What’s a hockey dad to do in an empty house on a warm Summer night? Before you have a chance to come up with an admittedly deserved punch-line, I’ll submit reminiscing about hockey and how fast kids grow up as an unlikely option, but the one I’ve chosen. As the Boy and the Devil have gotten older, hockey has become a secondary if not tertiary or latter consideration from June-August. Both kids have jobs, which is a very, very good thing; particularly for the Boy who was desperate to find employment and positively influence his bank account balance. The Devil actually stumbled into her gig first, which caused him no end of frustration. Even now, at two and a half years his junior, she commands a higher hourly wage than he does. But he’s happy to have any job. Summer also of course brings opportunity for sleeping in, day trips, free two-month passes to GoodLife gym, which are put to very good use and sleepovers (for the Devil at least) which haven’t been and will continue to not be allow during hockey season – rules is rules. There’s lots going on, but very little of it has anything to do with the Winter game. There was a time when either or both would play 3-on-3 for fun and to stay sharp or do some Summer power skating. Neither suggested any particular interest in extracurricular ice this year – I doth not protest. Instead I, refreshingly, haven’t seen the inside of a rink for a month and a half. Hard to fathom, I know, for those who follow my in-season goings on, which are primarily spent driving to, from or taking up semi-permanent residence within the bowels of a local arena. Having a couple of months off will no doubt have us all itching to get back at it come late August/early September. Then shortly thereafter it will be back to complaining about how much damned hockey there is. The big difference this year being the Boy can drive himself to practice; though the hockey dad in me will likely still find himself up in the stands from time-to-time.
So back to the reminiscing, which is where this was supposed to have headed in the first place cuz the Boy is at work and the Devil is out “hanging” with a friend.
My first remembrances go back to the Boy’s first year of organized hockey, which alarmingly found him initially taking a shining to standing between the pipes as a goaltender. Perhaps he found the cool blue of the crease somehow soothing.
As a novice hockey dad, I didn’t know much, but I was pretty sure I didn’t want to raise (or maybe more specifically finance) a goalie. I knew keepers needed a lot more and a lot more expensive equipment. I also knew, cost aside, that goalies were a rare, if not troubled, breed. After all, what sort of sane person could want to have a frozen puck hurled at them with nothing but a stick and a few pads in the way. The Boy was 4 at the time. He obviously hadn’t considered how much higher and harder the shots could become should he decide to maintain this position. However, the allure of goal was short-lived as the Boy was fortunate, or perhaps not so fortunate, to be the keeper for a very good team, which when it comes to 4/5 year old hockey means he didn’t get a whole lot of action. If memory serves, he may have gone one entire game without facing a single shot. After watching several games as a virtual bystander, the Boy asked if he might try another position. I was heartened and internally beamed with pride when he said, “Dad, I’ve been watching the games in goal and I think I see where I should be going.” The Boy’s hockey sense showed itself early on. When he left the net in the next game and I believe scored a goal, his minding days were all but over. Today, I can confidently say he isn’t cut out to be a goalie, though he has tended (no pun intended) to gravitate towards goaltending teammates over the years. Perhaps he feels he is somehow part of the brotherhood via his three-month stint when he was four. Hardly dues paid, but I suppose he gets some credit for time served.
The Devil, on the other hand, perhaps after having witnessed her brother’s experience, never once showed an interest in goal. Though she was almost thrust into emergency duty a couple of years ago when one of her teammates injured an ankle and no actual goalkeeping replacement could initially be found. Luckily, disaster in the form of the Devil trying to play the foreign position was averted. The Devil despite her diminutive size (which she unfortunately gets from a certain Hockey Dad) has always been adept at going into the corners and coming out with the puck.
Early on in her fledgling hockey career, I remember this small, bespectacled, bandana-wearing, ice-demon vaulting herself into the corner no matter who she would be meeting when she arrived. On one special occasion, she took exception to a fellow four-year old lad who was a little too aggressive for her liking. She hauled off and slugged the little guy setting him back on his haunches while drawing noticeable gasps and a couple of chuckles from the onlookers above. More internal beaming ensued for yours truly. While the Devil has continued to not be the biggest player on the ice, I can confidently say she has yet to back down from a puck battle. On more than one occasion I’ve seen her challenge players at least a head taller. I will readily admit she does not win them all, but that’s certainly never been due to a lack of trying. To reference an old adage – what she lacks in size, she makes up for in tenacity. You might even say she has a little of the truculence all the hockey pundits are presently so fond of referencing.
I suppose the very fact I’m sitting here jotting down these memories in mid-July is signalling my desire to get back to the game sooner rather than later. As it turns out, I will be in a familiar venue in exactly two weeks time as the Devil’s new team is getting together for a game of shinny followed by a little team-building party. I imagine breathing in the cool air, hearing metal meet ice and watching the Devil engage in her first battle will leave me bristling for more. I’m fairly certain it’s not so much that I miss the game; rather, I miss watching my kids play it. Which means I really need to savour the next couple of years before Summer evening memories are all I have left.