When something big happens in hockey, it’s bound to be the primary topic of discussion all over this country. The recent news of the Atlanta Thrashers’ relocation to Winnipeg, combined with the Vancouver Canucks’ third-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup finals, makes this is doubly true. While the latter turn of events is one that, for whatever reason, many Canadians feel conflicted about, the former seems to have the country cheering in unison for the city of Winnipeg, whose hockey fans endured the nightmare of having their team relocated 15 years ago.
And a nightmare it is. I had family friends who were diehard Jets fans, and I remember them being beyond angry. I also recall the saga of my team, the Edmonton Oilers, nearly being relocated in the 90s, and while I was too young to understand the financial reasons why, I wasn’t too young to be able to feel the palpable tension in the city.
While Winnipeg fans rejoice, it’s a tough day for Thrashers fans in Atlanta, and the process also can’t be that easy for those in the Thrashers organization. I have little sympathy for the players making millions—not only are they being paid extraordinarily well to play a sport, but to some degree they know that moving around unexpectedly is simply a part of the business. With trades and the like, it’s these people who are least affected by any kind of relocation. Now, the lower-level employees like trainers, equipment managers and the like—not so easy on them, as they’re unlikely to still have jobs at the end of the day.
While I’ve been living in Vancouver as a migrant for the past 6 years or so, my hockey loyalty to the Oilers has been and will remain steadfast, despite their record worst season and Vancouver’s record best. In fact, after moving here I would say I became a bigger fan of the copper and blue, as the team took on a new meaning in relation to my identity—suddenly I was unknowingly searching for things to reaffirm, or rediscover, who I was in the face of my new surroundings. What team I cheered for had little meaning in a town where most everyone else did as well, but in relocating to Vancouver I could differentiate myself meaningfully by putting on my retro Oilers jersey.
You may have endured a relocation or two in your own life, and may know quite well how tough a process it can be. Going to university represents a stage of life in which transition becomes a key word. Lots of people move away from home to attend school and, combined with the developmental transition from high school to post-secondary education, there’s suddenly a whole new environment to get used to, with new people and new cultures.
I was already halfway through my undergraduate degree when I finally moved, but there were still many challenges. Getting used to a new city and a new university campus, right after getting used to the previous one, were both exciting and intimidating undertakings. Not knowing where things were, barely knowing anyone, not having any money—there had been easier times in my life.
Interestingly, finding a job was among both the hardest and the easiest things that I had to do after moving. In the past, I’d spent a lot of time working in restaurant kitchens; it’s how I paid the bills going through school. At the time of my move, I had just left the first real job I’d ever had outside the food service industry in Edmonton. And, like a lot of people, I was unprepared for the tough job market in Vancouver. With my poor job search techniques, I was unable to find employment in the non-profit sector. When my money ran out after a few weeks, I had to bite the bullet. Fortunately for me, the first casual restaurant chain I walked into hired me on the spot.
Everything else kind of fell into place after that. And as I adjusted, I grew in ways that I never would have been able to had I not moved in the first place. It takes a lot of courage to admit to yourself, when you’re not satisfied, that you need a change. While I didn’t know exactly what I needed to be different, I found it anyway by putting myself in an uncomfortable new situation where falling back into old ways and patterns just wouldn’t have worked.
So, if you’re considering a big move, be it for school or just a lifestyle change, I guess my message to you is that the rewards are likely to outweigh the costs. Even if you’re not making millions of dollars to play a sport.