Archive for the ‘HOCKEY TALK’ Category

WHEN BLOOD WENT BAD

Posted: March 14, 2011 by Mike in HOCKEY TALK

While professional hockey seemed unfeasible with the likes of Peter Forseberg and the Colorado Avalanche, playing college hockey had always been the pinnacle of my childhood dreams. For me, accepting an athletic scholarship to Colorado College was like ordering crème Brule after a steak dinner, an absolute no-brainer. Not only did this decision capture a childhood dream, it created an epic dilemma for all members of the Testwuide family.

My decision came while JP was halfway through his freshman year at the University of Denver. From his perspective, I had gone to the dark side, I had committed to the rival. At the time, I was aware that a rivalry existed but was completely naïve to the magnitude of hatred that existed between the two teams. For the next three years JP and I battled against each other in one of college hockey’s greatest rivalries.

An impossible night of sleep. A Locker room silenced by intense focus. Arenas overflowing with eager fans. Student sections formulating ruthless chants. Adrenaline seeping from every pore. These are just a few images that attempt to capture the realities leading up to game time.

In addition to the already elevated pregame jitters, I knew that my brother was in the opposing locker room preparing to dismantle any hopes of a CC victory. I also knew that my mom was a nervous wreck, probably halfway done with her 2nd Captain Morgan and coke wearing here legendary split jersey (picture below). No matter how nervous she got, I could always expect to see her standing on the glass during warm-ups and made sure to give her a wink and a smile as I skated past. Her overwhelming enthusiasm made for some truly emotional moments and my dad stuck with her through them all. Calm, cool, and collected he never missed a play, watching intensely from an ideal vantage point secluded from distractions. They never took sides and always wished for a great game that ended in a tie.

Things really heated up when we hit the ice. Extra incentive was added each time we stepped onto the ice together. JP is not a defender you like to go up against. He makes you pay the price whenever you are in his vicinity. His daunting defensive skills were not enough to overpower his little brother on multiple occasions. During our three-year rivalry, Colorado College managed a very impressive record going 7-1-4 while also retaining the coveted “Gold Pan” as series champions each year.

Even though we were rivals on game day, we made a great effort to spend as much time together as possible. Only being separated by a 50-minute drive made frequent visits a habit. On multiple occasions we would bring teammates along and everyone seemed to get along just fine. In some ways I think we reshaped the bitter rivalry and created OFF ICE friendships that would not have existed otherwise.

 

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Being two years apart we were never able to play youth hockey together. As I moved on to the next age group he would move up to the team I was just on. Even though our youth hockey experience was much different, we still ended up with the same passion. On our youth hockey teams we made lifelong friends. I keep in contact with some of those teammates but life has a funny way of moving forward and people move on with their lives. Keeping in touch with those teammates and friends is not always possible. I wish I did a better job and it might be one thing I can work on. I will say that our paths do cross from time to time and it feels like we were never apart. I believe that is a true test of friendship. I can still see us laughing in hotel rooms, playing floor hockey, and winning the squirt A state championship against Littleton (a double elimination tournament where we won two straight games against the best team in the state.. oh yea.. forgot to mention each of us rotated at goalie and everyone who attended try-outs made the team that was typical of all our teams from the town of Vail). Most of those guys have gone on to become successful and they are all great people and hold a special place in our hearts.  Separate teams and separate schedules may have been good for us but my parents probably think differently. Having two schedules must have been a bear. They were at the rink 3+ hours every night. They spent countless hours trucking us across the country for tournaments, games, and summer camps. They are truly the reason Mikey and I have had any hope what so ever.  Probably just the thought of being on the same team would have made them go through the roof with excitement!

The first time we played together on an organized team was at Northwood School in Lake Placid, NY. Leaving Vail, our home town we had grown to love, was one of the hardest decisions we ever had to make. This was especially true for our parents. We had few options and if we were really serious about hockey a decision had to be made. Northwood School it was. Mikey at the age of 14 and I at 16 made the trek Northeast. Unbeknownst to us, this would not be the last trip to the North Country together. Leaving home and starting a new adventure  far from the comfortable rocky mountains really makes you grow up quick. We had some amazing teachers, coaches and faculty for support but nothing compares to having one of your own with you. You always have an ally. Someone you know will always be there and have your back no matter what. That was my first realization that we really had something special. Going to Northwood School  in upstate New York we were finally starting a journey together.

Our paths crossed two years later. This time in Waterloo, Iowa of all places. Let me tell you, we had one hell of a time in that town. Thinking that this might be the last time we would ever hit the ice together our dad decided to move out. He would join the two of us and rent a two bedroom apartment.  My mom being super supportive actually let it happen. She would hold the fort down back home and regularly visit us. Let’s keep in mind that my mom skies religiously. Skiing over 100 days annually the mountain is her sanctuary. Let’s also keep in mind that my dad was now retired. He had worked his way from the bottom in 1962 as a ski slope groomer (before the use of snow cats they hired people to side slip trials… a long, hard and tedious job) to the top in 2005 as a Chief Operating Officer of Vail, Beaver Creek, Arrowhead, Keystone, and Breckinridge (btw… I think that job is now run by about 5 separate people but if I’m wrong someone can reply and correct me). It is now one of the most recognized ski areas in the world! And he was one of the core contributors and deserves a lot of recognition for what he was able to accomplish. Now he had transformed, rightfully so, into a diehard hunter, fisherman , and ultimate outdoorsman.  My mom and dad were giving up a lot. They were leaving this all behind to become our hockey support system. Now, I say this because at 7:00am Mikey had to rise for school. He would walk downstairs half awake to my dad in the kitchen, ” the short order cook,” as we called him. Always full of energy dad would have an array of, better than restaurant style, omelets, toast, oatmeal, sausage, and pancakes. These items were available everyday and I tribute my brothers Greek God physique to it. Although healthy eating was not a big concern at the time I think it planted a seed into our heads about the importance of breakfast and starting the day out with the right fuel. Having our dad there was special and created a very strong  bond that the three of us still have. We all talk about the good times and crazy experiences that we had in Waterloo. It brings grins to all of our faces. Although we still do many cool things together, I think the three of us in Waterloo for that season really toped the cake.  I mean seriously who does that!

It wouldn’t be until 6 years later that the brotherhood would be reunited once more. It may sound a little bravehartish  but I really do think it is appropriate. We were in the Adirondacks once again where our journey started 10 years ago. The brotherhood had come a full circle. Being best friends and teammates is one thing but best friends, teammates and brothers is something incomprehensible. Not a day goes by that we don’t appreciate how cool this opportunity really is.

SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY: PLAYING WITH JP

Posted: March 9, 2011 by Mike in HOCKEY TALK

It is a question that has been asked more times than I can recollect, and unfortunately, the answers have never given credit to the incredible realities of this special opportunity. It has been asked many different ways, possibly trying to spark a more in-depth response that previous answers have failed to cover. Each question focuses around the following premise: “What is it like playing on the same professional hockey team as your brother.” While a recording device or television camera awaits an intelligent response, adrenaline rushes straight onto my tongue and an enthusiastic cliché seems to be the only reaction I can gather. “It’s a dream come true, he is my best friend and role model and to have the opportunity to play with him is unbelievable.” These are the usual words I continually exclaim to reporters who are seeking a true story. The following will give me the opportunity to elaborate on a question that has not been given a proper response.

First of all, Statistically speaking, I would not be able to give a comprehensive number that would represent the odds of playing professional hockey on the same team as your only sibling. If anyone wants to take a stab at the odds I would love to hear your input.

Next, the relationship that has formed between the two of us truly creates the magnitude of this opportunity. It is a relationship built on competition, trust, and common interests. Everything we do pretty much revolves around competition (very positive competition) from who catches the most fish in a day to who can cook the finest cuisine. With this competition we are able to push one another into uncomfortable territory, which ultimately creates new ideas and positive results. In trusting each other we are able to speak our minds and vent on occasion. Having someone you completely trust is an invaluable asset that is often overlooked. This opportunity also allows us to explore our common interests while enjoying each other’s company. Recently we have been cooking organic gourmet meals on a nightly basis. Currently, we are on a serious seafood kick. Devouring dozens of clams, scallops, tuna steaks, and lobsters. We have also been gearing up for some serious summer activities out west. That includes; gathering-up essential gear, plotting secret routes up to high mountain lakes, developing strategies for adventure races, and selecting rivers for fishing trips.

Additionally, JP is a special person to have around, whether he is your brother or teammate.  JP’s shear will and determination in all that he does motivates me on a daily basis. Every day, the entire team admires his willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done. His intensity is contagious. Having a player with JP’s character can single handedly changes the dimensions of a hockey team. A true leader and a true competitor.

Finally, I hope that this has given you a better understanding of why a simple cliché does not give justice to such a remarkable time in our lives. We have come to the realization that the chances of reuniting in the future are very slim. With this in mind will make the most out of every day and cherish the time we have together. It has been incredible so far and will always be an exciting chapter in our lives.