At some point, I think we all contemplate retirement and what it will be like to stop the treadmill of work and how we will handle it. Seldom, though, do we get a chance for a retirement dress rehearsal.

I did. 

I was broadcasting an NHL game in Edmonton on March 11, 2020, and planned to travel to Boston the next day for another assignment. Talk of an impending shutdown due to the coronavirus was all over the news. To say the crew was distracted is an understatement of the first order.  Everyone was glued to their phone, looking for updates. At the first TV timeout of the second period, the NBA had announced they were suspending the rest of the season. I called the travel department, cancelled my trip to Boston, and asked for a booking on the first flight home. 

Like a lot of my fellow Canadians, home is where I stayed. My work world stopped. After 40 years of planes, trains, and hockey games, there was nowhere I needed to be. I officially had nothing to do. 

It didn’t occur to me while it was happening, but being stuck at home due to the pandemic was about to change the way I lived and thought about work.

NHL with no fans was no fun

I went back to calling games in August and September 2020 in my bubbles at Toronto and Edmonton, but it wasn’t the job I had known for so long. It was a sentence, not an assignment with no fans, no travel, no fun.

When the NHL announced a limited 2021 schedule with no fans, I made the choice to not work that season. I wasn’t comfortable with air travel, hotel stays, protocols, and restrictions during a pandemic. I was lucky that was an option for me. Not everyone had the luxury of being able to stay home. I am grateful to all of the front-line workers. Everyone from healthcare workers to grocery store employees had to work in conditions they’d never dealt with before. These are truly different times. 

My “practice” retirement routine 

As a creature of habit and a strong believer in the power of routine, I didn’t put the brakes on. I simply changed my approach as the days and months went on. It was time to create a new routine that continued to include fitness, mental wellness, and stimulation. 

I knew how to maintain my healthy routine while being on the road since this is what I had been doing from an early age. But learning how to do this from home was a whole new world to me.

This was my “practice” retirement routine that kept me happy and healthy:

  • Three walks a day with our golden retriever. Rain or shine, whether he wanted them or not. 
  • Used a stationary bike. Gyms were closed, so we had to make our homes workout-worthy. I am personally proud of finding a stationary bike since buying workout-anything at that time was like finding a hotel room in Daytona during Spring Break.
  • Downloaded an app and found classes for the stationary bike. On the wet days when I didn’t feel like going out for a run, I’d turn the volume down on the seemingly-always-screaming spin instructors and meander through the 45 minutes of Normandy backroads. 
  • Experienced springtime in British Columbia. This is a phenomenal season I had missed for a quarter of a century. I also got to golf in the month of March for the first time EVER.
  • Tested out new recipes. I have a voracious appetite for reading, so a good book is always on the go. During the pandemic, I discovered recipe books. I had my nose in Yum and Yummer and Vij’s elegant and inspiring cookbooks every morning. I’d source the ingredients, venture out to the market, and then hunker down in the kitchen for the afternoon preparing different and (mostly) delightful healthy culinary treats.

How to live your best life

My practice run for retirement reinforced that what I had already been doing for 30 years works well for me. Since I was always travelling alone and eating out at restaurants, I had to make healthy decisions about fitness, food, and lifestyle. I wouldn’t have been able to maintain that pace of life if I didn’t feel good.

I will never tell you what to do with your life because I believe everyone should do what is best for them. However, these are some of the things that have worked for me to feel good about my life, my work, and myself.

Learn some interests beyond your job 

It’s amazing how things that once seemed boring and trivial while I was working now grab my attention. 

Find a physical activity that works for you 

Running is not for everyone, but it’s been important for me. I’ve had a running route in every city in the league. From Mount Royal in Montreal to the Guadaloupe River in San Jose, running makes my body feel good and helps to clear mental cobwebs that are essential to my well-being. I run because it feels good for me, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you. Your version of being active needs to be something that you enjoy doing. As I get older, I am learning that a long walk feels great too.

Meet your neighbours 

For years my life and my friends were people I’d connect with while on the road. I know people in every city in North America, but I didn’t know the people who live across the street. Now when I take my dog for a walk, it takes twice as long as I think it will because I stop and chat with the people who live around me. I’ve found myself humming the Sesame Street song “who are the people in your neighbourhood.” I have to come to realize that the people you can meet while walking around your neighbourhood can be soulful and therapeutic.

Walk on the beach

Life was busy for me when I was working and travelling. But no matter how busy it got, I always made time to have moments to myself in the middle of all of the mayhem to enjoy a walk on the beach. Use the moments that you have to the best of your advantage. These sorts of things allowed me to feel better about going to work and leading a busy life. 

Ready for the real thing

For over 30 years of our marriage, my wife, Denise, had been experiencing life at home every day while I travelled North America watching hockey games. She had also been to every parent-teacher meeting and drove the family taxi to dance lessons, hockey games, and playdates while I was on the road. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for everything that has happened in my career. I have been blessed with an incredible job that has led me on amazing adventures. I have also realized that it’s been pretty great being at home too. 

So when the summer of 2021 came, and hockey was on the horizon, I wasn’t ready to start up again. After broadcasting hockey games in 6 different decades, I didn’t feel like packing a bag and heading for another airport. The pandemic was still on, I had just practised retiring for a year, and I felt I was really good at it.

I’ve been very fortunate to work at a job that I have thoroughly enjoyed and that I have a great appreciation for. I have had the opportunity to work with some fantastic people in some exciting situations. 

The best job I ever had 

It’s early for me. It feels like I finished the retirement exhibition season, and now I’m onto the first regular season of a post-job life. My ambition is to be the retirement rookie of the year.

The travel is less and so is the pay but the meals are great and my attitude is adjusted. I can’t think of retirement as “doing nothing.” In fact, I think retirement might be the wrong word for what we do when we leave long-time occupations. It’s re-inventing, recalibrating, refocusing, and invigorating.  

One day when you’re mentally and physically ready for what we call “retirement,” the doors are open for what you haven’t had the chance to make time for yet in your life. 

I can’t believe how busy I am with no flights or games on my schedule. 

An old pal suggested retirement was the best job he’s ever had, and so far, he’s right.

Is there one thing you’d like to do when you retire? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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