What a game gives us.
Name: Justin Roethlingshoefer
Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta
Professional Sports: NHL/AHL Strength and Conditioning Coach
Hockey. It’s just not a sport, a noun, or game…it’s a religion. Growing up a Canadian boy it has been engrained in my life as far as I can remember. I remember 5am practice before school as a kid. Mom and dad would be fully suited up to battle the -35 degree morning chill, scraping their windshield only to come back in the house and carry out the comatose 4 year old to take him to HIS practice. It’s a visual almost every hockey family can relate to. But that relation is what bonds us. It’s what makes getting traded and walking into a new locker room seem easy. It’s what makes starting as a new coach and meeting the players for the first time seem less foreign, or meeting a new recruit seem like an old friend. Even before you know the other players name you know that you have something in common. There is a sense of respect. A sense of pride. A sense of congratulations! You’ve made it this far.
My playing career was like that of every player; full of ups and downs, twists and turns. Moving from west coast to east coast, Canada to US, north to south, each move bringing with it, it’s feelings of excitement, but also, sadness. Living with billet families in junior, to college dorms, to hockey houses, to finally getting an adult place of your own. When my career ended after the NCAA and a stint in the AHL as a practice goalie, my identity was somewhat gone. Even though I had been interning and somewhat preparing for life after hockey as a coach, until it actually happens nothing can prepare you for it. I had a million questions going through my mind. Who was I? What role do I play now? What will people want to talk to me about? How will I impact the world and people? What do I do now? It took me back to the feeling of not knowing what Junior team you were going to be on, or when you were prepping for college not knowing where you were committing. I was lost.
My first experience after playing led me to the NHL (go figure, I would have to stop playing to get a shot...). I had opportunities with the Columbus Blue Jackets as an intern through college and carried that over as my first opportunity. Knowing that I would need some more education and experience to land the job I really wanted, I got another opportunity at the University of Louisville as a graduate assistant. Leaving hockey for that brief stint of time was the hardest decision ever, however still being involved in NHL main camps and development camps fed the need for that addiction. Then, just like a free agent getting ‘that call’, I was offered the job at Miami University where I became the strength and conditioning coach for the hockey program and a part of the hockey staff for 3+ seasons. I was blessed with the opportunity to really hone my craft and for the first time feel like I was giving back to the game and to the players. That feeling of being able to help players achieve performance and get to levels that I was not able to reach was something that fulfilled me even more than playing. The care level for the players and the passion for helping them achieve their goals is now what keeps me up at night, but it is also what makes getting up in the morning worth it.
That passion and fire is what led me to create The Hockey Summit. An all-inclusive training center in Florida where players can just show up with their hockey equipment and be fully looked after from all aspects of training and performance. Food, on ice, off ice, supplements, recovery, massage, housing, entertainment, all looked after. The passion for players is so much more than just putting them through workouts, or nutrition plans or massage; it’s about being able to see a player mature both physically and mentally and reach the summit of his career. Seeing that player develop before your eyes and building relationships built on trust; knowing that his best interest is at the heart of every decision made.
Just recently I signed my first NHL contract with the Anaheim Ducks. That same feeling of excitement and sadness fills me up; knowing I am embarking on fulfilling a lifelong dream, but also knowing I am leaving a place in Miami where I built friends, family and relationships. Reaching this level has been a journey, but one that continues on between the AHL and NHL. It is one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
So, for this I say, thank you hockey. I owe it to you. You were instilled in me from a very young age, allowed me to travel the continent, got me an education, and now a career. I owe it to you. The life lessons, the opportunities, and the friends. You have given me the freeing realization that I can stay in the game I love so much and have a positive impact on the players. It is comforting to know that even as time goes by, you’ll still be instilling the same passion in those sleepy 4 year olds on cold mornings.