Saturday, August 17, 2013

A face more than a mother could love.

This has been a tough week to be an irreverent hockey mom.

Let’s face it. This has been a tough week to be a parent.

I don’t even have the heart to fight with my editor on whether “peckerhead” is an acceptable word, or if it will be watered down to “jerk” or “poopoo head” when I’m not looking.

And this week, I’m finding it hard to care.

With my own child away at a QMJHL camp, I’ve been one sip over the limit-away from jumping in the car and driving to Quebec, several times – just so I could give my smelly beanpole a hug.   

Ask any mother who has said goodbye to a kid this summer. To camp. To Canada Games. University. Europe. The little bastards you’ve been dying to get rid of, turn and walk toward their dream, leaving you blubbering in the airport parking lot.

Or in my case, drowning my sorrows with a Chickenburger dipped in gravy.

Then, Monday morning brought every mother’s worst fucking nightmare – and “the face” was everywhere.

The serious hockey photo face.

Jordan Boyd’s face.

“Why don’t you smile?” I’ve asked my kid year after year, when the annual hockey photo appears. "You've just made your dream team, yet you look like my passport photo."

“You’re not supposed to smile.” He replied.

“Who the hell says?” I asked, blondely. 

“I dunno.” He said, mouth full of a post-game sub.

As the hockey community and beyond now know, 16-year old Jordan Boyd died suddenly – doing exactly what I’d like to be doing when I die.

Fulfilling a dream.

Climbing Kilimanjaro. Necking with Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. Cradling a great-grandchild.

So, what – if anything – can we gain from such a heart-wrenching loss?

Mandated heart screening for athletes? The NHL screens only its top 100 draft picks. I can’t see it happening across lower levels.

But I think I know what can be learned from Jordan Boyd.

This otherwise unknown, yet talented young hockey prospect is now a nationwide hero.

#JB17 is trending on helmets and Twitter feeds, and “the face” is front-page news for all of the wrong reasons.

Jordan is celebrated as a ‘gentle boy’. A best friend. A fine, fine young man.

Had Jordan cracked the roster of the Acadie Bathurst Titan, he would have also been a "rookie". With that accomplishment comes the inevitable bumps on the road from minor hockey – to the business of major junior hockey.

Suddenly a public figure and 'fair game' – strangers lurking in rink corners may have called Jordan a ‘pylon’. Soft. Afraid to go into the corners. They of course, know jack shit.

Cyber bullies hiding behind web handles like  “Banjoboy” or “Habs4ever” would sit in stained tighty whities, chirping with like-minded underachievers on one of the many “fan” websites deemed as hockey forums.

Despite never seeing the child play, these knuckle draggers may have labeled Jordan ‘a disappointment’. A waste of a draft pick. Or, worse.

And when Acadie Bathurst rolled into Halifax, die-hard Moosehead fans might have yelled, “pussy!” if Jordan backed down from a fight to avoid a stupid penalty – never stopping to think that beneath the helmet was a ‘gentle boy’. Someone’s pride and joy.

If there’s anything we should take from this soul-numbing tragedy it’s this:

Young hockey players are children – not commodities – and not targets for your own failed hopes and dreams.

Every kid – elite athlete or otherwise – deserves the outpouring of love and respect that the entire country is feeling for Jordan Boyd.

If there’s anything we can take from this week, maybe it’s the next time you’re at a hockey game – instead of hollering,  “Hey, peckerhead, you afraid to fight?” ­– say nothing.

Or yell something like, “You’re awesome, gentle boy”.

I bet his mom – sitting two rows down – would really appreciate that.

A slightly oatmealed version of this appears in the Chronicle Herald.