One thing is certain, the kids enjoyed having you there, to watch them play/practice. Don't get too comfortable, the fun is just beginning. Right around the corner all those tournaments, in preparation for provincials, are looming large. What has been taking place since October is small bananas, compared to the next three-four months.
There are two kinds of parents; parents and hockey parents. Hockey parents are crazy. It's pretty hard for a hockey parent to disagree with that statement. Here they are, with the thermostat sitting at a balmy -11 degrees outside, huddled together in an ice arena gulping down hot coffee and discussing the finer points of the game.
Yes, we are midway through the minor hockey season, the hockey schools are a thing of the past, the games are on for real - with all the competition, tournaments, travel, and coffee the body can stand. You know, the time of year when just past six on a Saturday and/or Sunday morning you and a neighbor have the kids bundled in the van and driving down any street. It's still dark but you are off to the rink, any rink, anywhere, for a game that morning.
Across the province, sensible people are nestled in bed while hockey families are hitting the highways en route to chilly high ceilinged arenas. You gotta love it, and you need to be respected and revered.
The sport of hockey is not just a team commitment, it's a family commitment. You must learn to eat a lot of fast foods. Because it's fast, that doesn't mean it's cheap - by no means. A sheet of ice is costing $150 to $200 an hour, and depending on the area in which you live, fees can go anywhere from $300 to $1,000 a year. That doesn't include equipment. Kids outgrow skates in a year or two. Tommy needs a new helmet; get ready to fork out $150 plus. Don't even think about sticks - the escalating cost from week to week will either send you around the bend, or to the local bank for a loan.
Parents do it. Why? Because the kids love it. Once you get hooked on hockey there is no turning back. How else can you explain nine-year-old kids, hidden in big padded uniforms, trudging up concrete steps, laboring under the burden of massive stuffed equipment bags at 6:30 a.m.
Coffee is the most noticeable smell in the locker room as puffy-eyed parents sip from steaming mugs and help their kids lace up skates, adjust padding and put on their helmets. While many of the kids are bright-eyed and chatting, several still have a glazed, middle-distance stare from just getting out of bed. Those who are dressed clomp around the benches on their skates and swat at wadded-up paper with their sticks.
Fifteen minutes before game time, coach chases the parents from the dressing room. Barking like a gruff but fatherly drill sergeant, he mixes praise and criticism and urges them to "hustle and have fun." Kids in hockey are trained to play on an emotional high, whereas in soccer you work into it. Kids in hockey are pumped up!
The pep talk over, the team heads to the ice for their 7 a.m. game. While the coach encourages them, this is not their day and they lose.
Dad helps his son out of his skates and gear. He is scowling a bit, he doesn't think his teammates played as well as they should have. He's not comforted by his father saying that the other team, especially their goalie, was really good. The young lad doesn't think so, "Their goalie was not good, we didn't get enough shots on goal."
Dad, who was a soccer coach, always put fun and sportsmanship ahead of winning, smiles and argues softly with his son, putting the game in perspective. He likes the effect hockey has had on his boy. "He started shy and didn't make a lot of friends, but with sports, especially hockey, you become more disciplined."
That's a fact. It's a sport that if you want to do well, you have to dig down deep and do your best.
When the game is over the parents make their way home, the sun is up - finally. Next weekend those parents might be sleeping in, and you may be too. But somewhere in this and other provinces hockey parents are on the move - and will be until May month!
That's 30 for this week. Remember, "It's easier to build a child than mend an adult and an ounce of pluck is worth a ton of luck!" Until next week.