Sunday, April 20, 2014

And by Centennial, you mean built in 1967?

“I want to play hockey.” My son said. Repeatedly.

“No you don’t.” I replied.

To say I was a reluctant hockey mom is like saying Sidney Crosby is a guy who plays hockey. When my son was born, my doctor friend said, “Bad hockey birthday.” I had no idea what that meant – nor did I care. But much like “good penalty”, “rink fries” and “50/50 duty” I was destined to find out. 

We were free spirits, my kid and me. Unbridled by schedules or fatherly influence, we traveled spontaneously, and spent winter weekends on the ski slopes. I grew up skiing – hockey was something people did because they couldn’t afford to ski. That stupid statement sounds even more ridiculous now, as I sit on a nest egg feathered with broken hockey sticks – their individual cost could feed a family of 4 for a week.

But the “I want to play hockey” whining eventually wore me down, so I figured a stiff pair of Canadian Tire skates and a few bounces off an unforgiving surface would put an end to this hockey shit once and for all. We chose a cloudy November day and laced up at the now demolished Dal rink. My kid hit the ice, and made Bambi look like Mario fucking Lemieux. I gave him 5 minutes before we’d be sipping hot chocolate, crossing “Play hockey” off his little bucket list.

No such luck. Even with kids half his height and age buzzing past him, my gangly six-year old barely stopped to lick the snot off his nose. I could tell by the glazed expression under his Hannibal Lecter cage, that I was screwed.

Enter Craig Moore, brother of Moosehead’s broadcaster John. Craig and I had worked together, and I was hoping to garner some sympathy from the bleachers. Instead, I got support. Craig said we had long missed Timbit registration, but he could likely get my kid on a team. I suddenly felt sick, and slid silently, sheepishly through the Tim Horton’s drive thru on the way home.

The sobering “call” came a few Friday nights later. I was knee deep in a bottle of wine, relaxing by the fire, when my world hit the boards. Someone named Coach McAdam said my son was to be at Centennial, in full gear, at 6:30 the following morning. Oh, and if he didn’t have a neck guard, he wouldn’t be allowed on the ice.

A neck guard? What the hell is a neck guard? Where is Centennial? 6:30?  

To say my son grew up without a father is a lie. He grew up with a dozen fathers and I didn’t have to sleep with one of them (which is a good thing considering one dare not shave their legs in February for fear of freezing to death in the Devonshire Arena). Donny. Graham. Steve. Kevin. I was about to discover that the roster of good men who volunteer their time, is endless. I was about to discover that this hockey journey would make my son a better man.

I was also about to discover that the roster of hockey parents is a socioeconomically diverse, and largely, jolly group – sprinkled with a few overzealous fanatics who think their kid is one growth spurt away from going to “the show”. Never mind that something like 0.1% of minor hockey players ever do. While sports bring out the best in children, it also tends to bring out the asshole in parents.

For instance, I watched in horror one tryout, as a ‘goalie dad’ openly high-fived his child every time the competition let a puck slide by. (And let’s talk about tryouts. Two months of heart-breaking agony, resulting in a team that could have been chosen by 5 moms over a box of wine.)

I was once pulled into a hotel room and instructed by a dad, to tell my kid, “When he starts to suck, to skate over to the bench and let his kid play.”

One “passionate” hockey mother claims her son was unjustly blacklisted, after it took the police to break up a fight – a mid-game Donnybrook between her and the referee.

And, it took a moment for the words, “We’re going to get a shut out every other game” to sink in. Did that son-of-a-bitch goalie dad, just insult my 8 year-old child… to his face?

Oh ya, did I mention that my little defenseman decided that having pucks shot at his face, padded by lost hope of ever having retirement savings would be fun? To quote our patriotic peacock, Don Cherry, “The most difficult position in hockey, is being the goalie’s mother.”

Welcome to my world. Throw on some coffee-stained sweatpants, empty your wallet, and sit by me.

The edited, censored version of this appears in the Chronicle Herald: April 20th.