When John Edwards wife, Teresa, died unexpectedly in January 2017 and he suddenly became a single father to his thirteen-year-old daughter Ayanna, Edwards said the Carleton Place Senior Hockey League (CPSHL) gave him something to look forward to.
“Playing hockey twice a week helped me and Ayanna recreate a sense of normalcy and routine after our lives were turned upside down,” he said. “I would not have been able to make it through this without the support of my team and the whole league.” Edwards was the captain for the Hank’s Tire team this season and has been in the league since 2008.
There’s an immense sense of brotherhood and camaraderie in the CPSHL and league president Stu Robinson said the whole league felt the loss and was eager to help. Robinson collected cash donations from players and helped gather food from team wives to bring to Edwards and his daughter.
Edwards said teammates stopped by the house a lot after the death. Even buddies on other teams stopped by. This was a pleasant surprise since being at the house felt lonely, Edwards said. “It feels like the league became even closer, we’re like brothers.”
“We’re definitely more than just a league,” Robinson agreed. “If we didn’t have this league, what do we have to ourselves? You know what I mean? It’s our time to just get on the ice and leave everything else behind.”
Edwards said being on the ice gave him a healthy and much-needed break from the new reality he was thrust into. He remembers his first game back after his wife died. “It was really difficult right before we got on the ice, but eventually it was like, okay, the game is on, there’s no time to think about anything else,” Edwards said. “Of course we miss [Teresa] all the time; when Ayanna gets off the bus after school, when I get home from work — but I when I go to the rink I can turn all of that off.”
While Edwards tended to family matters, teammate Kevin Boyce filled in temporarily as captain. He also said the entire league took the loss personally. “I’ve played in a lot of other leagues, and I’m telling you, there isn’t another league that has the same friendships like this one does. We all wanted to do whatever we could to help.” Boyce has played in the league since 2006 and has been captain in previous seasons.
Along with clearing his head, Edwards said hockey reminded him what it means to be a leader. “As captain, I wanted to be there for the team, I wanted to be accountable,” he said.
Studies show that along with physical benefits, playing sports has huge mental benefits as well, like increased concentration and reduced stress and depression. People who make physical exercise a part of their regular routine tend to sleep better, have boosted self-confidence and strong leadership traits too.
“It didn’t bother me when I missed the first few games and Kev covered for me, but then I started to miss it a lot and that’s when I went back,” Edwards said. “And in return, it gave the guys a way to support me, an outlet.”
In April, Edwards received the Tomahawk Sportsman of the Year award. The entire league voted online to recognize a player who demonstrated ultimate sportsmanship throughout the season.
“I was so humbled by that. I didn’t expect [to receive] it,” Edwards said. Boyce and Robinson said they couldn’t think of a more suitable recipient for the award.
Despite tragedy, the Hank’s Tire team finished in first place in the regular season.
While a senior league might seem insignificant in comparison to the rightly-beloved Carleton Place Jr A Canadians, the CPSHL provides a support network where men can get together to express how they are feeling — something the Canadian Mental Health Association says men are less likely to do than women even though men and women are equally likely to experience some kind of mental health problems in their lifetime.
“This is our way to get together and express ourselves. I wouldn’t have made it through this without the league,” Edwards said. “I don’t know how to convey a thank you to everybody but I can say this; I don’t feel lonely because when I’m out in town, I’m guaranteed to bump into a buddy from the league.”
This was first published in the June edition of Hometown News. Read more of the June issue online.