Been a little while since I wrote anything here and there’s a whole bunch of reasons/excuses I want to convince myself are responsible as work, life and hockey have collided on multiple fronts of late; the good, the bad and sometimes ugly as they say. This is by no means meant to be a pity party, however, there’s been a bit more of the latter two conditions than the former for my liking. In years past, hockey has always been the escape mechanism. Hitting the ice for practice, watching either the Boy or the Devil kids play games and just having fun playing those games has provided welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of everything else. Unfortunately, the last month or so has seen the hockey and everything else getting all mixed up in one big blurry mess. To the point, where I can honestly say for a bit there I wasn’t really looking forward to visiting the rink. Rather, I was welcoming a short Christmas break from the everything. Aaand, as luck would have it, my stocking was filled with a nasty case of the flu rendering me virtually immobile for a week (insert sympathetic gasps or groans here). So bad, in fact, I missed three of my own rec hockey games, though the last may have had something to do with the dramatic final game of the the World Junior Hockey Championships between Canada and Russia. I was schedule to make my return to the ice at 10:30pm last Monday night. At 9:15pm, the score was 5-1 Canada and I had my hockey bag at the door and was ready to return to rec league action. A mere 10 minutes later, Russia cut the lead to 5-4 at which point the Devil asked, “You’re not really going to miss the rest of this game are you Dad?” Nuff said and I remained couch bound until I heard the Canadian anthem denoting a triumph for the home side after a nervous final frame.
On the other personal hockey front, I knew before we started there would be on-ice challenges with our team this season, but I was hopeful and optimistic of an overall successful campaign on the strength of having a good group of girls; who I and my staff would work on getting on the same page. To date, and particularly lately, there have been more challenges than successes. Anyone who knows me, or has read my ramblings over the last few years, knows hockey success for me is not synonymous with winning. Rather, I just want to make sure I’m keeping the team on an even keel, providing a positive influence and seeing to it the majority of players are having fun. The last couple of weeks haven’t been much fun. Of course, winning a few games here or there or at least competing has a way of making things a whole lot more enjoyable. In the last 14 games we’ve only managed one of those ever-elusive Ws, combined with a whole bunch of less attractive Ls; many of which are have been of the lopsided variety. Losing has become a bit contagious. Once behind, momentum quickly becomes our greatest foe. An antidote is admittedly becoming increasingly difficult to concoct. The optimal place to work on a cure is practice, however, those have been sporadically attended, perhaps likewise due to the lack of on-ice success. Losing breeds apathy, particularly in older teens who have a bunch of other ways to occupy their time (see school, jobs, boys and families).
A few weeks ago, I and one of my assistants decided to lighten the mood by staging a shaving-protest who’s end is contingent on two consecutive wins for our side. Much to Momma’s ongoing chagrin, by Decembeard continues to flourish well into Januhairy. I do continue to hope to become reacquainted with a razor sooner rather than later. Perhaps a little help from the Hockey Gods is in order.
One of the primary frustrations with this team has been the promise and flashes of brilliance they’ve shown from time-to-time. Our biggest enemy has been consistency; which is to say, three full periods of hockey played by the entire group at a level these girls have proven they are capable. As a coach, I can’t help but feel at least part of the answer hinges on motivation; meaning my/our ability to motivate consistent effort, at the heart of which is positivity. I can and have hearkened back to a previous team who went from worst to first in a relatively short period of time.
Back in real life, the first weeks of the New Year has dealt a couple of sobering shots across my mortal bow, reminding me of the importance of making hockey fun the priority; for me and my players, particularly the one wearing #8. The Devil remains the primary reason I want to go to the rink, regardless the Ls or Ws. Hockey, he says to himself knowingly, is and must be held high as pure fun balanced against sometimes harsh work/life realities.