Tuesday, March 31, 2009

GOLD!

There is something about minor league hockey that brings smiles to faces. The parents on my son's Minor Atom team were the loudest in the loop and we managed to crank up our vocal volume for the gold medal series.


We're noisy but never rude or foul-mouthed. Still, some folks used to timid, suburban support found us a novelty. Odd how people complain that Air Canada Centre is too quiet for Toronto Maple Leafs games, then think a dozen or so parents are too loquacious?

Happily our competition got into it - finally - for the final game, bringing in banners, signs, even a real trumpet.

Not all was picture perfect. In the first gold series game, we were all cheering after a goal. Nothing wrong with that, until we realised the other team's goalie was sprawled on the ice, injured. We felt awful - none of us noticed but the damage had been done. Parents on the other team thought we were cheering because their goalie was injured.

NEVER.

All the woo-hoos and yee-haws halted at the sight of a 10 year-old on ice. He was okay and finished the game, coming back stronger and better in game two of the series.

Some players go through years of hockey without winning a medal. My son picked up his second gold medal in two years. He has won top prize in the two seasons he has played.

But I'm the real winner. Seeing the person I love the most, fall in love with my favourite game, surrounded by fantastic people game-in, game-out beats any medal.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hockey Talkie *NOT* About Hockey

Today marked was my son's final Sunday 6:30AM practice of the season. Some of the mums met up later on for coffee, cake, and conversation,or so we claimed.

If we're really honest with ourselves, the get together was because we'll miss getting out the door and back in before the sun rises all winter long. Don't be fooled by the matching goalie pads and purse; lugging hockey bags, sticks, and juggling cups of coffee from car to dressing room isn't as glamourous as it appears.

Instead of a posse of paparazzi, the first ones at the arena are greeted by things others don't experience. The rumble of the zamboni waking from its slumber. Siblings sleepily staring at the clock. A dressing room that no longer smells like the 300 people who used it the day before. Seeing breath float over ice until they become one. Being the first set of hands to touch the door latch, springing eager kids onto glistening ice.

This group has been blessed by a fantastic group of parents. Some, like DK are larks. Some, like me, are night owls. Some, like AA, are quiet. Some, like CdlA, are just a touch louder. So many differences, so much too learn.

The most important thing learned this season is that the teacher, the nurse, the restauranteur, the angel, and the writer don't need kids playing a game as an excuse to get together.

They can talk twig and biscuit like nobody's business but it's what happens far from the ice that makes parents a team.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Quick Glance

A quick glance gives the impression of an ordinary hockey practice. A

parking lot full of mini-vans and Camrys. A damp, sweaty arena,

kids lined up behind the net, awaiting instructions while parents sip

lukewarm double doubles. Everything is typical except the coach.

Like his Peewee charges, he too dreamed of playing hockey for a living.

As a little boy in Scarborough he donned hockey gear to spend Saturday

nights in front of the TV watching the Toronto Maple Leafs play in the echo

of Foster Hewitt’s voice at Maple Leaf Gardens.

As a teen he was a high scoring junior in that same arena, hanging his

helmet a stone’s throw from his hockey heroes.

As a man, seven years into his pro hockey career, his childhood dream finally came true .

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hockey Is Not Life & Death

Finding out your teammates' brother had a brain tumour removed is life and death.

My son’s team is in the semi-finals so we headed to the arena full of excitement. The usual clich├ęs were bandied about, ‘I’ll die if we don’t win’ and ‘Playoffs are do or die’ being some of them. We got a reality check in the pre-game coach’s chat.

I could tell by the look on the his face that he was in a very serious frame of mind, and thought nothing of it, because, this after all, is Minor Atom semi-finals – first team to reach four points advances to the gold medal match. What could possibly matter more than playoff hockey?

“Riley’s brother is in hospital following brain tumour surgery,” was not what anyone in that room expected to hear from our coach. We were all frozen. A week ago this boy was watching his brother play, now he was recovering from a major operation.

When the words first bounced from my eardrums into my conscience, there was nothing – nothing to think, to do, to say. I’m a writer – surely there must be words for this? No. This time, silence spoke and I did not dare to interrupt.

The game was dedicated to a little boy in hospital, the family by his side, and his brother on blades.

Riley got to wear the special jersey – number 99 – for this game. I’ve watched him play since October but today was his career game. It was a slow start for our kids, understandably so. If I couldn’t get the news out of my head, how could I expect it of them?

Something clicked and when they finally scored, the pressure was off. Those kids had put it on themselves to win, trying so hard, that for a short while, the fun was gone.

Sometimes scoring a goal goes beyond the physical sphere; sometimes it’s more than a little chunk of rubber landing it the net. Today was one of those times.

When the puck slid past the goalie, it didn’t cure a sick little boy. It didn’t magically make everything better. It did however, make 13 kids forget, for a few seconds, that maybe playing the game isn’t the most important thing.

Who you play it for, that counts for more than any names and numbers on a score sheet.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Trade Deadline Continued

TRADE: oft-injured Jordan Leopold from Avalanche to Flames for Lawrence Nycholat, prospect Ryan Wilson, and a second-round draft pick

Leopold: “excited – Darryl’s a b&w guy, Mike is too – had some good experiences in Calgary” “had baby two weeks ago”

11:45 – BREAKING NEWS – THN finally places pizza order after extensive discussions – two large pepperoni & mushroom, one medium veggie – drinks to be procured in a separate transaction

11:56 – TRADE – get ready for this one folks, Andy Wozniewski ships out of St. Louis, Danny Richmond sails into his dock

12:03 – TRADE – Coyotes send Tellqvist to Buffalo - details to follow

12:07 - LEAFS PLUCK MARTIN GERBER OFF WAIVERS

NHL Trade Deadline Excitement

Ah, the excitement of spending my day off interning at the centre of the hockey media universe on NHL trade deadline day.

Days like this are the definition of ‘hurry up and wait.’ Just before 10AM the skies burst open with the crackle of…a trade. Not a blockbuster but Ottawa sending Antoine Vermette to Columbus in exchange for netminder Pascal Leclaire and a 2009 second round draft pick gave us something tangible to write about.

Chris Pronger not going anywhere is a story. The Buffalo Sabres awarded Tim Connolly, he of 28 points in 29 games, a freshly-inked two-year deal totalling 9 million dollars added some substance to the grist mill.

You could always analyse, re-analyse, and regurgitate the contract extensions of Filip Kuba, Niklas Backstrom, and Alex Burrows.

Olli Jokinen to Calgary? Has good relationship with Keenan, could perform better without being a top-dog.

11:25AM – BREAKING NEWS – staff hold boisterous meeting re: ordering pizza

Antoine Vermette – TSN – 11:30AM “you kind of learn not to worry about it too much” “I’m gonna play quite a bit…we’ll see in the next few hours”

TRADE: oft-injured Jordan Leopold from Avalanche to Flames for Lawrence Nycholat, prospect, and a draft pick

Leopold: “excited – Darryl’s a b&w guy, Mike is too – had some good experiences in Calgary” “had baby two weeks ago”

11:45 – BREAKING NEWS – pizza order finally placed after extensive discussions – two large pepperoni & mushroom, one medium veggie – drinks to be procured in a separate transaction

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