Let's face it. Airline travel these days sucks. Big time. The airlines are hanging on by their teeth and things are tenuous at best. But, every once and a while there is a bright spot. So there I was hanging out in the Pittsburgh airport while a friend's plane was three hours late which meant instead of getting to the race at 10pm, we were looking at 1am, at best.
I noticed a hockey player roaming around baggage claim and he ambled over to take a load off his feet. It turned out that Dominic "Dom" Jean was here for a tryout with the Indiana Icecheckers, a professional A(single A - NHL is AAA) hockey team. The 20-year old from north of Thunder Bay, Ontario would be skating his heart out for two days and if he impressed the scouts, he would be asked back to play with the team come September.
Just like aspiring bike racers, Dom had been a fan first, having not missed a Stanley Cup final on TV since 1993 (he was five). Along the way he separated his shoulder, compressed three discs, has numerous facial scars and these days is hobbled by a busted right knee. But, he is a hockey player and they play through pain, sometimes lots of it. If he makes the team, he will get paid somewhere between $200 to $500 a week with the league stars making upwards of $1000 per week.
Of course, the big payoff is a shot at moving to AA (double A) and then to the big show, but like all sports, it is one step at a time. And, just like budding bike racers, Dom is receiving a lot of help from his parents and loved ones. Dom's parents are paying for his tryout, it was $1000 in airfare alone. If he makes the team, he doesn't have to pay them back.
It's tough to be a pro in any sport. There are a lot of parallels regarding the sacrifices, the drive and the support necessary to get paid to do something you love. I am hoping that Dom played through the pain and got his slot on the Icecheckers. Whether it is a stick, ball or two wheels, everybody should get a shot at chasing their dream.