Hanging ‘Em Up: When to Quit Playing Hockey

quit playing hockey
Photo by Arthur Edelman on Unsplash

One of the most difficult decisions facing any hockey player is when to call it quits


By Wayne Shuster


Ask any hockey player about it and they’ll all say the same thing: The last thing they want to do is quit playing hockey, the game they love.

Rec hockey players know that while it can often leave you frustrated, hockey can be a source of tremendous joy. It provides a release from life’s everyday stresses; it’s great exercise; and above all it is great fun to play. There’s nothing quite like it. Which is why just the mere thought of having to give it all up can be agonizing.


Sweet Hangover

Hockey brings people together pretty much like nothing else. I’ve made a ton of friends over the years, which I can say is not an easy feat at my age (61). Hockey has also enabled me to form many business relationships as well: doctors, a dentist, an accountant, an electrician—the list goes on…

Aside from the social and business benefits, playing hockey has contributed to an overall sense of health and well-being—not to mention the sweet “hangover” I’d get after playing a good, hard game.

But there comes a time when those pleasant thoughts turn to the not-so-pleasant decision to hang up your skates. Sometimes this comes about because of injury. In my case, herniated discs and issues with my rotator cuffs would leave me in pain after a game, to the point where I would experience difficulty just getting out of the car when I arrived home.

Or maybe it’s a matter of finances. It’s no secret that playing in an adult hockey league can be quite costly.

Whatever the case may be, sooner or later you reach the point of diminishing returns. When you just don’t get the same satisfaction from the game that you used to—when the pain outweighs the pleasure—it’s a good sign you might want to find something else to occupy your time.


The Usual Reasons People Quit Playing Hockey

  • If illness or injury forces you to make the decision
  • When you feel you’re no longer “effective” on the ice or contributing to the team like you used to
  • When you’re thinking of making room on the team for the “young guns”
  • When your life has taken a different course, which could be something like shifting to a new hobby or allocating time spent on hockey to another area of need in your life
  • When money becomes a factor
  • When your body begins to “fight back”


You’ll Know When It’s Time

For many adult hockey players, hockey has a way of letting you know when it’s time; when you’re done. The absence of having a game to play in can leave a huge void in the life of the rec hockey player. You soon miss the complete experience of the game: the incredible feeling of freedom you get as you take that first step out on the ice; your teammates; the laughs in the locker room. During my hockey career, I was never the first choice for power plays; nor was I ever selected for a shootout. But those goals and assists will live on in my memory forever.

You now live your life in the past. Watching the game on TV can evoke memories of that game-winning goal you scored, the spectacular save you made, the shootout goal, the championships…

Which brings me to the present. These days, my involvement in hockey is limited to watching the games on TV (and writing about it, of course). And my exercise regimen now consists of daily stretching and walks around the neighborhood.

“All good things must come to an end,” as the saying goes. I just wish it never did.

Wayne Shuster played hockey for almost 30 years. He recently hung up his skates and now takes pleasure in writing about the game that has given him so much.

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