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Neil Crone’s Journal
Neil Crone is an actor and writer and a national spokesperson for the CCAC. A Second City veteran improvisor, host and stand up comic, Neil also loves to write poems and stories for "big and little kids".
Neil has written a journal of his experience with colorectal cancer.
Recalled to Hockey
I’m about to start playing hockey again. Another week or so. I love the game. I used to look forward to my hockey nights all week long. So, you think I’d be very excited. But, quite frankly, I’m terrified. It’s been almost a year since I put on the ‘tools of ignorance’ as they say in the goaltending trade. Not a huge span of time in the big picture, however, in the world of pick-up hockey, when you’re forty-four, that’s a lifetime. Luckily I numbered my equipment after I took it off last time, so I’ll know where everything goes when I put it back on again. And it’s not my conditioning that I’m concerned about so much either. To tell the truth, I was in better shape than some of the guys I’ve played with when I was lying in a hospital bed with a belly full of staples. No, it’s more of a mental thing really. I mean, I haven’t played in almost a year.
I shouldn’t get so worked up, I suppose. I’m sure it’s probably just like sex or riding a bike. Once you do it you never forget how. Of course I’d feel a hell of a lot better if I’d had sex or ridden a bike in the past year too.
I know that, if I have a bad first outing, I can always play the ‘cancer’ card and nobody’s going to say anything. But I won’t be able to hide behind that for long. A hockey dressing room is like a really smelly version of the Spanish Inquisition. Those guys are merciless. And the more they love you, the harder they are on you. Even after my best games, games when I stood on my head, I’d still get nailed with a bucket of friendly ridicule. And when I think about it, I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re not getting your share of abuse in a dressing room, Sheldon Kennedy aside, you’re not really a part of the team. Guys don’t hug or give effusive praise. If you’ve played well or if the herd accepts you, you get made fun of. How you take that ridicule tells the group a lot about you.
So, I guess, more than anything else, what I’m afraid of at the end of that first game back, when the jerseys come off and the beer gets opened, and the showers fill the air with steam, is silence. Silence would be very bad. Silence means ‘You stunk, but you had cancer so we’re not gonna say anything’, or ‘Wow. We thought you might be a little rusty but what the hell was that?’ or worse, ‘Man, I wonder if they got all his tumor out?’ I think I could handle playing badly and getting razzed. I could certainly handle playing well and getting razzed. But not getting anything would be upsetting. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ll really feel fully at ease until that first insult. Then I’ll know for sure that I’m safely back amongst friends.
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