Happy Father’s Day everyone and thanks all who who entered. Check out the much anticipated contest drawing below starring my Dad. I’ll be in touch with the two winners and send along your gift cards.
Hey you, fellow Hockey Dad; time to give yourself a pat on the back for all you do for your kids in and out of hockey season, which for some never really ends. Or hey…you kids, moms or significant others…make sure you don’t forget about dear old Dad, hubby or your other half, this weekend. Praise this blessed, over-worked, under-paid soul for…
- all the early morning drives to rinks in the middle of nowhere with or without the benefit of a GPS
- the countless dollars spent on overpriced twigs even an eight year old can snap
- the damage done to vocal cords during the course of a three-day, six-game tournament
- the meals missed when running from the office through traffic, in the door, out the door and off to the arena over a hour away for a 7pm puck drop
- the sleepless nights during league playoffs for those poor souls who decide coaching their kids would be a good idea too
- the time he played poker and swilled whiskey until 5am, but then still managed to be on the ice for a 7am practice with 5 year olds who a had better sense of balance and grasp on reality (ok, perhaps not a commendable moment by some people’s standards)
- the callouses formed from triple knotting skate laces at least a gazillion times
- the frozen feet from standing in a sub-arctic barns run by diabolical ice makers
I think you all get the picture and can likely relate to most of these if you’ve been involved in minor, and particularly rep, hockey for any extended period of time. We hockey dads do our fair share of running around and heavy lifting.
My friends at McDonalds Canada (and yes, I’ve visited them enough times over the years on the way to or from practices or games that I can confidently call them my friends, if not, my dear friends) have offered me a couple of $25 gift cards to share with my deserving readers. In order to snag one of these coveted plastic joy inducers/hunger abaters, you need only share in the comments below (in 100 words or less), why you, your Hockey Dad, Hockey Husband or Hockey Life Partner, is the Best Damn Hockey Dad there is. Come to think of it, I don’t even care if there is necessarily a hockey affiliation at all. Why don’t we just honour all Sports Dads in general. Any old flavour of Dad who is deserving will do. So let us know what makes you or yours special. If you’re too self-effacing, make sure you pass this to your kids.
The contest, open to Canadians only this time around, will close at 5pm on Father’s Day and I will do a random draw for two lucky winners shortly thereafter.
There is no doubt lots of good that can and should be said about your old man, so here’s your chance to do it, and maybe get a Big Mac and fries or a new McWrap for your efforts. I look forward to hearing about why you or your Dad’s the very best.
I finally found some free quiet time yesterday morning to sit down (or rather lay back) and read former President of Hockey Calgary, Todd Millar’s, book dramatically and appropriately titled Moron.
The premise of the book, which begins with a Wikipedian definition of the word “moron”, is that minor hockey in Canada is being ruined by a small minority of “moronic” hockey parents and action must be taken to protect the game we all love for our kids’ sake. The author identifies six main problem areas: Safety, Fair Play, Bullying, Respect, Volunteerism and Adult Behaviour.
Off the top, I will say I agree with at least 95% of what Mr. Millar has written, I applaud his candor and I think this book should be required reading for every hockey parent. As I’ve written here many times before, I’ve certainly witnessed and interacted with a few of the morons to whom the author is referring. And yes, I too will admit to having worn what Mr. Millar calls the Moron Helmet (as he himself did), a time or two. However, I believe upon reflection we were both quickly able to see the error in our ways. Not all morons are so self-aware.
I am sure Mr. Millar is heartened by Hockey Canada’s recent decision to ban body-checking at the Peewee level as this issue is likewise a central theme and perhaps the primary driver behind this book’s genesis. He resigned from his position as president of Hockey Calgary following a “moron” laced blog post he wrote back on April 30, 2012 out of frustration with his organization’s inability to pass the same body checking ban, which has now come to fruition. The entire book actually reads like an epilogue to the minor hockey news of the past couple of months.
In the book, Mr. Millar clearly and passionately talks about the importance of respect and fair play in hockey; two common sense notions not always ascribed to by the previously mentioned minority. He writes frankly about problems with misguided volunteerism, sometimes corrupt, elitist competitive hockey leagues and the need for coordinated top-down/bottom-up changes. With the Boy and the Devil having played rep hockey for the last 13+ years and having been involved with our local associations, hockey Momma and I can both readily relate to the points he’s raised. Sometimes you just shake your head and say, How the hell can that person do that? Don’t they realize how stereotypical they are and that everyone is pointing and laughing, whether quietly or out loud?
I applaud the author for writing this book and further illuminating major issues in minor hockey. Recent media attention would indicate there is something of a groundswell of change underway in the sport where body checking, concussions and parental behaviour are concerned. Many associations across the country are mandating parents take rinkside behaviour courses, with Windsor Minor Hockey being the latest. But I do challenge Mr. Millar’s assertion this problem is most prevalent in hockey. He states in the final chapter “It’s not present as much in other sports, or at all.” I beg to differ from past and recent experience. Just last weekend in my hometown the police needed to be called to a local soccer field to break up a 30-person parent fight after one soccer dad apparently hurled a racial slur at an opposing black family. I can vividly recall coaching the Boy in a rep soccer game at the age of 6 and witnessing an opposing soccer coach berating a player (I would realize later is was his own son no less) to the point of tears. In my very last post, I mentioned witnessing a kid/parent mini-brawl at a charity street hockey tournament. You need only watch a single episode of Toddlers and Tiaras or Dance Moms to see the height or, better put depth, of moronism in modern society in general. Apparently, Moron Helmets can be and are readily purchased at Walmart by any Tom, Dick or Mary. A growing disregard for respect is a larger societal issue. Moronic parental behaviour stems from a general breakdown in human morals. It’s not just a hockey problem, it’s a human problem. (Hang on a sec, is this me or my father ranting?). So what do we do about it? This is obviously a much bigger issue, but having people like Mr. Millar getting stuff out into the open for a sport like hockey, exposing the morons and empowering the rest of us to stand up to them out loud is a positive start. I certainly do encourage other hockey parents to give the book a read and then consider handing it to the next moron you encounter at a rink, field or dance competition.
Last weekend, the Boy, a few of my buddies (including another father-son duo) and I made our annual, but perhaps final for now, pilgrimage to the Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament. A tourney held in the hometown of the man known in hockey circles simply as The Great One and his almost as famous Hockey Dad. What better place for fathers and sons to play some puck and ball together. Coming off a stellar result, going undefeated and technically finishing in 5th place overall following the round robin in the Adult Rec division last year, our cobbled together group of half young lads and half well-seasoned veterans like yours truly, long ago dubbed STICK U, were optimistic about our chances of showing well again. With the possibility of having a Friday night game, I had booked a hotel room for two nights with the tourney being located nearly two hours from home. As it turned out, all of our games were scheduled for Saturday, which afforded some of us the opportunity to spend Friday night “preparing” for the challenge ahead. And how better for finely tuned athletic machines to prepare than with two large pizzas, a couple of frosty beverages and a few pressure-packed rounds of hardly high stakes Texas Hold’em. I personally enjoyed the first two a bit more than the third.
We woke early and just raring to go for our 11am game against a seemingly erstwhile side called the Sausage Runners.
One notable thing about Adult Rec Men’s sports teams is the variety of creative monikers, though many follow a common and predictably, sexually-oriented theme. Among my favourites in no particular order this year were Zidlicky My Balls, My Balls Your Chin, Multiple Scoregasms, Hamilton Phat Cocks, The Guts cuz it sounds mean and Kane’s Taxi Squad for the NHL Playoffs tie-in. The obvious testicularity of many of these male-constructed labels is troubling to be certain. A catchy name and homage to The Great one from a previous tourney worth noting was I Promised Mess I Wouldn’t Do This.
Surely, we’d be able to get off to a quick start against a team with a questionable nickname like Sausage Runners, which itself may be anatomical in nature. After a brief sighting of the tournament’s namesake (yup, Walter wanders the grounds giving interviews, taking pictures and signing autographs) and witnessing a brawl in one of the younger divisions, which spilled over into the spectating parents (cuz that’s what you expect to see at a just-for-fun charity tournament), STICK U faced-off against foe number one. We could tell early on the Sausage Runners were a little more dangerous than their lime green t-shirts and silly sobriquet suggested. They scored a couple of quick markers on the Boy’s uncle (who only stands between the pipes once a year, but you’d never know it) which we answered with goals of our own. However, we found ourselves down 4-2 halfway through the 20 minute contest. Their lead would be extended by a phantom goal the ref claimed went off the centre post, but made the unmistakable sound of striking the cross bar. STICK U would battle back to make the game 6-5 only to see a two-goal lead regained and held till the conclusion. An 0-1 start would demand back-to-back victories, if we hoped to play at least one more on Sunday.
While the primary focus of such a weekend is ball hockey, the time after and betwixt games has certainly provided some highlights. This time is typically spent in lawn chairs or on beer laden coolers back behind our vehicles with tunes playing and non-stop laughter evoked by new and old stories only guys appreciate. Being well-seasoned we upped the post-game ante this year with a couple of bbqs, lump charcoal, applewood chips, thoroughly marinated chicken wings, halved limes and home-made bbq sauce prepared lovingly by a teammate. To say the by-product of these ingredients was to die for would be a severe understatement. The Boy quipped they even rivaled hockey momma’s Portuguese chicken, a longstanding family favourite also prepared over a charcoal grill.
After a feed of wings, a couple of burgers, a distinct depletion of the cooler contents and a realization of the advancing age of a few, several amongst us were hard-pressed to leave the comfort of tailgating to play a second game. But a squad called simply Awesome awaited our challenge, so off we went. The Boy surmised a team who called themselves Awesome, likely weren’t. Arriving at the designated “rink” for our next match, we found a ragtag group not unlike our own; except we had a bit of a young guy advantage we hoped to capitalize on. Perhaps the highlight of this game, beyond it being a 5-2 victory for the good guys, was the first occurrence of a full father-son line. The 4-on-4 format allowed for me, my buddy and our Boys to collaborate against an opposing foursome; a cool and memorable opportunity to be sure.
Our spirits were buoyed by having evened our record at 1-1; thereby giving ourselves a chance to advance with a repeat win. A loss would signal an early tourney exit. After a bit more tailgating with just enough time for muscles to start seizing up, we would be tasked with facing a team we suspected would be strong; though they hadn’t come up with a more imaginative name than Topper’s Pizza. As it turned out, some of their side were holding their pre-final game prep session right next to ours. We naturally encouraged them to get their fill of libations or to maybe even consider forfeiture, since they’d already won two matches on the day. What we didn’t fully realize in speaking with our foes-to-be was their relative youth. Hell, most of them were probably not even old enough to partake in wobbly pops. We would become well aware the moment the ball was dropped to start our final match. I won’t repeat the final score, but suffice it to say, our weary legs were no match for those of our counterparts. Further, we agreed this team passed the ball and generally played at least one level above Adult Rec calibre, in which we were firmly entrenched. It leaves one to question what satisfaction a bunch of 20-somethings get from thoroughly defeating a slightly misfit bunch like ours. Not a tale of conquest I’d want to relay to my friends. Why wouldn’t they want more of a challenge at an appropriate level? With this in mind, we’ve pondered finding another tourney to enter next year, though my guess is we’ll find our fair share of sandbaggers there as well. One thing is certain — STICK U will rise again.
Regardless the outcome of our last game and the tournament-ending death knell it dealt a disappointed STICK U contingent, I’m fairly confident the overall experience was positive. We’d cap the two-day junket with a team dinner at a local watering hole, watching the first two games of the third round of the NHL Playoffs, a few more drinks to drown our sorrows and a return to the Texas Hold’em table to recoup, in my case supplement, past losses.
We would rise the following morning with aching muscles, yet a burning desire to play at least one more game, undoubtedly fueled by the perception of having been wronged to some degree a mere 16 hours earlier. The drive home would be bittersweet and long enough for the aforementioned old muscles to seize up just a little more making the climb from the car a painful proposition. A text from a teammate had earlier bluntly declared “I am paralyzed.” After dropping off our two passengers, the Boy turned to quickly say, “Thanks for the weekend Dad.” A simple gesture, but more than enough, coupled with two-days worth of laughs and even a wee bit o’ quasi-exercise, to validate the abbreviated weekend.