I’ve held off writing this one so as not to jinx the Boy who spent the past couple of weeks (minus a few days) in Midget rep tryouts. While some kids his age have given up hockey in favour of jobs, girls, etc. and not necessarily in that order; the Boy’s still got the competitive itch. Though he didn’t say it I believe he was still hopeful of moving up a level to AA this year. He’s been an A player on the cusp of playing AA for the last six years. Or maybe that’s just a hockey dad talking. Perhaps all he really wants to do is have fun playing with his buddies, which is really just as, if not more important, in the grand scheme of things.
Putting bias as far off to the side as I can, I believe he looked good relative to all the others trying out starting with the preliminary tryouts/mini-camp back in the Fall. But the AA tryouts presented two challenges – lots of players/competition and players from two different age groups; 16 and 17 year olds with the Boy in the former, younger group. The first set of evaluations were broken down into two scrimmages of about 30 players per skate including a whopping 13 goalies competing for five goalie spots on three rep teams. The Boy could at least count himself lucky for not being a keeper. The first skate went well with only a few standouts from my perspective. The Boy held his own as he generally does. In a scrimmage situation, there are few who will question his determination.
For the next evaluation, the younger hopefuls were off to an exhibition game against a nearby town running tryouts of their own. It seemed the coach was trying to see which of the younger players might step to the fore in a game situation. Because it was a game, mom decided to accompany me for her first glimpse at the process. Of course, only a few minutes into this game, on the Boy’s fourth or fifth shift, he was pushed from behind in open ice and fell awkwardly on his left shoulder. He was able to get up and skate to the bench, but you could tell some damage had been done – the left arm hung low. The old adage, the bigger they are the harder they fell rang true. At the end of the period he was ushered off the ice with mom, the certified trainer, in close pursuit. He laboured to take off his gear while we wondered if his collar bone or some other part of that general area was broken. He was definitely in some discomfort. 4 1/2 hours and an x-ray later an ER doc was able to report that in fact nothing was broken. However a sprain of the acromioclavicular (AC) joint would put a damper on tryouts for the next 5-7 days. The Boy’s chances of making the AA team were certainly compromised and the A evaluations were slotted to start in only four days leaving little time for a full recovery. A quick conversation with the AA coach revealed that he would be hard pressed to crack the AA lineup, which would likely be dominated by older players, in any case.
Now hopeful to make the A team, we took the Boy to a sports medicine clinic for an evaluation and opinion on when he may be ok to go back on the ice. His first skate was to be only six days after the night of the injury. The physio exam revealed a loss of strength and some lingering tenderness, however some treatment and mandated exercises showed promise. It was decided after a conversation with the A coach that he would miss his first skate, but make every effort to make an appearance for the last two tryouts. While the A coach would take his past performance into account, optics still required him to compete for a position.
As luck would have it, the third skate would not include any contact with more of a focus being placed on skills and goalies. And yet the Boy found a way, during a three on one drill, to fall and land on his wonky left shoulder. I may have chuckled out loud at the irony of the situation, which raised the ire of some hockey moms sitting in front of me. The Boy took a quick rest at the direction of the coach. I was happy to see him return to the ice shortly thereafter. The moms still let me have it for my momentary indiscretion.
The fourth and final session for those competing for spots on the A squad was to be a full-contact scrimmage. I told the Boy to play smart; keep your head up. As the Boy and his scrimmage side hit the ice, it appeared he was with the stronger and perhaps already chosen group; meaning the other was comprised of players battling for a couple of final spots. This situation was not lost on the players who’ve been trying out like this for several years. The Boy said after the tryout that one player who inadvertently walked into the wrong dressing room with the “chosen players” quickly looked around and quipped “Uh oh, we’re f%$#ed!” The Boy, for his part, played smart and was decidedly cautious with good reason. On one particular occasion he had an opportunity to deliver a hit – he thought better of it; later claiming he would have “crushed that kid.”
And so, in the end, the lad returns for a seventh consecutive season of A hockey. He’s pleased that a few of his teammates from last year and other friends he hasn’t played on a team with for a while will be teammates this season. In all he figures they have a pretty strong squad with a mix of younger and a few older players. The first practice is tomorrow night…the first game a few days later. We hope the shoulder will be close to 100 percent for that opening tilt. The already completed schedule shows several familiar late night games both at home and away. With me on the Devil’s bench, mom is fretting some of the games she will no doubt have drive to after the snow falls. We’ll split the duties whenever we can. I will want to get to as many games as possible, knowing his minor hockey days are fleeting.
That being said, I can tell you that none of us will miss the stress of tryouts any time soon.