The Sharks season ended somewhat unceremoniously, but not without significant prideful effort or drama this past weekend. Three round robin contests; three one goal games including a 1-0 win in the opener, a 2-1 loss to one of the strongest opponents we’d faced all year and a 4-3 heart-breaker to cap things off.
As an aside, I must reflect briefly on a scene that I happened upon between games one and two which could only occur with a group of 13 and 14 year old girls. Many of the parents had decided to book hotel rooms on the first night of the tournament as we were just over 90 minutes from home with an early morning game on day two. After game one, we grabbed lunch and then most of the team retreated to the hotel to kill some time. After checking in, my room was almost immediately usurped by 3/4 of our 17 player crew with an iPod boom box and several curling irons in tow. Players who only an hour earlier had battled hard in corners or jostled aggressively along the boards for pucks were now partaking in what I could only best describe as a “pretty party” complete with a blasting techno/rap soundtrack. I peeked in at one point to discover my room had been converted into a makeshift salon. Half the players taking on the roles of stylists and the other half as satisfied patrons donning new curly locks, which would shortly be jammed into sweaty helmets in preparation for another hostile on-ice engagement. The dichotomy of the moment did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
The third and final result in our last tournament was particularly stinging because our side entered the third period with a 2-1 lead needing only a tie to advance to the quarter-final round. Our tenuous one-goal lead was flipped to a 3-2 deficit with just over two minutes left following a few ill-timed penalties and scattered play in our defensive zone. However, our ever-resilient squad battled back with just under two minutes remaining to tie the game at 3. We went from the top of the coaster to the bottom and then back up again all within a few minutes. Unfortunately, there was yet one more disastrous trip down as our foes managed to pull back ahead again with less than a minute to go. Another magic marker was not to be found in our creative comeback kit so the vision of a Provincial crown came to an abrupt conclusion. Not the results we wanted, but also nothing to be ashamed of. We knew the competition would be stiff as all 24 teams needed to qualify for this tourney as we had. I was most pleased with the level of compete displayed by our young players after having not played any games for a few weeks. Rather, the Sharks picked up their competitive play from where they’d left off in our league division finals.
And so, all that’s left is an end of the year party scheduled for later this week with a game of mini-putt, a few slices of pizza, thank yous for the many volunteers who helped the team function and no doubt the recollection of some memorable moments from a topsy-turvy year. I, for one, have been enriched and handsomely rewarded by my rookie head coaching experience. I hope the Devil is able to say the same about having her old man run the ship. I am sure there are those onlookers and perhaps even players who disagreed with my approach, my attitude and/or the decisions I made behind the bench this year. In fact, I believe my hockey loving wife was an unwilling witness to some of those opinions recently; opinions I respect whether I agree with them or not. But I’m quite proud of what our team was able to accomplish from the beginning of the season to the end — proud I had at least a small part to play in the progress we made as a team — confident I granted each player a fair opportunity to compete and have fun playing this kids’ game — hopeful I was able to impart some lasting messages; hockey-related or otherwise. A few months ago when the opportunity came up to reapply for a head coaching position our squad was going through a rough time on and off the ice, which in part led me to decide to forego pursuing a second campaign. But now, of course, after the team’s impressive turnaround there may be a twinge of regret in that decision.
Instead, for now, the day after the Sharks’ end of year party I will reclaim a spot up in the stands to invoke my parental bias and simply cheer on the Boy and the Devil in their renewed quests to make the rosters new teams for next season. Perhaps the next coach will see fit to have me help out on the ice or behind the bench. I’m pretty sure I won’t miss being responsible for selecting and more importantly not selecting who makes a team.
Yup, just the one partial week away from the rink is all this hockey dad will be afforded in the short-term. However, as I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion recently, I will enjoy each and every moment of my kids finite minor hockey careers to their fullest and wherever they shall lead us.