Skates, cards, and the quest to reclaim lost glory

Creating a Hockey Brotherhood through Poker


In more ways than one, a standard deck of playing cards have become somewhat one and the same with professional athletes. Due to the long hours spent traveling to and from venues, these athletes have created a bond, a brotherhood that has somewhat opened new arenas for them to discover a deeper connection. Dating back to the all night train rides of the National Hockey League’s Original Six Era, card games, more specifically poker, have always been part of a typical hockey players’ life.

The life of a hockey player isn’t always as smooth as how they look while skating in a pair of Bauer. They experience their fair share of bumps and bruises on a nightly basis, but still continue to come out and play to the best of their abilities – armed with the full support of equally rugged teammates. The Wightlink Raiders’ roster showcases a diverse mix of hockey players in the third tier of the English National Ice Hockey League. They have some of the most bruising defenders in Nick Compton, Damon Larter, and Niall Bound; as well as fantastic international calibre forwards in Richard Facey, Jiri Hanzal, and Craig Tribe. As the new season draws closer, the Raiders still carry the hopes of bringing back the lost glory of their franchise’s dominating run in the 90s, when they won the English National League (currently hockey’s English Premier League) a record five straight years. In a way, the road to reclaim this historic feat probably starts with a standard deck of cards.

There’s something magical about cards that captivates people from all over the world. Some use it to tell one’s fortunes, while others – like professional poker players – use it as a way to bond with their peers, at the same time earn a decent living. A professional card shark like the highly-analytical Tobias Reinkemeier pours his whole heart and soul before, during, and after a poker tournament. Players like him sometimes go as far as scouting their opponents on PartyPoker’s Twitter page, while also looking for the best tournament to participate in. In hindsight, being part of a team in an individual sport like poker is way more different from being a goaltender or a forward for the Wightlink Raiders; however, there’s no doubt about the support it provides.

At the end of the day, everything boils down to the camaraderie and brotherhood of players. You see poker players cut each others’ throats on the felt, but after a major World Poker Tour event, you’ll see them have a drink with fellow pros, share stories, and sometimes badger each other with playful jokes. On the other hand, hockey players share interests like playing poker as a way to break the monotony of life on the road and solidify their bond. In the end, it’s always a welcome addition for athletes to find that certain common denominator away from their respective sports – as long as they keep their main focus on the task at hand.

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