behind him, and a long road in front of him, but for Crickard, he’s doing what he sought to do as a kid: chase the dream of making the NHL.
The goalie pads and mask have been replaced by dapper suits and ties, and he only skates now in practice, but Crickard is still in hockey. More importantly, he’s earning a living in the sport and is another step to the NHL.
Amazing what holding on to those dreams can do for some kids.
Same dream, different uniform for a St. John’s player
Leave a Reply