To be a hockey player in the Canadian Hockey League requires hard work and dedication. For many players, the same is true in the summer when they trade their skates for jobs. There are no afternoon naps here because working in the real world is hard.
Unlike playing in the CHL, however, the kids actually make more than $50 a week – so they're paid a decent wage for their summer labour.
A lot of the players documented in this annual series work long hours, work odd hours and are often doing manual jobs that require a high degree of fitness – which is good, considering it can often be difficult to fit in daily training at the gym. Many players note how working in the summer gives them a new perspective – and even motivation – once the CHL season is over. Here are three of the hardest working kids you'll find in the CHL.
So without further ado, here's a look at how some players are spending the summer...
Justin Feser (Tri-City Americans)
City maintenance - Red Deer, Alta.:
In the WHL regular season, Justin Feser was a tour de force leading the Tri-City Americans in scoring with 106 points in 72 games. It's no surprise that the WHL all-star is also shining in the summer where he keeps his native Red Deer beautiful.
Feser is working for a contractor hired by the city to maintain greenery in parks, on main roads and in residential areas.
"I'm mowing grass, trimming and just doing labour work around the city," said Fester who finished fourth in WHL scoring last season. "It's good. It's nice to be outside, except for the rainy days – those are tough to battle through.
"When it's raining you can't really go as fast when you're mowing grass and if you're trimming, you're going to get a little wet."
The 20-year-old generally works from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday making $17 an hour. He'll finish his summer stint at the end of July. He was initially planning to attend St. Francis Xavier University, but recently decided to head overseas to play in Switzerland with EHC Olten. Considering how incredibly expensive Switzerland is, the summer money will come in handy.
This is Feser's first time working in city landscaping, as his previous summer job had been working in a propane yard.
"That was tough," said the winger. "There was a lot of lifting and hauling things around the yard basically."
Here, Feser gets to use a riding mower, though when he's trimming he has to walk around vast areas of parkland which can be taxing in the heat. Another problem is the fact that the Ams top scorer suffers from seasonal allergies. Ouch.
"In the spring time it gets really bad," said Feser. "I was pretty much taking (allergy medication) every day. At the start of the season I have to, but then it gets better as it goes along."
Stephen Pierog (Peterborough Petes)
Home renovations - Guelph, Ont:
The Peterborough Petes centre could be the hardest working player in the OHL during the summer since he's holding down two jobs. This should come as no surprise when you consider Pierog cracked the Petes lineup as an 11th round draft pick. He's used to busting butt.
His main job is working for Herron Home Improvements and whenever he has down time he's throwing pucks on net working at the Matt Smith Goaltending camp in nearby Cambridge, Ont.
"Usually I help out at the camp four hours a day and then I've got my other (construction) job," said Pierog. "Then I go to the gym pretty much every day, so I'm never home. I'm always out and about."
Most of Pierog's job entails helping out on home renovations – everything from landscaping, building decks and putting up fences to helping tile bathrooms and installing cabinets. His work day starts around 9 a.m., weather permitting, and he works until roughly 5 p.m., depending on the job.
He said his most difficult undertaking to date was jack-hammering concrete to remove fence posts because the large, broken chunks were quite heavy. Overall, he notes the job is very physically taxing, especially on days when it's hot and he's working outside.
"I have to be careful of what I eat because sometimes I feel like I lose weight," said the forward. "I'll sweat a lot because you're out in the sun all day and you're lifting heavy weight, you're always bending down and moving – but it's fun.
"We have to take a lot of breaks because it's tough work – carrying around wood and stuff, it gets to you."
Pierog says that if hockey doesn't work out for him, he'd love to be a carpenter like his older brother, Chris, who he also worked with briefly. He took a construction class at his high school in Guelph and found he had a knack for creating things.
"I fell in love with it," said the 19-year-old. "I'd stay extra hours (at school) to build other stuff too – cabinets, tables, everything. It was fun.
"I don't want to say I'm good with my hands, but..."
Pierog hopes his hands are just as good on the ice in early Sept., when he attends the annual Traverse City prospects tournament with an invite from the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. As a result, he'll be quitting his job in the next few weeks, though he's made enough money to hold him over once he starts the season in Peterborough.
"It definitely helps a lot," said Pierog, of the money. "I love the job, but I still need some money to go up to Peterborough with (for the season). It's pretty good pay and I save my money well."
Darcy Ashley (Halifax Mooseheads)
Lobster fisherman - Alberton, P.E.I.:
Just because you're a Memorial Cup and league champion doesn't make you too good to work. Halifax Mooseheads forward Darcy Ashley isn't afraid to get his hands dirty in the summer on a lobster boat for two months.
During the regular season with the Memorial Cup champion Mooseheads, Ashley was named as the Dickies Hardest Working Player of the Year. He works equally as hard in the summer where his workday begins at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m.
"You'll work until about 3 p.m. in the afternoon," said Ashley. "So it's an 11 hour day. I'll get up around 3:30 (in the morning). But I love it. You can see the sun come up every morning and it's so nice out there when the water is calm."
Fishing comes naturally to Ashley, having grown up in a family of seafarers.
"My father is a fisherman," said Ashley. "My grandfather and uncle all fish as well. It's a big industry where I'm from."
Being a competitive person, Ashley admits it's also fun to see how many lobsters they can catch in their two month season. The toughest part of the winger's job is dealing with the rough waters. Like fellow Islander, Stephen Anderson, Ashley also had to battle sea sickness when he first started fishing last summer.
"Sometimes the waves can get to nine or 10 feet," said Ashley. "I used to have a weak stomach so I used to get sea sick. I'd be throwing up and trying to work at the same time."
The boat is roughly 45-feet long and he's on a two-person crew, along with his cousin, Stephen, who is the captain. Compared to other summer jobs, lobster fishing can be quite lucrative, though this year fishermen in P.E.I went on strike to protest the low prices set for lobster.
Watch Ashley's cousin/captain, Stephen, discuss the price issue:
"You're not going to find a summer job that pays more than that for sure," said Ashley. "You can make anywhere from $800 to $1,000 per week, that's pretty good money for working as a student."
Wow. That's like lowly CHL reporter money.
The best thing about Ashley's job – besides the serious summer coin– is that the third-year forward says he really loves what he does.
"It's like hockey," said Ashley. "It's not hard work if you like what you're doing."