In the grand scheme of things most players in the Canadian Hockey League realize just how lucky they are to have the ability to play hockey at least seven months out of every year.
Sure, the pay is terrible, the work is hard and the road trips are grueling — but for many, playing junior hockey is a labour of love and a stepping-stone to either the pro ranks or a free university education.
Summer is when many teenagers make their first foray into the "real world" and those who play in the CHL are no different. Last season, Buzzing The Net, featured players throughout the CHL who were workin' to make ends meet: Doing everything from washing dishes and pounding pavement to grinding out shifts at an IKEA warehouse.
So without further ado, here's a look at how some players are spending the summer...
Garrett Clarke (Gatineau Olympiques)
Bear hunting guide - Smith's Corner, N.B.:
Gatineau defenceman Garrett Clarke helps people hunt for bears. This shouldn't come as a big surprise to anyone who has followed his career in the QMJHL, because when has the enigmatic Clarke ever done anything conventional?
"Every couple of days I'll do bear baits to keep the bears in the area," said Clarke who works for Field and Fly Outfitters — a side-business started by his dad, Tim, an avid hunter. "I'll cut a trail and then fill a bucket (inside a larger barrel) with rotten meat and bread and then I'll pour molasses over it ... and then the bears will come and basically eat it."
Clarke, 19, said he's been working in the outdoors since he was a child and is currently commuting 60 km a day between his family's cabin in rural Smith's Corner, N.B., and Moncton so he can continue training for the hockey season, where he hopes to turn pro. Sometimes, however, he gets his cardio workouts seeing bears in the area — like the day he inadvertently came between a mother and her cubs while trying to retrieve a lost barrel.
"I thought I was having a heart attack," said Clarke, who was at rookie camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs last year. "The mom — the sow — was calling her cubs and I thought, 'Oh, God.' I just dropped my head, picked the barrel up and looked at the ground the whole way back... that's the worst case and the only time I'd really be scared is if you're around the sow and cubs because if she's threatened, she'll attack you. That would be the worst way to go down for sure."
The bear season in New Brunswick is only open during the spring and the fall. Hunters are only allowed to have one adult bear kill registered to their name. Clarke — who has yet to shoot a bear himself — uses tree-mounted cameras equipped with sensors to figure out the feeding habits of the local animals.
"When I was young I was terrified because I thought the bears were just going to chase me and eat me," said Clarke. "Now I don't really mind it at all because it's nice to be out on the four-wheeler just feeding the bears, enjoying the country and the quiet."
According to the defenceman, bears are surprisingly fast, strong and "pretty tasty" with a flavour similar to beef. Sometimes it can take hours to find a bear once it has been shot.
"They're pretty hard to get because they have a huge shoulder on them that protects all of their vital organs," said Clarke. "You hit them in the shoulder and it's like hitting a brick wall. They're just going to keep going, they're tough to figure out.
"But there's one rule my dad's always had — one saying: 'You never outrun the bear, you just outrun the guy you're with.' "
Chris Buonomo (Barrie Colts)
Delivery driver - Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.:
As a four-year defenceman in the OHL, Chris Buonomo is more used to seeing forwards drive the net, rather than doing the driving himself.
That all changes in the summer when he gets behind the wheel of his truck to make deliveries for TopLine Electric his family's electrical and plumbing business.
"I deliver all kinds of things," explains Buonomo. "Steel pipe, PVC pipe, wire — a whole bunch of different stuff."
His day typically begins at 5 a.m., so he can get a workout in before heading to the office where he usually works from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Definitely a different kind of grind than playing hockey with the Colts.
"I'm up extremely early and then by the time I get home I'm kinda beat," said the 20-year-old of his summer days. "I'm in bed by 10 or 10:30 (at night)."
Having grown up in the Soo, the veteran defenceman said he's able to navigate the roads with his truck — a half-ton — without getting lost.
"A lot of it is just running around delivering stuff to all the workers and helping them with whatever they need," said Buonomo, who hopes to return to OHL for an overage season.
He said he enjoys his work mostly because he gets to spend time with his family, his dad, brother, grandfather, and uncles — one of whom owns the business.
"We definitely have a lot of fun."
Kris Grant (Erie Otters)
Garden Centre attendant - Kingston, Ont.:
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds, Erie Otters defenceman Kris Grant knows all about growing pains. In the summer, however, the growing he deals with is of a different sort as he works at the Garden Centre of his local Canadian Tire in Kingston.
"I water the plants or the flowers," said the 19-year-old of his part-time job. "Basically everything that's there I move off the transports (trucks) when they come and put them in the back — just the basic stuff."
Most of the time he's also outside helping customers by lifting large bags of soil or fertilizer which weigh in the area of 20 pounds. He said some of the trees he's required to help people with can also get pretty heavy. All the lifting and moving has helped the defenceman add muscle without even being at the gym, where he spends a lot of his free time.
"I can see a difference," said Grant. "When I go to the gym after work it's kind of like a warm-up for the gym, it's nice... it's a good workout for sure because I'm pretty busy when I'm out there."
Grant said the toughest thing about his job is standing outside all day when it's very hot, especially given his fair complexion.
"I'm a redhead," said Grant. "So I have to put sunscreen on every hour. I've been burnt a couple times already."
Still he enjoys the job, particularly the people he works with and the customers he helps. Some days he'll be wearing his Otters hat, which prompts some of the locals to talk a little OHL hockey.
"I'm from Kingston so I know some of the people that will come in and I'll stand there and talk to them about hockey," said Grant. "I played for the Kingston Voyageurs (in the OJHL) two years ago, so people remember me from when I played for them.
"It's kind of nice."