A few weeks ago, my buddy Jared Aulin invited me to join a group he had started on Facebook. I clicked the link, and became wrapped up in a story so powerful that I couldn’t resist wanting to share it with the world. He formed the group to support his friend, Tommy Frew, in pursuit of his dreams; mainly a dream to make an epic comeback to the sport he loves so much. You may already be familiar with Tommy’s story, as Justin Bourne reintroduced him to the hockey world this past fall. You can read Justin’s insightful account of Tommy’s story here.
I asked Jared for a little more on Tommy’s story. I was intrigued, and I wanted to know more. Jared was kind enough to oblige, and share his impressions of Tommy with us to show the world what they’ll in get in return simply by investing support in this most persistent of hockey warriors:
I remember walking into the Petit National Ice Center in Milwaukee for some treatment on my shoulder from Dr. Scapattici. During my treatment the topic of my comeback came up and he mentioned that his friend Tommy, who was in Milwaukee with him to get skates fitted, was also trying to make a comeback after 10 plus years away from the game. Most people would think the guy was crazy! I felt Tommy was inspirational and doing something very admirable. When my treatment was done with Dr. Scap, I saw this guy sitting in the next room keeping to himself and kind of looking out of place, almost as if he felt he didn't belong. I remember reaching out my hand and saying "Hi, I’m Jared Aulin." He shook my hand (a strong and confident handshake) and said "Tommy Frew." I mentioned that I had heard about what he was trying to accomplish and told him that it is only unreasonable to those who don't have it in them to achieve it. I mentioned my story and comeback to him and after sharing that, a totally different person appeared in front of me. Tommy had a different glow about him, a new confidence and a smile that said "I got this". He noticed a shirt I was wearing that said "Pursuing a dream isn't for quitters" and he asked me where I got it. I told them I had them made for me to train in. Training for a comeback is never easy and I used those shirts to remind myself to continue pushing and working hard when my body was trying to tell me to give up. He asked me if he could have one, so I took one of the extra ones I had and gave it to him. I knew that he was going to need that reminder. We went out for lunch that day and had a really long chat. I dropped him off at the train station so he could make his way back home. A new and exciting journey was about to take place for him, and he was ready and willing to take it on in full force - or as Tommy would say "with guns a’blazing".
My first impression of Tommy was inspirational and very motivating. You often hear people ask "If you could choose a few people to go to war with, who would it be and why'? Well Tommy is definitely a guy on my list. He knows how far fetched his dream sounds to other people, but isn't afraid to tackle it head on because he knows what he is capable of. He knows the effort and sacrifices he has to make, and he is willing to do so to achieve it. He made a believer out of me both in our conversations and after seeing his play on the ice. He pays attention to details, he doesn't quit, he is constantly asking questions, he is an incredibly gifted skater, and most of all he plays the game with passion. Tommy is a family man first, but with his family’s support he knows there is no finish line - until he says there is one. To continue chasing a dream when people keep brushing you off, making empty promises or having that look in their eye like you are reaching for something that is out of reach would cause 95% of people to give up. Tommy is not that 95%, he is of that 5%. Blood, sweat, tears, time, sacrifice, discipline and all of the other elements that play a huge factor in achieving success as a hockey player is what Tommy accepts and doesn't run away from. All he asks for is one opportunity to prove himself, and I know when he is given that opportunity he will be ready and even more so very thankful and appreciative that someone took a chance. A chance I believe will only better a professional hockey team, because Tommy has what it takes. Tommy is a world class person and someone I can say is a "best friend". He has shown me tremendous support not just in my career but my everyday life as well, so I am very thankful for our friendship. "First impressions last a life time" and he will be remembered in a positive way for the rest of my life.
Through email and social networking, Jared was able to introduce me to Tommy, and we became fast friends. He was happy to oblige when I asked if I could share his story, and shared some aspects of his life that don’t always make the media. He shared how he balances teaching and training, family and hockey, and most of all, what it meant to him to meet someone who believed in him. When I asked if I could share what he had written as is, he again obliged.
A Day in the Life
The alarm screams and I reach through the darkness to silence it, feeling tired and wanting to sink back into my warm bed. It is just before 4am. And I slowly move to get myself dressed, all the while trying not to disturb my wife, but Jen turns over and tries to say something reassuring while still asleep. The morning is dark and cold, and the lonely feel comes over me again. The only warmth is the coffee that I drink on my way to the rink; no one is on the road. I arrive at the rink at 4:30 and I quickly lace up my skates and take to the ice. I have to move fast or else I will not get in all the work I need to accomplish. A nagging thought interrupts my concentration. If I cut my practise short or skip a drill, will anyone know? That thought ends with the knowledge that I will know and I am my most important critic.
It’s now 6am, I have to rush or else I will be late for my temp teaching job, located an hour and a half away. I can just make it, but if there is even a little traffic I will be late. The stress of being late puts my job in jeopardy with the school that I am coming to know as my home away from home and my source of income for my family. I arrive just in time and pause to catch my breath. I’m tired and I haven’t had anything to eat yet, but I have to start my work day. Work ends at 3pm, and the other teachers are marking or coaching after school. I have go train again. This time I push weights and run sprints, all the while felling like I am being pulled in five different directions, all the while still trying to be a good step-dad and husband. I know the other teachers might say, “He is leaving early again.” or “Doesn’t he have school related activities?” But they don’t know the struggle that began at 4’o’clock this morning. They only see the guy getting in his car and leaving shortly after the bell rings. They do not ask why I do what I do, and I do not talk about what I am trying to accomplish. I keep this difficult journey to myself and I live with my choices. That’s what it means to chase your dreams. I know it is just a game, but I love it. Hockey is a sport where when you trust your brothers on the ice, magic happens.
I have been having problems skating because I have unusual feet and skates simply don’t fit me properly. I have tried many different types of skates and have spent over $10 000 trying to find a pair of skates that work well for me. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to meet Mark Scappaticci, a local chiropractor who specializes in sports performance. He kindly spends a generous 2 hours talking to me, and at the conclusion of our discussion, he invites me to take a trip to Milwaukee with him the very next day. The plan is to fly out of Buffalo. People say fate is strange and has a purpose and it is true. I get held up crossing the border into the US and jump on a plane just as it is preparing to leave. The purpose of the trip is to try a new skate product that is endorsed by Mario Lemieux, MLX. Dr. Scappaticci tells me the concept of the skate while we we’re in the air. When we land we are going for a workout right away. I am not ready for this. I am utterly exhausted both physically and emotionally and just want to be home with my family, but that’s not an option today. You don’t turn down an opportunity such as this one.
My first skate with the MLXes is incredible and they fulfill everything I want in a skate. As I look around a crowded arena I feel lonely; no one knows me or even cares to get to know me. But as luck would have it, discovering MLX will fall second in importance to the meeting of Jared Aulin. Jared Aulin noticed me and immediately took an interest in me. To say that Jared is kind fails to reach the depths of his generosity and sincere desire to help those he can. Jared has spent years in his hockey career underappreciated with different organizations in the NHL. Jared brought me into the group training on the ice and made me feel a part of the team. He also opened doors for me by introducing me to his sports agent and by talking about me publicly as a story of interest instead of as some cocktail party joke. Jared Aulin has put me closer to my dream than anyone else has, and I am grateful. To this day Jared and I maintain regular phone conversation and he remains one of my biggest supporters.
Once I realized that my goal of playing for the NHL might be attainable, I took a leave from work. No longer having a steady source of income was disconcerting and I felt scared and very poor. However, since the beginning of the 2010 NHL year, interest from various scouts has grown exponentially and I feel that the first part of my struggle is nearing the end. The dream I had as a precocious eleven year old boy who desperately wanted to wear his favourite team’s jersey seems right around the corner.
Today I spend three to four hours a day on the ice, in addition to daily land training, as well as talking and connecting with people who might help me reach my goal. I am absolutely terrified of failing and it would be so easy just to give up, but what kind of role model would I to the kids I taught? I need to show them the importance of reaching their potential as well as setting ambitious yet attainable goals for the future. Like my wife Jen said, ‘When we are 60 years old, I don`t want you to look back with any regrets.`` She is my angel and my source of support.
As you can see, Tommy is in inspiration to all of us. I don’t think the word “quit” is in his vocabulary unless it’s preceded by the word “never.” While his story is especially pertinent to hockey fans like us, it’s just as important to others. He shows us what it really means to chase a dream and make sacrifices to achieve that dream. So if you’re on Facebook, join the group and show your support. Share Tommy’s story with others who may need some inspiration, and keep your eyes out for updates or signing news – because as many of us now believe, it’s only a matter of time before we see a player flying up the ice with “Frew” on his back and a huge smile on his face.