Early Bird Gets the Puck

The Devil’s team played in an early bird tournament last weekend as a warm up for the regular season and to get a sense of what level they are at in relation to other teams.  Her coach has said he has high expectations for this group. They had already competed well in two exhibition tilts which ended in a 2-1 loss and a 4-4 tie.  There’s always plenty to work on in the pre-season; like simply getting to know each other, a challenge on a Midget girls team exacerbated by a three year age difference.  For instance, our first year girls were struck by the fact one of their teammates is finished high school.  Now, she apparently completed her schooling in the UK over the Summer, but regarless….she is no longer in high school.  Alarming to those who still have three years left. Though, from afar, this team does seem to have a bunch of players who are getting along.

Game one of the tournament was at 7:30 on a Friday night, not ideal after a full school day (which for some reason the Devil was able to weasel her way out of with the excuse of having to rest up for her game – mom’s decision, not mine) and an hour long car ride. But the visitors (i.e. the Devil’s squad) came out like gangbusters. They held the balance of play for most of the contest.  A 3-1 final could have just as easily been 7-1 if not for some good goaltending at the other end.  A pretty good start to say the least.  After leaving the rink around 9:30, grabbing a couple of Harvey’s chicken strip combos at the Drive-Thru and dropping off a teammate, the Devil hit the hay around 11:30 with a 7am wake up call to head back down for games 2 and 3.

7am came early, as anticipated, but a 9:30 game requires being at the rink by 8:30 and the drive was just over an hour. The next opponent looked to be a bigger team.  Once the game got going this proved to be the case. The Devil found that out all too well when she was met in the crease by a punch to the head towards the middle of the third period.  The girls were also up against some bad fortune as a puck found its way under our goalie early in the game. The referee, who wasn’t well positioned back near the red line (i.e. centre ice) blew the play dead. But when he and the linesmen arrived at the net they found the puck in it and decided to declare a goal for the opponents.  A little later on in the game, following a scramble in front of the other team’s net, one of the Devil’s teammates was able to jam a puck in, but this time the same referee was not so accommodating in ruling No Goal. Long story short, the game ended with the Sharks on the wrong end of a 2-0 score.

With a big tournament and several divisions, the scheduling can be a little uneven and such was the case this weekend as our next game was at 5:30pm meaning we had five hours to kill before the girls needed to be back at the rink. Going home was not really an option as that would involve two and a half hours in the car. And so we started with an extended two hour lunch. Some girls then decided to go shopping while some fathers, yours truly included, decided to simply hang back in the the next arenas parking lot; enjoying the nice end of Summer weather and a couple of beverages. Having no regular coaching duties this season, I look forward to some of the friendly tailgating I missed last year.

The Sharks 1-1 record meant they would need to win game three in order to advance to the playoff round of the tournament. Game three was a back and forth affair, which saw our side take a 4-3 lead in the third period. Also needing a win, the opposing coach opted to pull his goalie with a minute and half left in the game.  At about the 30 second mark, one of our players broke out of the defensive zone with the puck and looked up to see the empty net. The heat of the moment grabbed her and she shot the puck towards the net before hitting the red line. The puck sailed wide which led to a whistle for icing; creating a face-off to the right of our goaltender with 23 seconds to go.  That fateful faceoff was the Sharks undoing as a quick draw led to a quick shot, which found its way past our unsuspecting keeper. We would find out shortly thereafter a tie was not quite good enough to advance (in fact the girls missed in a tiebreaker by a single goal to the team they had just tied).  The upside was we would not have to come back tomorrow.  The downside was a meaningless consolation game at 9:30pm, a full 12 hours after their first game of the day – not a great recipe for success.

More than half the team decided to try what looked to be a nice new steak joint; while the Devil, Hockey Momma and I were gracefully treated to dinner at another local restaurant by momma’s uncle and aunt who lived relatively close by and came to see game three.  It turned out we made the better choice as the rest of the team waited for over two hours and didn’t actually get to eat. Seems the steak joint was not prepared for the onslaught of a girls hockey tournament…seriously?

So, you can likely guess the type of game that transpired after 12 hours, no dinner for most and nothing to really play for.  The girls didn’t give up by any means, but had little left in the tank in a 5-2 loss against a team they’d compete much better against with fresher legs and spirits. Everyone was pretty much ready to call it a day before the game even started.

An early bird tourney holding some initial promise from game one took a decided turn for the worse.  Yet, it was not without purpose or meaning as the girls on the still relatively new team got to know each other a little better through some trying circumstances and the coaching staff no doubt picked up on some stuff they need to work on.  This is why you enter these tournaments. A hard day’s worth of games and some adversity will no doubt pay dividends down the road.  The girls have a few more pre-season games and a handful of practices to prepare for a regular season just around the corner.  There was lots of good stuff mixed in with the bad last weekend; plenty to look forward to with the right guidance and, as always, a bit o’ help from the hockey gods.




The Last Minor Hockey Tryout…For One Anyway

The Boy just finished the final tryout process of his minor hockey career a few days ago, a component of the game I won’t miss once the Devil reaches the end of her playing days, which are likely still a couple of years off.  In his final year (2nd year Midget), the Boy was hoping to make an AA team, a step up from the A level he has been at for the last eight years. Actually, a little interesting as his first rep hockey stint was with an AA team when he was 8.  AA minor hockey bookends if you will.  I was fairly confident he had the game and knew he had the desire to make this team (listen to me sounding all high and mighty), but the process is the process for a reason.  Every player has to compete against roughly 50 other hopefuls to earn their spot over the course of four or five tryout sessions.

One aspect of the process immediately in the Boy’s favour was the format of the tryouts. In the years leading up to Midget hockey tryouts consisted of mostly of technical drills primarily designed to enable a team of presumably unbiased evaluators to compare players’ skating and shooting  skills.  This is a good and necessary system at younger ages where coaches who may have limited familiarity with players want to quickly determine who belongs at a particular level from a pure skills perspective.  Strong skaters and hard shooters naturally stand out.  This process, however, does not necessarily determine “hockey” skills per se. The softer, or harder, skills depending on your perspective. These hockey abilities include positioning, timing and aggressiveness, which are measured most effectively in game-like situations – scrimmages and small-sided games.

one on one hockey drill

So as you can imagine, the Boy’s strengths lie in his ability to read the ice, make smart passes and battle in the corners – yup, soft hockey skills.  I, and he I believe, will readily admit skating, while not necessarily a weakness, is not his strong suit.  He may not have yet perfected his skating form and it’s probably safe to say at this point he likely never will. In fact, a couple of years ago he had an Assistant Coach who dubbed him “Spiderman” in reference to the way he swung his arms when he skated.  And yes, Spiderman still fits; particularly when he’s tired at the end of a shift or game.  And don’t even get me started on backwards skating – suffice it to says this is  always good for a chuckle. Hey, I’m dad, and I’m allowed.  He gets plenty of opportunity to chuckle at me on the ice.

So we skip back to tryout skate number one, which found all of those who registered divided into four teams.  These tryouts would be all scrimmage all the time, which suited the Boy (and me) just fine.

Now another relatively strong part of the Boy’s game is physical; specifically his ability to use his body and throw a hit.  He announced plans to “light up” some unsuspecting 1st year Midget player.  And he thought he had found a victim with his head down about 15 minutes into the 50 minute session. However, he picked the wrong kid who outweighed him by anywhere from 20-30 pounds and who, in fact, did not have his head down. The Boy was greeted unceremoniously and dumped on his own unsuspecting ass. The rest of tryout skate number one was noticeably quieter where the Boy was concerned.  From my vantage point, he would need to pick it up the following skate on the following night. After night one, his first course of action would be putting ice for an aching shoulder from his open-ice meeting with the wrong kid.

The Boy would come out with renewed conviction on night two and then likewise on night three. He wasn’t shying away from the physical; winning most battles in the corners and along the boards.  He was even, somewhat uncharacteristically, putting the puck in the net.  He was presumably making up for the slow start two nights prior.

Tryout four was scheduled to be an exhibition game against a nearby rival team; however, the Boy was told he wouldn’t need to skate along with a few others who were all presumably “on the team”. Congrats to the Boy and those who had made it. Still some nervous moments left for players looking to fill a couple of  positions yet to be filled.  The Boy would get a call the day of the exhibition game to sub in for someone who got hurt and his mom would be on the bench as the trainer; a position she will happily be filling during the upcoming season.  While the Boy was at the game, his participation was limited; particularly in the third period. Normally that would be concerning, but knowing his fate was already positively sealed, it was fine just watching him sit on the bench.

The next night there was a fifth and final tryout, which looked more like a regular practice to me, though there were apparently still a couple of decisions to be made player-wise.  This year’s squad will have a lot of familiar faces, including the coaching staff who were likewise at the A level last year – another possible factor in the final selection process.

Post skate I had a strange new revelation as the Boy had driven himself to the rink and I showed up in my own car after work.  When the tryout/practice ended, I lingered out in the lobby with a few other parents as I would normally do in my role as the Boy’s chauffeur. But then I realized I had no real reason to wait and gladly left him to drive himself home – an odd, but certainly pleasant realization and one I will no doubt appreciate more and more as the season drags on; particularly after those late night practices.

So, tryouts have concluded for another year and game one is already scheduled for tomorrow night (though the Boy won’t be participating as he needs to serve a one-game suspension following an indiscretionary hitting from behind penalty to end his season last April) with game two coming the night after.  Hockey season is revving up.  Did someone say something about the NHL because I don’t have time to pay attention?

I suppose there will be plenty of tryouts (sporting or otherwise) as the lad enters the next stage of his life.  We hope some lessons learned over the last 10 years of tryouts will serve him well, if even in some small way.  For now, I’ll plan to enjoy as much of his last year of minor hockey as I can; or at least as much as the Devil’s scheduling conflicts will allow.  It’s 5-6 nights per week at a rink somewhere if you’re trying to find me.


One v One Thrasher drill image courtesy passhockey.com.

You Might Be a Minor Hockey Parent

hockey dad

Image courtesy of Macleans.ca – http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/09/13/your-guide-to-this-season%E2%80%99s-hockey-parents/

I began this with a list originally forwarded by a hockey Dad from the Devil’s team who received it in an email from yet another hockey Dad.  We joked over a couple of beers we were enjoying while our daughters were working hard at practice. Several of the Ifs hit really close to home.  I’ve added a few of my own and welcome any others you can think of.  If you’ve done any, or like me, many of these……youuuuuu just might be a hockey parent (with deference to Jeff Foxworthy and his little Redneck thing).

If you base the next purchase of a vehicle on how many kids, sticks and hockey bags it will hold.

If you know the location of every Tim Horton’s within a 400 kilometre radius.

If you give directions to places relative to the closest arenas.

If you’ve quoted Don Cherry, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe or lines from the movie Slap Shot in conversations with your kids.

Slap Shot Movie

If you know the name of every single kid on every single team your kids have every played on……. but don’t have a clue who their  school mates are.

If you’ve lost your voice at a weekend tournament.

If the smell of a locker room or unwashed hockey gear doesn’t make you nauseous or if,  in truth, you actually enjoy it.

If you feel lost when you have a hockey free weekend.

If your spouse waits until you decide where to sit and then chooses a spot on the opposite side of the arena.

If you know at least three rink rats on a first-name basis.

If you can justify complaining about someone who donates hundreds of hours of volunteer time to your son or daughter.

If you ground your kids for a week when they misbehave (except for hockey practice).

If you’ve had to replace panels or your entire garage door after several pucks were shot at or through them.

If you’ve rationalized spending $250 on a Synergy for a 9 year old, but won’t spend $5 on a birthday card for your wife.

If when someone asks how old your children are you respond, “I have a ’95 and a ’97.”

If practices are a major part of your social life.

If you buy gloves according to how loud you can clap in them.

If you don’t mind the giant dead spot in your backyard where the rink used to be.

Courtesy Backyard-Hockey.com

If you find yourself missing the parents of your kids’ teammates during the off-season.

If you rank arenas based on the quality of their french fries.

If you refuse to make any plans with your friends until you check your kids’ hockey schedules.

If you open a credit line to pay for all the registration fees, equipment and travelling expenses.

If you’ve ever leaned to the left or the right to psycho-kinetically attempt to help your did avoid a hit or guide a puck into a net from 150 feet away.

If all of your computer passwords begin with “hockey” or contain your child’s jersey number.

If your wedding anniversary celebration has included a watching a game or practice followed by a trip to McDonalds or some wing joint.

If you have been barred from more than one rink on more than one occasion for bad behaviour.

If you’ve purchased a new $200 stick because old one “didn’t have any goals left in it.”

If you know a few 5 year olds who are good, but “lack focus.”

If your kids have asked if Christmas is “Home or Away” this season.


If you’ve sat up all night with pre-game jitters in anticipation of a game you aren’t even playing in.

You juussst might be a hockey parent.

I’d love to see this list grow so let me know what you can add in the Comments below.