Call it his bucket list, with a twist.
From the time Troy Bodie was first on skates on the outdoor rinks around Portage la Prairie, Man., he dreamed of playing for the Winnipeg Jets. Hockey, not the family crop-dusting business, would be his life.
He had all the gear, the posters – his mother Shirley still keeps a poster of her favourite Jet, Teemu Selanne, on the wall – and one day, he swore, he would play for his Jets.
He was 11 when the team left for Phoenix in 1996. He had, his mother says, believed right up until the final moment that some method would be found to keep them in Winnipeg. During the Save the Jets campaign of the previous year – when ordinary citizens raised $13.5-million in a matter of days to show their support for the franchise – Troy had begged his mother to let him cash out his bank account – "about $100" – so he "could throw it in the bucket," but she refused. The money was for education, not professional hockey.
"He believed right up until the last minute," Shirley Bodie says. "But then one day he came home from his friend's and he said he'd heard it was over."
"I'm man enough to say I cried," Troy Bodie, now 26, admits with a sheepish grin.
"I always hoped they'd come back, but I never really thought it possible. My dream was always to play for the Jets."
And then the dream came true. The youngster from High Bluff, Man., grew up, at times dramatically – "When he was 15," his mother says, "he looked like a giraffe on ice" – and was good enough to make the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, appearing in three Memorial Cups, winning one.
In 2003 the Edmonton Oilers took the 6-foot-4 teen 278th overall in the amateur draft. He played in the minors – Stockton Thunder, Hamilton Bulldogs, Springfield Falcons – before signing with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks in 2008.
He played four games for the Ducks that year, then re-signed with them for another two years before being claimed off waivers by the Carolina Hurricanes. He also spent more time in the minors, Iowa Chops, San Antonio Rampage, Toronto Marlies….
No one pretends this is a stellar NHL career. Troy Bodie is one of dozens of good players who seem forever on the bubble, always just a single play away from being sent down or kept up. It is no different today, when the lanky, 213-pound forward has been given a tryout by the Jets.
He is seen, unfortunately, as an enforcer, though he says that "hopefully there is more to my game than that." His dream this fall has been to score the first official goal of the reborn Jets, despite the reality of having scored only six times in 107 NHL games.
"I kind of forget how to celebrate," he said jokingly this week.
Whether he will even have that chance remains a question. Saturday night in Nashville, keen to impress his new coaches, he took a run at the Predators' Zack Stortini after Stortini had sent Jets defenceman Tobias Enstrom to the ice. Bodie was certain Stortini would get a penalty but wanted to show him you don't take liberties with Jets stars.
It backfired horribly. Stortini refused to engage and Bodie got nailed with a double minor, during which the Predators scored twice for a come-from-behind 4-3 victory.
Bodie took full responsibility. "Those two goals are on my shoulders," he told reporters. "It's tough when I feel I was doing my job. But at the same time, maybe I have to be a little bit smarter."
"You have to tip your hat to him," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "At least he stood up and tried to do what he does. That's part of his game.
"On the other hand, you've got to recognize that you might get burned."
So it goes when you live on the bubble – one step from your dream, one step from breaking through and falling back down.