Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tales out of the Rink

It’s in the air.  Do you feel it?

Hockey season.

I think I’m a dying breed.  I am a mom and I love hockey.

I am so tired of hearing parents say “Oh.  My kid is NOT playing hockey”. 

Um.. did I miss a memo?  Since when is playing hockey so… un-chic?

From where I sit (really cold wooden bleachers, Tim’s in hand, Small town rink, AB) hockey has been great to our family. 

We spend weekends together, albeit mostly spent in the van on the way to practice or games, talking about life, listening to music, and relishing in having all five bodies in one place for longer than 5 minutes. 

As a family we take our spots to watch the game.  My younger kids play with other little brothers and sisters, my husband takes his place on the bench as coach, and I sit with the other parents in the crowd as we collectively cheer on our little stars.

It’s a way to get out of the house in the frigid Canadian winter, a time when staying inside seems far more preferably to scraping the windshield, warming up the car, loading the kids stuffed in snowsuits, and heading out in white-out conditions on the way to the rink. 

Where little boys everywhere dream of being Sidney Crosby, scoring the golden goal and bringing Canadians to their feet, and little girls watched Hayley Wickenheiser skate on the Olympic ice with a Canadian flag draped around her shoulders.

I don’t know a lot about the semantics of the game.  In fact, my seven year old just taught me what an offside is. (I can almost see my dad cringing at that comment.  Years spent being a hockey little sister, a hockey girlfriend, a hockey wife, and now a hockey mom and I JUST figured it out!)

But here’s what I do know.

Hockey parents are crazy.  But if you’ve even been to a cheer competition, baseball game, dance recital or spelling bee you can attest to the fact that parents are, in general, just crazy.  There are always going to be those parents that are a special breed of crazy, but rest assured, they will show up everywhere.

I mean, we can all agree that on the whole, adults ruin everything. 

It’s not the kids calling out coaches, fighting with other parents, and deciding the politics behind the game.  That’s on us.

And in every single sport I have had a child be a part of; those same fatal parental flaws are evident.

Hockey is a tough, physical sport.  But the physicality of it teaches a certain amount of body awareness unparalleled in other sports.  The agility and strength my seven year old has from 3 years spent on skates is unreal.  Watching him try other sports like skiing and baseball and lacrosse only reaffirmed my suspicions.  The athleticism derived from hockey is transposable in more ways than I ever imagined.  Our kids learn to be aware of their strength, aware of their bodies, and comfortable with the power innate in themselves. 

And tough.  Really, really tough.

These kids work hard.  They give their all over to a game that gives right back.

Hockey is not a sport for the young only.  I know a guy who is well into his 70’s and still plays pick-up hockey once a week.  My husband, who played his whole life, still makes the yearly trek to play for our province in the RCMP Western Championship tournament. 

Hockey is more than just a childhood pastime.  It gets in your blood.

It’s the dents in my garage door, the paint missing on my basement walls, it’s the sound of Hockey Night in Canada as my son settles in to watch his heroes. 

It’s the milk jugs hanging from the net on the driveway, the mini-sticks in every room, and the terrible smell coming from my son’s hockey bag. 

It’s the early morning practices, it’s the parents I’ve become close with, it’s the ability to watch dreams on display that make this game what it is.

As a mom watching her little guy in his first year, with a jersey so big it’s getting caught on the top of his skates, skating his hardest in the wrong direction, falling down and losing his stick, then a glove, then getting stuck on his back until his little buddies skate over and help him up, it’s about so much more than just putting a puck in a net.

Now that he’s older and getting mad at himself for missing a shot, or making an error resulting in a goal for the other team, it’s about controlling his emotions and getting back out there. 

Working hard even when he’s down by more than he knows can be made up. 

It’s a game that teaches him about getting back up, trying his hardest, and looking to his teammates for help when he’s down. 

But always, always, getting back up.

That’s why I love this sport and why I’m so confused when parents scoff when I say I’m a proud hockey mom.

Because, hockey is a giant metaphor for life.

You win some, you lose some, and in the end it’s about your teammates and the memories.

With a side order of rink fries, Tim Horton’s and a cowbell.

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