The Hockey Mom

Once in awhile I have a grandbaby or two come for a sleepover. My youngest daughter has four kids and the youngest are a set of twin boys who are almost three. They are a handful but we have a lot of fun and I can sleep for a few days after they leave. It does give my daughter a break and a little sleep-in on the days I have them.

Last night my daughter and her husband took the older kids out to dinner and a movie. So easy with kids who can walk and talk and do up their own seatbelts. This morning they went to watch my grandson Beau play hockey. My son in law coaches and my daughter can enjoy the game with her daughter and drink her coffee in peace without running after two little ones. After a brief text chat about when I would be bringing the boys home, I sat down to watch Paw Patrol with my coffee and favourite twins. And then came the text. From a Mom surrounded by Hockey Moms. It read “I really wish I had headphones in at this point. They are six. Take a breath lady!” I smile to myself. I remember those days. I don’t miss them.

All of my children played team sports. Two played hockey. It was an eye opening thing for me. The first six a.m. game on a Saturday morning. Yuck. My hubby loved it. I brought a book and yawned my way through it. When my son was five years old he had an incredible coach. Brian loved the kids. He was patient and kind and loved what he did. He volunteered long before he even had kids such was his love of the game. He had a unique way of dealing with children but also adults. He was all about humility. Especially for the parents. At the beginning of each season he organized a son’s vs mom’s game. I admit I am not a great skater and I have played limited pond hockey. So I can skate a bit or stick handle a bit. Not at the same time however. The first year there was a mom who had played hockey as a young girl and she looked good but the boys just ganged up on her. There were a couple of women refused to take part mainly because they knew it would be humiliating. But in the end they were more embarrassed because the rest of us spent the season laughing and joking about how pathetic we all played. They were the outsiders. But they did learn the same lessons we learned. Hockey is hard enough when you are five without some know nothing woman yelling at you to skate faster. My favourite gal was the mom who volunteered to be goalie. She had never been on skates. She held onto the boards as she shuffled from the bench to right behind the goalie net. Then she got down on her hands and knees and crawled to the front of the net where she climbed up and took her place. One arm draped over the top bar and one holding the goalie stick she moved very little for the next half hour. Once in awhile she attempted a halfhearted swing with the stick towards a wayward puck. She didn’t stop much. Luckily the boys couldn’t aim very well and quite a few shots bounced off of her. Needless to say, the five year old team beat us and the Moms were a pretty quiet group in the stands that year.

Brian also had a way of dealing with Dads. There is always the armchair coach Dad. Yelling at his own son and directing the child’s movements. These are the kids who struggle the most because they get conflicting messages from the coach and Dad. Who do you listen to? As a youngster it is a tough choice. One year we had a particularly vocal Dad. He would actually come to the side of the bench and call his kid over. Give him some personal one on one coaching during games. Anyone who has ever played or coached hockey knows the bench is crowded and awkward and not easy to maneuver. Brian had a solution for this Dad. He had a coffee with him after one of the games and asked the man to start doing scouting reports. I did a lot of these in university. I was a Phys. Ed. major (its called Kinesiology now) and I took a lot of athletic classes. The report encompasses all aspects of a team or an individual player on the team. It is an in depth analysis of how individuals play as well as the team dynamics. It is used to study your own team to find strengths and weaknesses but more importantly, it is used to study your opponent. That gives you an edge. A little knowledge goes a long way when preparing for battle. But these are kids. So why did Brian do this? Some great plan to improve his own team or to get an edge on the other guys? No. It kept the Dad in the stands. Away from the bench and quiet. He was busy. He was focused. He felt part of the team. One day my hubby asked Brian what he did with these reports since the Dad in question had never played the game. In fact, could not even skate. (The kids did Dad vs Son games at the end of the season). Brian’s response? He took a piece of paper from his clipboard, crumpled it up and tossed it in the garbage barrel. Then walked away without saying a word. His actions spoke volumes. He didn’t look at the reports. A good coach teaches the three F’s. Fitness, fun and fundamentals. The most important quality is knowing how to deal with Parents.

I had one Dad call me out at games because I would read. A book or the newspaper. Why wasn’t I watching? I would glance at the ice and then say “My kids on the bench. I didn’t come to watch your kids. I came to watch mine.” I am not a Hockey fan. Call me un Canadian but it’s not my favourite. But, my kid needs to see me in the stands. I’d look up once in awhile. I knew where my kid was on the bench. I was aware of the time line for his next shift. When he hit the ice I cheered. I made noise. I called his name. That’s me. Supportive even if slightly bored. Don’t get me wrong. I am proud of my kids. I love them. I hope they all do well no matter what path they chose in life. I’m just pretty absorbed in myself. I like to do things too. When all of us played ball, my kids were the one’s who were dropped off by one parent then picked up by another. The parets everyone else hated. It was because we were playing as well. And summer? Summer is for golf. No hockey school. No year round sports. Diversity makes for well rounded humans. As they say, Wayne Gretzky didn’t play year round. To be fair, the Dad who always pushed for us to put our kids in more camps and schools… Well his kid was a number one draft pick one year. What I understood was that my son lacked a very important skill set needed for any sport. He just didn’t have a passion for hockey. By January he was asking when lacrosse started.

My son was a passive child. A stay at home defenseman. Smooth skater and saw the whole ice but struggled with hitting. He was more of a squeeze the other guy out along the boards type of player. He was good at getting someone off the puck. Not a big goal scorer but always a great plus/minus. Some Moms felt sorry for me because he didn’t score much but I know enough about hockey to understand his role. The defenceman is often overlooked in the world of statistics but put a bad one in and the game certainly changes. My daughter on the other hand was the girl who was dancing and singing as she waited for the puck to drop. Don’t let that fool you. She was just so happy playing. Had fun. Upbeat. But holy shit don’t cross her. I walked into a game a little late and was watching from up high. Just in time to watch my daughter and another girl wrestle for the puck. No contact in girls hockey. So they tend to turn backs to each other as they race in. They bumped backs and the other girl went down. Then she took her stick and slashed my daughter across the back of the legs. Definitely a no no and definitely will leave a mark. My happy, singing dancing girl turned, grabbed the other girl by her cage, lifted it up and smoked her in the face. The gals beside me were outraged. They were from the other team. I slipped away quickly. I was proud of one thing. After years of Kung-Fu training the important lesson to me was never throw the first punch. But don’t let them get in a second. Finish them first. And she did. That’s my girl! Plus her Dad always said, never punch someone in the face if they are wearing a cage. You’ll hurt your hand. Somebody was listening although I think the lesson was don’t hit anyone in the face.

My biggest pet peeve with parents is their need to reassure other parents that they are well aware that their golden child isn’t headed for the NHL. Rather, they are hoping for a scholarship to University. Let me break this down for you how this statement is wrong on so many levels. First off, you’re lying. Every hockey parent wants their kid to succeed. Let me rephrase that. Every Parent wants their kid to succeed. In everything. Its part of being a parent. So cut the shit. Number two… Hockey is expensive. Not as bad as gymnastics. I know this. But as a child gets older and into higher levels everything gets more and more expensive. Using my son as an example, I figure his University Education cost me somewhere between 35 and 45 thousand dollars. Thank the Lord for Canadian government subsidies. He didn’t make the NHL but he got a degree. Now a lot of his friends also didn’t make the NHL. Only one did. Not a friend just someone he played with for years. Education wise though, very few hockey acquaintances went to University. None of his close peers received scholarships. Here’s the thing, even if you get a scholarship you have to have good grades to get in. That’s how it works. I figure the Degree cost me less than what a lot of the other parents spent on their kids. I ran into one Mom years ago. Her son was 26, married and living in her basement. Still playing hockey and pursuing the dream working part time at Starbucks. Perhaps if we emphasized education a little more. It was a small price to pay to not have a kid living in my basement!

Finally, my biggest peeve. And it is huge! I have often heard a parent tell me they know their kid isn’t going to the NHL. As I listen to their little dialogue my eyes shift to the small child beside them that is hearing what I am hearing. Momma doesn’t believe in me. My son was seven when he told me he was going to have two jobs when he grew up. Professional hockey player in the winter and professional golfer in the summer. We were very excited for him as he was going to buy us a big cabin in the mountains. For when we went snowboarding. Oh to dream. Did I question his ability to make it to the show? No. Who am I to shit on a small child’s dream. I wanted to be Nancy Drew and no one ever told me I couldn’t. But I would never ever run my kid down so some other idiot overzealous hockey parent wouldn’t think poorly of me. Seriously. How big is your ego. Or perhaps how low is your self esteem. Or maybe this. How stupid do you think I am. I know your thoughts. I have them too.

In the end I learned some valuable lessons in life as well as how to watch a hockey game. Words to avoid are these. Skate. Shoot. Pass. Hurry. They show you have no idea. Anyone who brings an airhorn or cowbell or any other loud noise maker, is an embarrassment to their kid. Also, the reason I stand in the corner by the boards during a game. To get away from other parents and to watch my kids closer as they were both defencemen. But most importantly, during the pregame warmup I would stand in the end where the opposing team was going through their drills. I had earphone on and blasting music to drown out any people. But at this vantage point I am inches away from these young players. I see them close up. I see how young they are. I see their innocence and their camaraderie. I see a child whose Momma loves him as much as I love my babes. And when the puck drops and the play begins I see them as the young athletes they are. Not the enemy. They are just kids. Playing a game. There was a poster in the arena’s when my children were young. It said “sports doesn’t develop character, it reveals it.’ I have learned that it isn’t aimed at the kids. It is aimed at the parents.

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