“It really depends on why they’re stopping. Are they stopping because they feel like I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve and I’m ready to move on to my next chapter in life, or is it because I need to retire, I need to move on because of an injury, I’m at my max. but I don’t want to be at my max.? Are they retiring because they want to, or because they have to?” Parent continues.
“When they have to [retire], it’s a bigger crisis because they haven’t thought about what it’s going to look like in the future, what type of things I’m going to do, what type of identity I want to create outside of my sport. They haven’t started the process of thinking those things, so there’s just so much shock. It can be traumatizing for them just because they’re like ‘What am I doing now? Who am I? What’s going to happen with me?’.”
This is a feeling Stock knows all too well.
“At first, I had no idea what in the world just happened or what to do – I think that’s harder than seeing your career start to slow down or fall as you get older, slower because you could kind of see that day coming even though you think you’re going to play forever," Stock, who played 203 NHL games says.
"When I get hurt and they say you’re done, it’s like ‘okay, you’re done, see ya, go do something else’ – well, I’ve only known one thing... It's like going back to square one.”
Along with this emotional trauma, Parent says the loss of routine and lack of structure in their lives is the next big obstacle professional athletes have to conquer.
This is something both Barnaby and Stock admit to struggling with.
“For me, that was the biggest change, that was the hardest thing,” Stock explains. “You’re trying to come up with a new routine – first it’s what is the best routine for me, and then what is the best routine for my family.”
Barnaby echoes this thought.
“You’re just so used to being in a structured life,” he adds.
“I was so used to – at the time since I was 16 – being on my own, training the way that I did… I had a set schedule everyday. I was so used to being in that structure, so when it wasn’t there, I had nothing to do and that was a part that I found really tough – not having that structure anymore.”
Then, they feel the void – like a huge part of their life is missing.
Chris Moynes, the managing director and senior financial advisor of ONE Sports + Entertainment Group, and author of “The Pro’s Process” – a series of books that examine life after sports for professional athletes, describes it as “a hole.”
“I think there’s a large void in one’s life after they leave a certain profession – especially at a young age when all they’ve known, from day one, is that sport and the routine of that sport,” he says.
“I deal a lot with hockey players and I think that from a very young age, these athletes identify themselves as hockey players in the world and that that’s their sole purpose in life.”
"I call it a drug - there is a drug in football and in sports that you can't get anywhere else" - Milt Stegall, retired CFL widereciever
However, this isn’t just a problem among professional hockey players – it’s something that can be felt and experienced by athletes in all leagues.
Canadian Football League (CFL) legend, former Winnipeg Blue Bomber, Milt Stegall understands this void best. In fact, he says trying to fill this “hole” was the biggest challenge he faced upon retirement.