Hockey parent is a term with an undeservedly bad reputation. For every tale of some crazed moron who threw popcorn at a teen officiating a Timbits tilt - or more accurately a Timbits topple since the kids wobble most of the time - there are far more stories of parents who quietly thank officials post game.
Spending time at rinks, observing, and chronicling the sights and sounds is part of my job. It’s amazing the things people say and do when they don’t know you’re media. One man I struck up a rink side conversation with went on a tirade about Toronto journalists making everything up. He thought they literally spent garbage day going through the bins outside the homes of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He then proceeded to – now this is a gem – state a case for female media in the dressing room being a distraction to players. “They can’t help keeping their eyes off them. Especially before a game. Women take their mind off the game.”
I resisted the urge to dig through my purse and flash a handful of media passes under his arrogant nose. The funniest part was seeing him take his daughter into the room after her game wrapped up. There are times when irony masquerades as a four-letter word.
For every misguided misogynist at the arena there are several more sensible folk. My son’s Minor Atom team this year has three girls on the roster. Neither the parents nor the players bat an eyelash, be it mascara drenched or au naturel.
Hockey mums and dads do their share of yelling and screaming, hooting and hollering but for the most part it is all in fun. They want to cheer on their friends and family, and believe me, a team becomes family.
One morning our coach brought his daughter, who is on the team, to the ungodly 6:30 Sunday morning practice. She wasn’t feeling well but insisted on coming so as not to let the team down. Before heading onto the ice it was obvious she couldn’t handle it, so the poor girl lay down on the bench.
Within seconds parents were arguing over who would take her home. Unfortunately no one would be there – mum was working and dad had two more practices to run. No problem – one of us took her home for the day, loading her up with chicken soup and the knowledge that team is more than 13 kids on the ice.
A parent on the team works shifts and has three kids playing hockey. There was one time she couldn’t get her son to practice. Someone immediately offered to pick him up, even though it meant waking up at 4:30AM and driving 30 minutes out of her way. A better solution was for the kids to have a sleepover. They did and the two kids had their best game of the season, thanks to hours of planning plays and having fun.
Every now and again horror stories about minor hockey coaches using violence make for juicy front page fodder. That, fortunately, is because it is the exception not the norm. Most coaches are like the one who runs the hockey camp my child attends. Coach offered to take him there and back, saving me two hours of driving per day. As if that wasn't enough, his family looked after my kid until I could pick him up from work, giving him free reign in the swimming pool and pool table. The kid talks about it months later.
Perhaps the best story is of two women who met sipping coffee watching their kids at hockey camp. Thanks to a mutual crush on one of the instructors, they immediately hit it off. Turns out, they both worked in male dominated professions and shared a similar sense of humour.
One of them managed to track down four tickets to a Leafs game for the other’s birthday. It would be an outing for the mums and sons. Despite protests, she refused to take a penny for it, saying "Pay it back when you're a famous writer." I don't think she realises famous print media don't make much more than students blogging. Thanks Sandy – see you at the ACC Feb. 25th.
Go ahead and tell all the hockey parent horror stories you want. The sweet apples still outnumber the mealy, worm-infested ones.