At the beginning of winter break in December, I interviewed a former professional athlete for what was supposed to turn into a feature-length story. Nearly three months later, the one-source first draft of said story still sits on my computer unpublished. No secondary interviews conducted. No finished product. Not much of an excuse for that, either. The bare bones of a great story, never fleshed out, never fully embodied.
At the time of the interview, I was leaving the publication I was interning for during the fall semester, processing the death of a childhood friend, and scrambling to find a new endeavor that would diversify my résumé. Still, I find the story that never was to be the most vivifying interview experience I have ever had.
Now interning for a non-profit organization, the last sit-down interview I conducted was on Dec. 16 with former journeyman goaltender Manny Legace.
Legace played for 15 professional hockey clubs throughout his 18-year career as an underdog talent, including four National Hockey League (NHL) teams. Amongst his accolades is a gold medal at the 1993 World Junior Championships in Sweden, a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and an NHL all-star selection in 2008 while playing for the St. Louis Blues.
While I grew up watching Legace net-mind for the Springfield Falcons as a kid, it was not meeting a childhood idol that made sitting down for an interview special. What made it special was a realization—a realization that not everything is all business. Sometimes it’s just two people making good conversation, regardless of any preconceived notion that it was obligatory.
It’s a bit embarrassing that a great interview has not yet come to fruition in the form of one of my best works of journalism. Legace’s story is one of great worth, a once undrafted, undersized teenager that played his first season in Springfield at the age of 21. At age 39, with two bum knees, Legace found himself playing in Springfield again. He was playing his best hockey in years until an odd eye injury ruined his season. The ensuing 2012-13 NHL lockout ended his career.
Nevertheless, meeting Legace was a reminder that great people are everywhere, and you will come into contact with some of them along the path of your own personal journey. It didn’t feel like a journalist simply interviewing a former athlete (and current goaltending coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets organization), nor did it feel like a former athlete meeting with a longtime fan. It felt like two guys, two decades apart in age, uncovering anecdotes with only two things in common: an understanding of the unwritten lore that is hockey, and the experience of having been in Springfield, Mass. at the age of 21 with an uncertain future.
Legace had an up-and-down career, finding his way into virtually any situation an NHL-hopeful goaltender can get into, good and bad. Still, a beloved retired athlete agreeing to meet for an interview with a college intern working for a weekly newspaper is out of the ordinary, especially considering I sought him out on my own, arranging to meet with him during his one week in Springfield away from the parent club in Columbus.
What I have taken away from the interview doesn’t necessarily have journalistic implications. Rather, if you go about life with relative reputability, good things will happen. Even if almost happenstance, there will be moments where it feels that someone is going out of their way to do a good deed for you.
After all, if you do good deeds yourself it will likely come around full-circle. Legace of all people knows that—he told me he owes his career to Springfield, a place that gave him both his first big break and his last hoorah.
Both professionally and overall, the tides have ebbs and flows. Sometimes you swim. Sometimes you float. Sometimes you tread water. Sometimes you get thrown a rope when you need it. Sometimes you don’t need it, but someone offers you a ride on a nifty speedboat. Spending an hour sharing casual laughter with a Stanley Cup-winner was one of those rides on a nifty speedboat.
With each full rotation the Earth makes once every 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.090 seconds, I have a new plan for my career that is supposed to begin in two and a half months, and that’s alright for me, or for any other twenty-something treading that territory.
The Earth isn’t flat. There’s no freefalling off the edge into the eternity of space and time. Just keep swimming around, and think of the unclear waters as exciting. The longer you swim, the better you get at it. Eventually another big break will come. There will be more rides on nifty speedboats, and you’ll be ready to take in the sights and sounds at full-throttle when the time comes.