Rink of Dreams…If I Build It, Who Will Come?

Shortly before the worst winter in recent memory decided to befall this part of the world, I decided to build a little rink in the backyard. And when I say little, I mean little.

Old Swimming PoolWhat I decided to do, in fact, was simply take our four-year old 18-foot diameter Intex steel-frame pool, which had decidedly reached the end of its useful summer life (though I received some resistance to this fact from the Devil) and reduce its height from 4 ft to about 6 inches all around. Then I would simply refill it with water and wait. At 18 feet in diameter (about the same as a faceoff circle), the most “hockey” one could realistically play would be some fancy stickhandling ala Patrick Kane or perpetual crossovers, which could quickly lead to dizziness, vomiting and perhaps even blackouts. I know because I sometimes have my players skate around a circle between drills at the Devil’s hockey practices and it’s never well received. Back at the rink to be, for those who follow regularly, you realize I am the father of two now mature teenagers aged 18 and 16 years respectively, the former of whom, doesn’t even reside in the family home anymore. I am sure Momma and the Devil were asking themselves why I was even bothering with this whimsical project. But it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. If I built it, surely someone would come and skate on it.

Building the Rink

At the time, I regarded myself something of a genius, a veritable ice making MacGyver (who knew such rare footage existed) as I deftly made my way around the pool-turned-giant-ice-cube tray with my handy Exacto knife. I wondered if I should make a YouTube video to share my ingenious invention with other space-restricted hockey dads or perhaps even erstwhile used steel-frame pool salesmen. Having set the trap, all I needed to do now was wait for Mr. Freeze to arrive so I could begin the process of refilling the converted leisure vessel one last time. The aforementioned Freeze and his cousin Jack (Frost that is) showed up about a week before Christmas much to my delight. However, I was immediately presented with a dilemma as I hadn’t yet considered, which water source would be best suited to supply the critical ingredient. My first ill-conceived plan was to attach a garden hose to the outside faucet, which surely wouldn’t freeze that quick at barely sub-zero temperatures. After struggling mightily just to turn the metal tap the faucet produced barely a trickle of my much needed ice juice and so a secondary source would need to be procured. Momma was none too pleased to see me stretching the now snow-covered hose through our kitchen, down the main hall and into the laundry room where I determined the next best solution resided. A couple of minutes later I was in business, hastily filling what I began to realize was a less than level container. I soldiered on and put the base layer down knowing the frosty cousins were forecast to be in town for a few days. Sure enough, just before Christmas and in sync with da Boy’s arrival home for a three week rest from Uni, I had fully constructed a nice “little” rink. Delight returned via social media a couple of days later when I saw da Boy announce that he and the Devil were actually on the ice working on their stickhandling. This was quickly tempered by the report of a broken fence board courtesy of a puck having been shot at it. Ahhh, fence boards are easy enough to replace. Collateral damage from being a hockey dad.

I arrived home to see the rink littered with pucks, sticks and even pylons. A bottle of gatorade was half buried in the snow next to a small lawn chair. It might not be big, but this is how I like to see hockey I said to myself. Over the next few days, da Boy was back out on the wee rink doing his best Patrick Kane impression with bits of Brian Bollig’s not so mad stick skills mixed in.

Even the poochie liked the new backyard addition, though she felt the snow had been cleared especially for her so she could do her business right in the middle of my personal shrine to the game. Damned dog.

Boy on the Rink
Here we are a few weeks later. Da Boy’s headed back to school. The Devil has school, a full slate of her own hockey and a buncha other teenage-type priorities. So the wee rink hasn’t really been used much of late and probably won’t be anytime soon. And yet, after each snowfall, of which there have been several, I find myself drawn out with a shovel to uncover the slick surface beneath. Ice Rink at NightI’ve even peered out our 2nd floor bathroom window to see the frozen circle bathed in moonlight just before I hit the hay and thought about grabbing my skates to go do a couple of “laps”. Then, as I look down I can vaguely see da Boy frantically holding onto a chair for dear life, but suddenly, steadily, victoriously, making his way across the ice. Beside him I see a miniature Devil lying on her back doing snow angels in her hockey gear and grinning ear-to-ear in behind her cage as her small, pink, round glasses fog up again. Hell, I can almost see myself shooting a puck across an ice-covered farmers field next to our house in Manitoba and then chasing it for what seemed at the time like forever, only to turn around and shoot it back in the other direction. Maybe that’s why I built the little rink…so I could glance back to these moments frozen in my mind. Cue the scene from the movie…”Hey Dad, wanna go for a skate?” These little figments are welcome to drop by and skate in my backyard any time they like. Nope, it’s not much…just enough to draw out a few fond memories, making it all worth the effort. Next year’s version might even be bigger and better. Keep an eye out for the DIY YouTube video.


Minor Hockey Pays It Forward

In our town, like so many others across Canada, minor hockey is a pretty big deal. Countless people are involved in making the game happen; from arena workers, to association representatives (one of which to whom I am happily betrothed), to officials and we hockey dads and moms who shuttle kids to and from rinks day after day. As they say, “It takes a village to raise a child” and hockey is simply a microcosm of the phrase. The game provides hours of enjoyment for its participants and in my view helps us parents raise better rounded individuals. With the greater community providing so much, it’s important for those of us on the hockey side to give back where we can; presenting an opportunity to further contribute to our kids’ social development. The Boy’s teams over the years took part in Christmas toy drives, wore pink skate laces and used pink tape in support of Breast Cancer Research and helped organize hockey practices for special needs children. Paying it forward has likewise been a focus of mine for both of the rep team’s I’ve had the pleasure of coaching with great team-building results.

Two years ago, my  team participated in a pre-season walk to raise funds and awareness for Juvenile Diabetes. As it turned out, we had a teammate who happened to be afflicted by the disease and it was great to be able to support a cause so close to home, which our players could easily relate to through their new friend.

Walk for Juvenile Diabetes

This season we chose to take part in a Holiday Food Drive for the local Food Bank. An added incentive was a chance for the team collecting the most food (by weight) to win a practice coached by coaches from the local OHL team (a slight upgrade from the current coaching staff). A bin was decorated and made available for donations at our games for three weeks in December. I let the visiting teams know about our campaign and was pleased to see visitors arriving with bags of food in tow. In three weeks we were able to collect roughly 450 lbs of food and a couple hundred dollars in cash donations, which we were told would feed approximately 20 families for a month. A fine local charitable endeavour for the holidays indeed.

Food Bank Donation


Now with Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada coming up on Saturday, January 18th, Scotiabank would like to hear about how your team has paid-it-forward in your community. By sharing your community events as statements, photos or videos on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and including the hashtag #scotiahockey, you will be entered into a contest with a chance to win:

  • an NHL Alumni Tour visit to your community between January 21st 2014 and September, 6, 2014 or
  • one of three (3) custom 10-20 second video responses from an NHL Alumni highlighting a community post submission and celebrating how they give back to their community. The videos will be posted on the Scotia Hockey Club’s Facebook page.

Entries can be submitted until 4pm on January 18th. The contest is open only to legal residents of Canada who are age of majority.

So get to sharing your pay-it-forward stories and encourage others in your hockey community to do the same to improve your town’s chance of winning the NHL Alumni Tour visit. Everyone in the community, hockey or otherwise, wins from good deeds done.


Hockey Dad Resolutions: Better Late Than Never

 Hockey Resolutions

Thought I’d wait for the New Year frenzy to settle down before I put together this list or I’m just lazy and procrastinatorial (to coin a word), which is something I should likely add to the ledger? Another reasonable excuse is my need to thaw out following a trip to the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor with Momma and friends, which was an unforgettable way to start 2014.

2014 Winter Classic

Regardless, I decided to jot down some resolutions I believe will resonate with my hockey dad/coach brethren, or at least those who are of reasonably sound mind and in tune with their true feelings; which I realize discounts a few out there — you know who you are…

1. I will endeavour to bite my tongue and control my digits when the men in stripes make what I feel are egregious errors in judgment. Thought I’d start with one of the most difficult resolutions and work my way down. I may have already blown this one up prior to publication, but ya had to be there to see the calls this dude was making (he says with total confidence and utter objectivity).

2. I will make every effort to heed the advice of the dazzling and admittedly oft correct Hockey Momma and lighten the weight of my right foot on the gas pedal when traversing snow covered highways on route to matches at rinks situated in the coldest of climes. Damn, number two ain’t gonna be easy either.

3. I will attempt to not make my 16 year old Devil child cry on the bench during a game. Ok, so yes, this happened once in the last month due to extenuating circumstances I assure you. And based on those same hormonally-driven reasons I’m not even sure if this can or should be my resolution, but I’ll include it here for posterity.

4. I will not lie awake in bed till all hours of the night rewinding games or deliberating line combinations in my head. This one will no doubt be harder and harder to fulfill as the season winds down and playoffs ensue.

5. I will make healthy choices for me and my finely tuned hockey progeny. I will not stop at Five Guys Burgers and Fries at 10:00pm after an away game for Double Cheeseburger Combos for the Devil and I. Any resolution list worth its weight (pun fully intended) includes something about healthy eating. I am, however, completely aware of the fact I do not maintain the mental fortitude to make this one last more than 30 days tops. I mean…have you ever been to a Five Guys with all its beefy, cheesy deliciousness?

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

6. I will not wish ill will on other hockey parents, coaches or beer league counterparts during the course of a game or otherwise. Again, a toughie to adhere to when engaged in the heat of high stakes midget girls’ competitive or even incredibly low stakes recreational mens’ hockey battle. The warrior spirit is hard to dash.

7. I will refrain from cheering against the Toronto Maple Leafs. ROFLMAO, I was just checking to see if you were paying attention. While I have my Winnipeg Jets to cheer for (which has been exceedingly hard to do based on their performance or lack thereof of late), I will remain a staunch anti-Leafs fan, if only to grate on the nerves of some of my nearest and dearest.

Not sure how I only just found this…pure YouTube genius don’t ya think?

8. I will try to not laugh (out loud) when I witness one of my kids make a particularly bone-headed play during a game or practice. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “If you can’t laugh at your own, who can you laugh at.”

You know damn right they’d be laughin’ at dear old Dad if the skate were on the other foot. Case in point was a practice earlier this week when yours truly caught a rut during a pre-practice pivot to fire a shot on net and found myself suspended in mid-air with enough time to realize how much landing was gonna hurt. My back met the frozen floor first, yanking pretty much all the breath from my unsuspecting lungs, followed shortly thereafter by my thankfully helmeted head. My back, head and neck would all suffer over the next two days.  I scrambled to my hands and knees, gasping for whatever air I could find and hoping my foible went unnoticed, only to be met by the Devil’s grinning mug asking if I was ok? “Umm…no, give me a sec or two (to fill the virtual vacuum that is my chest cavity). Had I been a bystander witnessing me going ass over tea kettle, I can assure you it would have been met with something closer to gut-grabbing laughter. So, while at the time I sneered at her enjoyment of my misfortune, I shortly thereafter appreciated her simply being my kid.

Hockey Gods9. I will pay all due reverence and humbled icy homage to the all-knowing, all-seeing Hockey Gods. Of course, in return I would like to receive the occasional lucky bounce, ricochet or outright victory at the Puck Deities’ discretion of course.

10. In line with it’s mystic predecessor, I will make an effort to not kowtow to silly superstitions. No habitually nervous pre-game bowel movements. No special t-shirts worn under my dress shirt. No counting the number of times the tape wraps around the stick blade or the shin guard. And yet again, who am I kidding. These are not trivial things one can simply resolve to stop doing at the risk of changing the course of history.

So there’s 10 to chew on. I likely cannot successfully accomplish a single one, but the first step is recognizing and admitting the need to change. I think I have at least a fighting chance with numero trois (pardon my French) and lucky number 9, since I can beg and grovel with the best of them.

Have any personal promises on a hockey list or otherwise you want to try to keep in 2014? I’d love to hear em and whether or not you think you can stick to em any better than I can. Good luck!


Hockey Gods image courtesy The Hockey Gods on Twitter https://twitter.com/HockeyGods

Team Building and Priorities Down the Stretch

The Devil’s and my team is at a bit of a crossroads heading into the final third of our regular season. The team has played really well, really not so well and has been consistently inconsistent as our 3-6-6 record and 7th place standing in a 10-team league clearly indicate. A contributing factor has been a rash of injuries and absences at nearly every position, though we all know neither can be used as an excuse. Every midget-aged squad has to deal with the bumps, bruises and competing teenage priorities like work and school;  though being touch and go to have even one healthy goalie for a few of our games and having only eight out of 17 players showing up for practice is pushing it. All the while, this group has been getting along marvelously and certainly appear to be having a lot of fun; some I’m sure would say too much fun at the expense of focus and discipline. As usual, my guess is those off the ice are more concerned about wins and losses than those on it. Those on the ice surely know winning is fun too, but most aren’t going to let it dominate their experience. These young ladies enjoy playing and simply being together; regardless the result. Their raucous pre-game warm up rituals are proof positive. We’ve even seen them dancing between periods in the closest of games. Good to be loose, but not at the expense of focus some would say. A definite conundrum for coaches who, at least to some degree, must equate winning with success – or do they? Altruistically, we should all try to de-emphasize winning, but golly it gets tougher to do when you’re headlong into a competitive hockey season with “competitive” being the operative word.

keep calm and play hockey

The team’s inconsistency was no more apparent than in our last game before a Christmas holiday break against the league leaders; who we’d yet to beat in three previous tries with one tie. Perhaps visions of sugarplums were already dancing in their heads as  tThe first two periods saw us clearly outmatched by our counterparts who were a visibly more organized crew. Our side had no answer to four goals, two of which were scored as our players virtually stood still in our defensive zone. I pleaded for a better effort during the break between the second and third periods. I reminded our players how well they’ve played at times against this particular team and other strong opponents. I tried to appeal to their deeper sense of pride; their desire to fight back. My simple, final request was to win the third period. I was somewhat heartened to see them respond with renewed vigour and a 1-0 “victory” in the final frame.

Post game I tried to deliver a similar message for them to carry into the next couple of practices and the new year.  They’ve set a precedent of inspired play from time-to-time or, seemingly, when they really want to. This team can play with anyone when they put in the work and are all rowing in the same direction. I told them the onus will be on them to “really want to” from here on in if they hope to finish in the top 8 and thereby qualify for the league playoffs. It would be a real shame if they didn’t based on the promise they’ve shown. Time for the coach to earn his worth and figure out a way to motivate this group to reach their potential before it’s too late. The challenge has been issued. Let’s hope we’re all up for it.

And so, over the next eight games my focus will be on getting back to basics. Getting the girls to work hard one shift at a time, having fun and winning in that order; with the former hopefully feeding the latter. We’ve done a pretty good job thus far of building and nurturing a p0sitive team culture. The infirmary is finally starting to clear out a little (he says with fingers firmly crossed).  Now it’s time for the team to band together and build momentum down the stretch, cuz that’s what good teams do. I have every confidence this is a good team. In the end, I’ll be pleased if the effort to win is there; regardless the final tally. Probably not content, but pleased.

As always, I’m open to suggestions from any other learned hockey dads, moms, coaches, sports psychologists, priests….


Keep Calm and Play Hockey image courtesy http://www.hockeygods.com (yeah, I’ll try anything to appease them)