by Kimber Auerbach || AHL On The Beat Archive
We all despise the sound of the alarm clock in the morning, screaming to get out of bed and start preparing for the day. For most of us, we know that our time at work is a standard eight-hour day but for one Bridgeport Sound Tigers defenseman, that piercing sound marks the start of his 20-hour summer day.
Mark Wotton lives in Foxwarren, Man., and instead of a normal off-season full of working out in the gym and skating, Wotton runs a grain farm.
“I have been farming my whole life,” Wotton said. “When I was younger, I would receive smaller chores from my father to help with the farm and to this day, in the off-season, my brother and I are on that same land helping him run the farm throughout the summer.”
Wotton’s day starts at 7 a.m. with a bite to eat and then he heads out to cut the field in the swather. For those non-farmers, a swather is a farm machine that cuts the small grain crops and forms them into windrows, which are rows of small grain.
By forming the grain into windrows, its makes it easier for Wotton to dry the crop before it is placed in the combine. The combine is a machine that "combines" the tasks of harvesting, threshing, and cleaning grain plants. The desired result is the grain is stripped of the loose straw attached to the seeds.
After a quick lunch the weather warms a bit and Wotton begins the combining process, which usually takes the rest of the day, often times not laying down for bed until 3 a.m.
“The month of August is the toughest because of the hard work and the long hours,” Wotton said. “The rest of the summer isn’t so bad. We seed the fields in early spring and then spray them usually in June.”
With such long hours, Wotton still finds the time to workout and skate in preparation for the grueling seven-month hockey regular season. Since grain is not the heaviest crop to produce, he cannot rely solely upon his farm work to get him into shape for the season. Wotton has a home gym where he lifts weights and also has access to the local rinks to skate in preparation for the season.
“Having to work so hard during the summer makes me realize how lucky I am to play a sport that I love, for a living,” Wotton said. “It makes me appreciate the time I spend during the winter on the ice and with my teammates even more.”
Don’t let Wotton fool you however: he works just as hard during the season so that when he laces up his skates, he is ready for the game. That preparation has earned him many illustrious moments throughout his career from numerous call-ups to the NHL to winning a Calder Cup championship with the Hershey Bears in 2006.
With the experience, Wotton feels that this year’s Sound Tigers team has the tools to make a run at what would be the first Calder Cup championship in team history.
“We have the pieces in our dressing room to become a close-knit team. One in which everyone cares and respects each other, and would do anything for their teammates to win,” Wotton said. “The main thing that got us to the championship in Hershey was everyone was willing to make personal sacrifices and put the team first. As a veteran I need to make sure that we’re all pulling in the same direction and once we accomplish that, we’ll have a great shot at accomplishing every team’s goal in winning the Calder Cup.”