Hockey Dad vs. The Boyfriend: A Tale of Parental Angst

So occasionally I get to thinking these scribblings should be entitled I’m the Father of Two Hockey Players rather than I’m a Hockey Dad as the paternal nature of the job generally trumps the sports angle making it more deserving of the top billing. Such was the case this past weekend as the Devil’s first official “boyfriend” (yeah, I said it) accompanied us in the family vehicle to one of her away games. Now I don’t have a problem with the “boyfriend” (as a living, breathing person) since, as chance would have it, I’ve know him since he was 8 or 9 years old. There is a whole back story here about him being one of the Boy’s former hockey teammates and up until recently good friend. Suffice it to say the Boy was not a big fan of one of his buddies pursuing his sister. And I gotta say, I don’t blame him. I’ve discussed the whole situation with my buddies and we generally agree that he is contravening an unwritten, unspoken Bro-Code. Regardless, he is the “boyfriend” and it’s something the Boy and I are just going to have to deal with. Actually, the Boy has likely decided to just ignore the whole situation for now from his new university digs nearly 2 hours away. Leaving me to handle this male conundrum on my own.

As the father of two hockey players, my challenge is coming to grips with the whole “boyfriend” concept. I reluctantly have to realize she will not be my “little” Devil forever and yes I know this is something every dad goes through eventually. It’s just that eventually came a whole lot quicker than I, or I’m sure Hockey Momma, expected.

Little Devil Hockey Player

When we reached the arena and Hockey Momma sent me and the “boyfriend” on a traditional Timmies run, thereby subjecting at least one and probably both of us to 10 minutes of uncomfortable small-talk. We started naturally with hockey talk. But then my “How’s college?” question (did I mention he’s in college and she’s in Grade 11?) was mutually understood to be no more than a veiled reference to “Don’t touch my daughter.” I had a flash back to Bill Engvall recalling a conversation where he forewarned one of his girl’s suitors about what he would do should anything bad befall her on a date.

Had I not known this boy for as long as I have, I may have related the same.

Once at the hockey rink the new “boyfriend” caught the attention of several of the Devil’s teammates who hurled a catcalls in his general direction as teenage girls are wont to do. He retreated to a safer part of the arena, out of their sight. I gotta tell ya, the kid must be relatively smitten for all the abuse he’s taken over the last couple of weeks. Problem is I kinda recall likewise being cupid’s bullseye at a tender age and that doesn’t make me feel any better.

I was curious to see how the Devil would perform with him watching from the stands. Now, this was not the first time he had watched her play, but it was the first time as the “boyfriend”. Yeah, no matter how many times I write or say it, it’s not quite rolling easily off the keyboard or tongue. In any case, you could say the Devil played a less than inspired game with her beau cheering her on. I’m not sure, and pretty certain, if there was any cheering it was done quietly under his breath and she didn’t give him many opportunities anyway. Unfortunately, the Devil was not the only one with a sub-par performance as our Sharks were lucky to escape the first game of the weekend with a 1-1 tie after having registered a grand total of five or six shots on the opposing goal. Post-game, I made my way from behind the bench towards our dressing room, stopping briefly to mostly jokingly let the “boyfriend” know he was no longer allowed to attend our games. On the way home, we let the Devil know we thought she was negatively affected by her biggest fan. The pros and cons of his attendance at future contests would need to be weighted heavily in the best interest of the team.

Keep Calm and Date a Hockey Player

The next day brought another game with one particular spectator notably absent due to a work shift. Now after the ribbing she received the day previous, the Devil was likely to have a better performance. And that she did; scoring the loan Sharks’ goal off of a beauty pass from one of her linemates. Upon scoring said goal and after an appropriate amount of cheering, I announced to the bench that the boyfriend was hereby banished from all future contests – an edict I know I’m not likely going to be able to enforce, but one which was thoroughly appreciated by those within earshot. A second very-spirited and penalty-filled match ended in a 1-1 draw bringing our regular season record to 0-1-4; something we and the Sharks will need to work on. That’s a whole other topic to be addressed in short order.

For now we’ll reserve judgment on the “boyfriend’s” presence at games and his affect on the Devil’s play; a pretty small concern for this father of two hockey players in the grand scheme of things. Glad I got a good Hockey Momma to help me deal with all this growing up stuff because I’ve had a difficult enough time handling my own maturation, much less that of a couple of young adults under my watch. I’m open to suggestions from any other fathers of female hockey players or who’ve gone through this before me.


Image courtesy

Ws and Other Fun Stuff Found at a Hockey Tourney

I don’t want to take any undue credit, but I’m happy to report the Sharks winless streak ended right after my last post about chasing an elusive first W.  Based on the way the girls had been practicing and for that matter playing to this point, a win was bound to come. But until you get the first one, particularly when it’s been a while, you’re never quite sure when it will.

Happy Hockey Team
This past weekend we travelled an hour and a half down the road to compete in our second tourney of the year. Applefest 2013 guaranteed us four round robin games, with the top four out of seven teams going on to play semi-final and hopefully championship final games. A little quick online research helped us get a sense of our competition and revealed what looked to be three strong opponents in games 1, 3 and 4 and one presumably lesser foe in game 2.

So we knew we had a challenge right out of the gate. Pre-game I tried to position the entire tournament as an opportunity to set a new winning precedent for the rest of the year.  The squad had proved to this point they could “skate” with any team, but had yet to translate their effort into wins. I told them in order to win they would need to do a couple of things – play like a team, which meant passing the puck more and committing to a forecheck we’d been working on over the last few weeks in order to create more scoring opportunities. To their credit, they did both and entered the 3rd period with a less than comfortable 1-0 lead. They would extend this to a 2-0 gap  just 20 seconds into the final frame. The other side would manage to put one past our keeper a couple of minutes later to raise our combined blood pressure. Moments later a shot from the point would sail towards our net and then be deflected over the right shoulder of our defenceless goalie. Luckily, the hockey gods and an observant head referee noted the deflection came from a high stick. Our 2-1 lead was preserved and maintained until the final buzzer rang. The proverbial monkey was off our back. The previously elusive W was behind us. With a weaker side (who we watched lose their first match 6-1 to the home team), scheduled for game two later that evening, things were certainly looking up for the Sharks.

The game two pre-game speech was relatively simple. Take your effort from game one and bring it up a notch. This should be plenty to advance the tournament record to 2-0. Of course, things are never as simple as we’d like or often expect them to be. Instead, the team we watched lose 6-1 earlier in the day brought their game up a notch and our side inexplicably dialled their back a few. While the play and scoring chances skewed slightly in the Sharks favour, the 1-0 score on the clock when the game ended did not. With a 1-1 record, the team had now put itself in a bit more of a precarious situation as much stronger foes were on tap the next day.

The next day started would start unusually early for a Midget team with the first puck scheduled to hit the ice at 8am. My fellow hockey parents and I thought we were done with waking up at 5:30am for hockey several years ago. To make matters worse, our fourth and final game would start 13 hours later at 9pm. However, this was simply another challenge we would have to deal with if we wanted to advance to the semi-finals on Day 3. Challenge one would be getting past the team we thought would be our stiffest competition. Though it was a bit of a fib, I told our charges we were in a must-win situation. I wanted them to bring everything they had in order to give them their best chance to win. And I believe it worked as we watched a night and day transformation of the team was saw drop a 1-0 decision a mere 12 hours ago.

Even with this improved effort our side entered the third period down 2-1 on the scoresheet, but still had a positive result in their sites. Unfortunately, the hockey gods had other plans. A little over 5 minutes into the 15 minute 3rd period, a puck shot harmlessly behind our net and just above the boards, caught a stanchion and ricocheted directly out in front to a fortunately positioned opponent, who in turn quickly buried the errant rubber disk into the mesh behind our goaler. Our sides effort had not diminished, but their spirits after falling behind 2 goals with only 10 minutes left to play certainly did. Having taken a must-win attitude myself as the game wore on, I decided to pull our goaltender with just over 1 minute left in the game so see if an extra attacker could pull us within a goal. This tactic unfortunately resulted in an empty net goal against making the score 4-1. Insult to injury came with only 7 seconds left on the clock as our now decidedly dejected troops allowed an unchallenged shot from in close, which rang off a post for a 5th goal. Post-game my consolation speech revolved around the fact that we gave our opponents all they could handle for two periods. I honestly told the girls the 5-1 final was not an accurate measure of the game they had played. That being said, I could now definitively tell them game four was a MUST-WIN. Adding to our early morning drama was the realization that our netminder had re-injured her knee at some point during the contest. She was in considerable pain as a couple of fathers escorted her out of the arena – a scene no one wants to watch. See y’all in 11 hours to fight for our tourney lives against the host team.

I was concerned by the time the final round robin game rolled around our players would be less than fresh having sat around at a hotel or in a local mall trying to kill 11 hours. A 9pm game for girls (and coaches for that matter) who woke up a 5:30 was far from ideal. Yet, I implored our side, reminding them of how well they played earlier in the day. I reiterated the MUST-WIN message and let them know not all hope was lost. In fact, because we knew the scores of those who were battling for the last playoff spot, we also knew we were actually in a win-and-get-in scenario. Our opponents on the other hand, were pretty much already advancing on the strength of their results in their first three games. Before the opening face off I get one more chance to talk to the players on the ice. As I tried to deliver this serious invocation someone actually asked the question “Who farted?” and tone of this game was somewhat set. Despite the gravity of the situation, I was encouraged to see our players relatively unfazed. The first two periods were fought tooth and nail deadlocking our squads in a scoreless tie. With the Zamboni preparing a fresh sheet of ice four our final push to the playoff round, we retreated to our dressing room where we encountered a surprisingly upbeat, loose and I dare say confident group of players. Even better I noted 17 girls who were having a lot of fun. I and the coaching staff hoped this bode well for the final frame. The third period continued to be a tight affair with each side exchanging its share of chances. Then with just under 4:30 left the good guys struck paydirt first as a rebound was banged home from in close. The stands erupted behind us and I may have given the trainer aka Hockey Momma a double high five or two. Our jubilation was short-lived as other side fought back to square the score at ones only two minutes later. With a tie not really being an option if we wanted to advance, I would need to pull our goalie for a second straight game, hoping against hope for a better result. And the better result (the desperately desired result) occurred with only 46 seconds left on the clock as another garbage goal was notched in our favour, thereby cueing renewed jubilation. The final 46 seemed much longer, but expired and signalled what we thought was a berth in the next day’s festivities.

As it turned out, we would have to wait nearly another full hour to hear the verdict we were waiting for. The girls did indeed earn a berth in the semi-finals and a rematch with the team they lost 5-1 to in their 8am match. An opportunity to get to the championship game by exacting some measure of revenge and proving the earlier lopsided score was unfounded. Though we all knew this would be a difficult proposition at best.

I kept the pre-game banter short and simple again. Through a dozen games now, I believe the players have come to recognize what they need to do in order to compete and give themselves the best chance to win. Skate, commit to an aggressive forecheck, unselfishly pass the puck and crash the net (or get into the kitchen as one assistant has become fond of saying) looking for rebounds and dirty goals. To their credit and as they’d done in the two previous games, the girls came out skating and battling. Unfortunately, one such battle resulted in a 4 minute penalty about 5 minutes in. The opponents were able to capitalize on their man advantage and took a 1-0 lead into the second period. Over the next 15 minutes, the Sharks would register several good scoring chances, all of which were turned away by an able goaltender. Before the second period ended the bad guys would find the back of our net again. During the intermission, I reminded the girls they had scored two goals in the 3rd period of the previous game and they could do so again. However, a relentless opponent scoring 2 minutes into the 3rd was a likely death knell to our hopes of reaching the final stage of the tourney. We tried to buoy the team’s spirits and implored them to not give up. And while they did not, their team game effectively went away as desperation kicked in. One final goal would be scored (not by us I’m afraid) ending our tournament on a somewhat sour note. Perhaps a small consolation lies in having worn down our semi-final foes who went on to lose the championship game to the host team who we defeated to reach the semis. Again proving hockey is an unpredictable game (like we need more evidence).

At the risk of sounding cliched, this tourney was a great learning experience for the team. I admitted to them the team we lost to twice is, at this early point in the season, a better team. However, I hope they also realize the level at which they were and are able to compete. Overall on the weekend, they played more good than bad hockey – did more positive than negative things. Furthermore, they secured two previously unattained Ws.  We can and should use this realization as inspiration to get more Ws. Of course, it partially rests on me and us to ensure “can and should” becomes “will and do”; all the while striving for the same level of fun I saw on and off the ice in Game 3. I’m open to any and all suggestions on that front.


Chasing an Elusive First W

A little over a month into the Devil’s hockey season and our new team has yet to notch a victory through nine games. Our record stands at 0-5-4 with six of the nine games being settled by one goal or less. In the regular season, into which we have only waded two games deep, the squad has skated to a 2-1 loss and a 1-1 tie; both of which they could have/should have won save for a bounce here or there. Regardless the record on the league website shouts 0-1-1.


The girls have played some very good hockey and have deserved a better fate in most of these early games, which could obviously have gone either way based on the close margins I’ve mentioned. In a few, we’ve entered the third period either tied or with the lead and were unable to seal the deal; a situation I am all too familiar with from my first head coaching stint two years ago. That team, I shudder to recall, only picked up three victories in the regular season primarily due to a lack of finish. The third period was their nemesis. At one point, I considered lobbying to have the second and third periods combined into one in order to avoid a final frame letdown. Two years later, I’m hoping to not have to invoke this plea again.

Lots of people believe wins and losses are just stats, while others considered them the be all and end all with understandably no better point of reference to measure the success of a team. However, I have to concur with the former when it comes to this team or teams like them. I have to reckon back to how success is defined in our coaching certification courses; not by wins, but by the overall improvement of the team and individuals on the team over time. My own measure of success has always also included making sure the players have a positive experience (not that wins can’t go a long way in ensuring such an experience).  To that end, I am most encouraged by this group’s attitude and spirit so far. Again, it is early and perhaps the current winless streak has not yet sunk in with them (as much as it has with me, the coaching staff and I’m sure the odd parent watching from the stands), but they are a pretty loose and positive bunch. Prior to the last game, our trainer aka Hockey Momma had me peer into the dressing room to watch them perform a pre-game huddle, shoulder-to-shoulder with beats blasting from an amplified iPod. On the bench, the mood has been relatively positive as well with players encouraging each other to soldier on. They too may realize how well they have competed thus far and recognize they will be rewarded for their efforts in due course. Something I likely need to remind myself here again.

That being said, here I am at 5:30am (five hours prior to game one of a guaranteed four-game and hopefully six-game tournament), having already been up for well over an hour, deliberating how I can get the girls to commit to our 2-1-2 forecheck and rehearsing my pre-game pep talk. Because while a bit of me wants to placate the fans in the stands, a bigger part sees the promise of a group of players who have shown the potential to be a really good TEAM who can capture a bunch of those elusive Ws when all of the stars align.

So wish us/them luck. I sincerely hope by the end of the season, if not much sooner, I will look back at this as the mere early season ramblings of another uptight coach. In the meantime, I’m headed back to the drawing board.


If normal parents acted like hockey parents …


If normal parents acted like hockey parents …