After nearly forty years of blood, sweat and tears, Condor’s legend, Jamie Cooke, saw his days on the ice come to an end, but with his selection to the 2013 U.S. Men’s Inline Hockey World Team, there is no end in sight to his hockey playing days.
The 2013 FIRS (Fédération Internationale de Roller Sports) Inline Hockey World Championships began July 14 in Anaheim and Huntington Beach, California, and ran through July 21. Following the tournament in CA, the USA team will head to Cali, Colombia for the 2013 World Games, July 24-31.
Cooke, who is 44, is liable to be one of the oldest players at the World Games, if not the oldest; Cooke trumps all of the USA players in age, with a 27-year-old being second in line in seniority. Cooke is fine with being the oldest member of this year’s squad, cherishing each moment because he was not fortunate enough to make the team the previous year.
“I got the opportunity to tryout this time last year and didn’t make it,” said Cooke. “It was an incredible experience and I will never forget it.”
Not making the team in 2012 was a disappointment for Cooke, who felt like it was his last year to have a legitimate chance of making the team. Having not made the team, “Cookie” did not get down on himself and as a result kept plugging away with his nutrition and fitness play while he played Major League Roller Hockey in Irvine.
“My overall conditioning and speed improved during the MLRH season,” Cooke said. “I used to be pretty bulky and wasn’t very quick but I got lean and stronger and my teammates noticed it too.”
Being fit allowed Cooke to give it his all during the team tryouts, which were comprised of five long sessions in 24 hours. Feeling as if he was trying his hardest to stay on par with the young guns, Cookie went all out and left nothing on the table when it came time for the roster to be announced.
“When they brought out the list of players that made the team everything went silent,” Cooke said. “I think I read my name three or four times and then made sure I was reading the correct list.”
“My buddy put his hand on my shoulder and said ‘good job’,” Cooke said. “When you get older you appreciate the little things more, so when I experienced this victory it was something I don’t know if I could describe without getting too emotional.”
It cannot be overstated how huge of a role Cooke’s new lifestyle played in his success. Since he was a teenager, Cookie can remember going to the gym as a lone wolf and pumping some iron, but ironically the thing that set him over the top in terms of physical fitness, was something a friend introduced to him: P90X.
Cooke thought his friend was trying to pull a joke on him.
“I wasn’t going to work out to a DVD,” Cooke said. “And he tried to get me to drink a meal replacement drink.”
If it was not for the perseverance of his friend jamming Beachbody’s P90X down his throat, Cooke probably would not have been in shape to make the team.
“I ignored his calls for almost six months and then… reluctantly, I said ‘ok’,” said Cooke.
Agreeing to try the workout paid dividends as Cooke has gone through a physical transformation.
“In five minutes I was done and felt like I was at the gym for 90!” Cooke said.
P90X did wonders for Cooke, but what really set him over the edge in terms of fitness was a meal replacement drink, known as Shakeology.
“The programs were great but what it took me a while to realize was it was Shakeology that was giving me the nutrition to recover and improve,” Cooke said.
Once Cooke found out the secret to his success, he spread the world of Shakeology.
“Now my wife and kids drink it,” Cooke said. “My parents drink it. I have become a ‘Wellness Coach’ and my wife and I are changing lives through Beachbody.”
“This program kicked my butt every single day and took my conditioning and agility back to when I was in my early twenties,” Cooke said. “Within two months I was back playing very good hockey at the pro level.”
And before he knew it, Cooke had made Team USA. Cookie’s path to the US team started around 17 years ago, during the second season of the RHI (Roller Hockey International) in the mid-90’s when he was drafted that year in the 27th round by the Tampa Bay Tritons.
“The night before camp I put on all my hockey gear and skated back and forth for an hour trying to learn how to stop. I wasn’t agile on inline skates and there were a few skills I had to work on,” Cooke said. “After six days of camp I started to feel good but I was cut.”
Instead of getting down on himself, Cooke traveled to St. Louis to try and make a team but after four days there he was cut. With nothing to lose, Cooke decided to travel to Upstate New York to try and contact some teams but did not get any responses. As a result Cooke decided to find the closest team in Philadelphia and crash their practice facility.
“I found the assistant coach and said “I’m here!” said Cooke. “I had my hockey equipment over my shoulder and a big smile so they let me skate.”
“The infamous Dave Shultz from the Philadelphia Flyers ‘Broad Street Bullies’ was the coach and he just shook his head and smiled when he heard the story,” Cooke said. “I skated with them for two days and stayed there for three seasons. A few more years in that league and another 11 years of playing international and pro tournaments has me playing inline for around 17 years.”
Like all things, nothing can last forever and Cookie’s career on the ice and in inline were no exception. Cooke retired from the ice ten years ago because his back was not letting him live a normal life and he retired from inline four years ago due to getting out of shape and not competing at the level he wanted to. Since then, Cooke has returned to inline to play the game he loves.
“It would have been a difficult transition to just stop after playing hockey for over thirty years,” said Cooke. “I do miss it. Especially playing for the Condors. The organization always treated me and my family very well and the fans were incredible.”
Retiring after five years in which he played for the Condors, scoring 143 goals and tallying 172 assists, Cooke still calls Bakersfield home where he lives with his wife and kids. Everything seems to be going right for Cooke and there appears to be no end in sight.
“It has been fun sharing this new experience with Team USA with my friends and family,” said Cooke. “When the World Championships are over at the end of July, I will take a few weeks off and see what is next.”
Visit Cooke’s YouTube page: click here
By Steven Gaede