A Wild Ride to the End of the Hockey Line

I thought this final chapter would be a little difficult to write through eyes blurred by the memories of 14 years on ice, so I decided before we embarked on our weekend trip to the 41st Annual Leo Boivin Major Midget AA/AAA Showcase tournament I would try to construct something of a photo essay of our journey to the end of the Boy’s minor hockey life.  Pictures, as they say, tell a thousand words and in some cases even these photos fall short of summing up an incredible three-day hockey experience. This was, without a doubt, one of the best tourneys we’ve ever attended…and how fitting  it should be the last. So follow along if you will and forgive any typ0s, which will have nothing to do the occasional nostalgic tear dropped on my keyboard I assure you.


loaded hockey van

Van loaded to the roof though it is only a three-day tourney. Luggage – check, Equipment – check, Sticks – check, Cooler for Dad – check. And of course, it’s snowing.



Tim Hortons

Every real minor hockey trip starts at the local Timmies…and the snow continues to fall.










hockey player convoy

Something of a hockey player convoy as five carloads of players, parents and even a coupla siblings make their way four hours down the highway. We’ve also move south and left most of the snow behind us.

hockey pit stop

With the first game scheduled for two hours after our arrival, we stopped early to fuel our finely tuned young athletes. Are those pre-game french fries and root beer I see?


Leo Boivin Community Centre - Prescott, Ontario

The Leo Boivin Community Centre, iconic home of this now fabled tourney is a classic small town Canada barn with wooden bleachers and championship banners from days gone by hanging from the rafters.











hockey team runner

Each team in the tourney adopts their own personal runner for the weekend, who is responsible for filling water bottles, hanging jerseys, familiarizing the players with the rink and lending one more voice to cheer at game time. Our team in turn supplied the young lad with his own signed jersey, which apparently and quickly became a prized possession.

game one vs Team Latvia

The Boys’ first test of the tourney would be their toughest in Team Latvia, who had reached the Championship game at this tourney the year prior. The team did well to skate with their skilled opponents trailing by a single goal after the first period. But the lead would be extended to four after the second. The Boy was the beneficiary of a broken play, which allowed him to break a Latvian shutout bid. The final score read 8-1 leaving the Boys a little dismayed, but by no means defeated.


The Row at the Leo Boivin Tournament

Before game one the team introduced themselves and made symbolic offerings to “The Row”, a special group of fans who are symbolic guardians of the tourney and whose allegiance can be swayed by those bearing gifts and showing reverence.













Another Leo Boivin tourney tradition is a post-game 3-Star selection with a twist. Those Boys selected as stars are required to accept their awards from one of the town's fairest maidens. In return, they are expected to plant a quick peck on the cheek of said maiden...to the merriment of the crowd. On occasion, The Row demands the star to "Kiss All Three". Those teams more familiar with the process were noted to send their stars equipped with flowers for the young ladies. All very pomp and circumstance.

Another Leo Boivin tourney tradition is a post-game 3-Star selection with a twist. Those Boys selected as stars are required to accept their awards from one of the town’s fairest maidens. In return, they are expected to plant a quick peck on the cheek of said maiden…to the merriment of the crowd. On occasion, The Row demands the star to “Kiss All Three”. Those teams more familiar with the process were noted to send their stars equipped with flowers for the young ladies. All very pomp and circumstance-ish.


hockey team paradeLeo Boivin

Leo Boivin tournament opening ceremonies

Opening ceremonies complete with a parade of all 16 teams, a ceremonial puck drop, the anthems of the US, Latvia and Canada and an appearance from Leo Boivin, the tournament’s namesake, himself.


Boy's birthday

Coincidentally, this weekend would also find da Boy becoming da Man by virtue of his 18th birthday falling on Saturday morning. Quite the juxtaposition of a minor hockey career ending and a whole new chapter of life beginning. He subsequently got to open a few presents in the hotel room prior to game two. Fittingly, one stayed true to the hockey-themed weekend and would be eerily prophetic of things to come.

Game two pitted our squad against another AAA foe, but one we all felt would be an easier mark, particularly if our side brought their Double A game. And indeed we watched two very closely matched teams battle to a 1-1 tie through two periods. Unfortunately, a half-hearted shot from just above the slot about halfway through the final frame somehow found its way behind our goalie, who had played a stellar contest to that point. An empty netter would spell a second loss for the good guys and a rematch with a decidedly unpopular rival at 7:30am (an equally unpopular time) the next morning.

game two warmup

goal celebration









However, night two of the tournament featured a skills competition, which included fastest skater and hardest shot categories along with a one-on-one breakaway challenge and a four-on-four mini all-star match. Somehow (methinks birthday related) the Boy was selected by our coaching staff to compete in the hardest shot category, which immediately had me envisioning his infamous “Woooof”  a few years earlier; only this time in front of a few hundred more onlookers in a packed Leo Boivin Community Centre. I tried not to remind him of the somewhat embarrassing moment (he says with the knowing smirk of a caring father). Regardless he was honoured to be chosen and Momma and I were thrilled to see him and three of his teammates competing against players from all of the other teams.

hockey skills competition   hockey skills competitors








A highlight of the Skills Competition was watching local five or six year olds participate in  challenges of their own, mimicking their midget counterparts' skating, shooting and scoring. I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the stands looking down and trying to remember when my kid was that small.

A highlight of the Skills Competition was watching local five or six year olds participate in challenges of their own, mimicking their midget counterparts’ skating, shooting and scoring. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the stands looking down and trying to remember when my kid was that small.

Boy's Slap Shot

I’m pleased to report there was no Wooof this time around. And while the Boy didn’t measure up to some of the big shooters speed-wise, he did manage to go “bardown” with a 69 mph slapshot, much to the foul-minded amusement of the crowd.

Sunday morning and our 6am wake-up call arrived way too early. All bets were off on what type of game we might expect from our Boys or their all too familiar opponents, whom they’d ousted from the Provincial playdowns only a few weeks ago in a thrilling five-game series. To sweeten the pot in this grudge match, the opponents are still locked in a regional playoff battle with the other local league team the Boys removed from the Provincial championship equation in the following, equally exciting five-game series. It’s a wonder we have parents still standing. What we did all know is this could be the final game for our lads should they not be able to secure a win. As the game started, it seemed the knew this too as they were definitely the aggressors early on with a strong forecheck and several shots launched at the opposing keeper. A few minutes into the initial period, they would strike first giving us all a shot of hope. But the momentum would not be sustained as a few penalties were taken enabling the bad guys to tie the score and take the lead late in the second. And then, with the clock winding down in the middle frame, our goalie took exception to the taunting of an opposing player camped out in his crease as a whistle sounded to stop play. Within moments each players arms were flailing as others on the ice, including da Boy, watched from the periphery. I should preface this with mentioning da Boy’s team had one “fight” all year. Suddenly, a player close to da Boy decided to secure him in a headlock to which he says he responded, “Do ya wanna go?” Now his assailant apparently replied “No”, but da Boy had already decided a “fight” had indeed started and he was gonna finish it. He managed to remove his opponents “bucky” as they affectionately refer to their helmets and tossed a few right hands in the right general direction of his target. Meanwhile, one of his linemates grabbed his own dance partner and a partial line brawl ensued. The fracas was relatively short-lived as the linesman moved in. And with that, da Boy’s minor hockey career was brought to an abrupt end one period early; the upside being yours truly and da Boy would watch the rest of the game together side-by-side in the stands.

watching hockey in the stands

The Colts would not be able to mount a comeback in the third period. In fact, they gave up an empty netter for a second straight 3-1 defeat, thereby ending the minor hockey careers of all but one player. And while the three losses naturally stung as they should, the entire experience of the weekend felt far from hollow. In an impressive, unprompted show of class and character the Boys led by their Captain skated out in front of their parents to raise their sticks in a salute for not only this weekend, but a nearly quarter lifetime’s worth of getting up early, stopping at Timmies, driving to frozen rinks and sharing their victories, as well as their defeats.

hockey salute

Thank you Boys!

I count myself lucky for having the above photo to go along with all the others trapped securely in my head and I believe da Man sitting next to me will most likely say the same. Of course, I wanna hold onto da Little Boy sleeping in the back seat on the way home as long as I can.

asleep in the back seat

Now could you kindly pass the tissue cuz I gotta wipe off this blasted keyboard?


Final Minor Hockey Tourney Hurrah

I don’t usually like to write, talk or even mention games before they happen out of fear of angering the ever-present hockey gods. But this time is different as next weekend we will embark on the final road trip to play the final games of da Boy’s minor hockey career. A few on the team thought last weekend’s provincial semi-final loss was the end (eliciting a coupla well-earned tears). However, as it turned out the coaching staff was able to find and register for a last-minute tournament for the squad to compete in.  And not just any tournament; the 41st Annual Leo Boivin International Midget AAA Showcase Tournament. The key words here being AAA, International and Showcase in that order.  AAA because da Boy plays on a AA team (one rung below AAA) and there are only only two other AA teams taking part in this tourney, which will make for some pretty stiff competition to be sure.  This group is coming off a great playoff run, this is really a no pressure tournament for them and hot goaltending can go a long way in a short tourney so ya just never know.  We do know from the last few weeks there’s no quit in our side.  The International means the Boys get to play teams from a bunch of different places, including Latvia in game one; a pretty cool opportunity.  And the Showcase means there will be scouts from schools, Junior teams and elsewhere in the stands. Not that any of our kids are heading to the Show, but another cool factor to add to the swan song hockey experience. As always for me it’s about the memories created and carried forward.

Which gives me pause to bring back a few recollections from the Boy’s many tourneys past. Each and every season has brought its share of moments on and off the ice.

Like the time someone, who shall remain nameless, forgot da Boy’s skates in the trunk of his car, which was sitting in his driveway over three hours away. After suffering through the first game with undersized circa 1960 skates donated by the local rink rat, da Boy was able to finish the tournament on a teammate’s blades as four of his comrades found themselves suspended following a game ending brawl. He probably would have been involved in the skirmish, but he could barely skate.  All I could say to the disappointed player’s parents was, “Sorry about your luck…what size are your kid’s feet?”

Or the season ending tournament held in Niagara Falls over the St. Paddy’s day weekend, which found several parents, one of whom shall again remain nameless, playing texas hold em poker and sipping Irish whiskey until the wee, wee hours of the night before the final game on Sunday morning at 7:30am. As I recall, we lost the morning game and I had to settle on counting my poker winnings in the passenger seat on the way home for faint solace.

A couple of trips to the Nation’s Capital have afforded us chances to skate on the canal, visit the War Museum, catch a Senators game and take the kids on a tour of where Hockey Momma and I spent our college years (speaking of memories).  Ottawa also produced da Boy’s infamous Whooosh…. moment shared here for your, or perhaps simply my, enjoyment.

As you can see, he had planned on a booming clapper from the point as he rarely played D that season. He swung mightily and missed, much to the merriment of several of us in the stands who happened to be standing next to the cameraman’s microphone. Yet, my favourite part is the part you don’t see when da Boy turns to unceremoniously salute us before refocusing on the play.

Of course, this season provided one of the most memorable tournament experiences as hockey took us all many hours south to Nashville, Tennessee. A trip deserving two full sets of remembrances by yours truly. Though the team came home with a well-deserved Championship, hockey was merely the backdrop to a much larger life event.

A similar such event, though not a tourney per se, took place a couple of years ago when the Boys were treated to a bus ride to Oswego, New York to visit the Oswego State University of New York and to get a feel for US Division III hockey. A trip which included a practice on the university rink followed by chat with the school’s team coach, a tour of the locker room and campus, a couple of successful exhibition games against a local high school team and capped by tickets to a Oswego State Lakers Men’s Ice Hockey Team game.

Needless to say, the students at Oswego State luvs them some hockey. The spirit in the rink was infectious and was one of the highlights of the trip – maybe of the season.

Then there was a great weekend in Ann Arbour, Michigan about five or six years ago, where the Boy and I shared a room with one of his teammates (a teammate to this day) and his hockey dad in the interest of saving a few bucks in hotel fees. Little did the other father and I know this would automatically designate our room the warzone for the weekend, as the timing of this trip coincided with the height of the popularity of rapid-fire Nerf guns. I couldn’t locate a photo so you’ll simply have to imaging an entire room disassembled and reassembled with makeshift forts and strewn with all manner of projectile from the traditional nerf  “bullets” to toilet paper rolls and water soaked hotel towels. Oh yeah, the team also got to play in the fabled Yost Ice Arena, home to the Michigan Wolverines college hockey team. If I recall, the team settled for a second place finish on this particular trip and we had a long, quiet ride home.

Yeah, I could probably go on here ad nauseum as plenty of scenes flood back into my head and please do add any here should they occur to you. Even caught myself going back to look through old pics in the process.

hockey team cheer

I guess they really were that small once. Gonna have to take a lot more pics next weekend to complement the ones we’ll feverishly stuff into our already jam-packed minds.


p.s. So as I lay awake last night with the gears spinning in my head, as they are often wont to do, another great moment popped to the fore. This one methinks occurred seven or eight years ago during a sudden death quarterfinal match in Guelph; a game which had ended in regulation at 2-2, then went through 5 minutes of 5 on 5 overtime, followed by 4 minutes of 4 on 4 overtime with no decision. At the end of the 4 on 4 our side was assessed a penalty meaning the next round of OT would put us at a rare 2 on 3 disadvantage. I and the father standing next to me looked on with trepidation as our two sons were sent out onto the ice to take a faceoff in our zone.  I may have actually said out loud, “Aw cmon, don’t put my kid out there!” But then the play which has stayed etched in my subconscious lo this many years unfolded. The Boy successfully won the draw and pushed the puck forward between his combatants feet. His agile teammate, who is still a close friend to this day, pounced on the loose biscuit, flew by an unsuspecting defenceman and took off on a breakaway. With three players in hot pursuit, he hurled the puck past a no doubt nervous little goal keeper and bedlam ensued as fifteen little bodies threw themselves on top of him with da Boy leading the way. I’m pretty sure this particular tournament ended for our lads with a loss in the Championship match, but no matter as no one could erase the drama which was the quarters.

p.s.s. I lay there some more, because I don’t have to go to work on Monday morning or anything, and thought it would be kinda cool to try to remember all of the places da Boy played tournaments – each one with a set of moments of its own. Here in no particular order, save for the first and the last, is the somewhat complete list to the best of my recollection: Oak Ridges, Beaverton, Bradford, Barrie (multiple times as it’s the home rink), Aurora, Markham, Richmond Hill (again), Belleville (twice), Guelph, Niagara Falls – Ontario (more than once), Niagara Falls – New York, Ann Arbor – Michigan, Sudbury (two Silver Stick qualifier championships), Sarnia (two Silver Stick appearances), Ottawa (a coupla times), Toronto, Mississauga (2 or 3 times), Pickering/Ajax, Welland, Fort Erie, Nashville – Tennessee, Prescott (in just a few days to put a cap on this story). Of course, then I had to consider the Devil’s travels as well, which have included some repeats in Ottawa (deux fois), Toronto, Pickering/Ajax, Sudbury, Mississauga (twofold), Niagara Falls, Aurora and Guelph, but also had us driving to Midland, Coldwater, Darlington, Stouffville (dos veces), Brampton, Whitby, Aylmer, North Bay, London and Windsor (x2). No US trips for the Devil…yet.  I’m sure I missed a couple in there somewhere and I’m also sure Hockey Momma will remind me which they were.

p.s.s.s. My dreary-eyed remembrance is actually more of a coincidence as I recalled the Boy’s first tournament at the ripe age of four in Oak Ridges. One of the players on an opposing team was the son of then active NHL goalie Curtis Joseph. I remember Cujo showing up at the arena and immediately being mobbed by his adoring Toronto Maple Leafs fans (something I personally couldn’t fully appreciate being a lifelong Leaf hater). I recall he politely asked to be left alone to watch his boy’s game in a quiet corner of the rink and then graciously signed autographs for upwards of an hour thereafter. The small coincidence arises in the fact our boy’s paths would not cross again until this season when their teams would battle against each other right up until their league quarter-finals, which ended with our side’s victory just a few weeks ago. The happenstance is obviously lost on Mr. Joseph, but I thought it an interesting correlation as I pondered the past in the middle of the night.

And Just Like That…A Minor Hockey Career Nears Its End

For the second time in a few weeks, I find myself begrudgingly having to recap a playoff series; only this time the taste is a little more sour as the end of a series marks the almost-end of the Boy’s minor hockey career.

The provincial semi-finals started quickly, just beyond the end of a dramatic three-game comeback by the Boy and his cohorts; a series no doubt mentally, if not physically draining. I would miss game one as I stayed back to escort the Devil to her own provincial playdown game.  As chance or bad luck would have it, the Devil’s game would be played in one of the only places on Earth without cell service and so I would have to wait until her game ended to get an update. Just moments after pulling out of the arena parking lot, I noted a faint signal so I pulled over to the side of the road (much to the dismay of the Devil who’d just finished competing in a dramatic game of her own) to see if my Hockey Momma had relayed a recent score. Instead I was greeted by a flurry of messages from one of my bestest friends who actually drove over an hour to catch the game after having acquired the playoff bug by attending two pressure packed games  in the previous series. I was pleased to hear the Boys were up by a goal in game one and apparently controlling most of the play. I drove home quickly so I could continue following the game via my loyal texting messenger. For the next hour I was treated to and suffered through updates every 15 to 20 seconds as the game made its way back and forth, up and down the ice as my brother from another mother cursed and clutched his heart as he reported each painful highlight from a distance. All was positive until about 5 minutes left in the third when I saw the omninous word F#@K flash onto my mobile screen. The bad guys tied the game and would shortly thereafter force a 10 minute overtime. I bristled on the end of my phone as a few minutes later the offending four letter word was repeated, thereby signalling a 1-0 series deficit. Upon their return from the game shortly before 1:00 am, Momma reported ours was the better team overall.  She said the series was their’s for the taking if the Boys replicated their performance from the two previous series victories, which brought them to this point.

A few days later the home stands were packed and hummed in anticipation of a Colts victory to knot the series at one game apiece.  I was personally confident in light of the game one reports I’d received.  Game two would see the good guys take a one goal lead early as they had apparently done in the opener. And while the opponents were game, the home side certainly dominated the balance of play. Still the visitors would tie the score at 1-1 just before the end of the second period after a scramble in front of the net.  The Colts got a much needed goal to pull ahead in the third and we all held our breaths hoping they could extend or at least protect the lead over the next 10 minutes. As time ticked down under two minutes we all exhaled as the rivals took an ill-timed penalty. They would remove their goaltender moments later and everything seemed to be headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, under the pressure of desperate play from their opponents the home side would take one and then a second penalty of their own. Suddenly, their one man advantage had turned into a two-player deficit. And then, with only 31 seconds left in regulation time, and me perched behind our keeper (which is an admittedly odd place for me to be watching a game) I saw the puck land precariously close to the goal line in behind the scrambling netminder. Sensing the dangerous position of the offending disc, he swung his arm back but touched no frozen rubber. The one or two seconds the puck laid there felt like an eternity. I so wanted to lunge headlong through the plexiglass myself to bat the puck away ahead of the foreign stick I saw poke it over the line to tie the match and send it to another 10 minute overtime; one in which the Boys would have to start with a player still in the penalty box. Luckily, they would weather that mini-storm, but would leave the game down three points to one instead of being tied at two. The next trip to the opposing rink would need to be more fruitful than the first. So far, by all accounts, the Boys had been the “better” team without the record to show for it.

Not surprisingly, it was apparent early on that game three would be another close contest – how could it not.  The Colts would have a couple of great scoring chances off the hop, but would not find the back of the net. Instead, the home side would sneak one behind our goalie, which evaded the view of the head referee who was apparently out of position and would need to call on his linesman for confirmation; much to the chagrin of us watching in the stands. More scoring opportunities would come, only to be turned away or narrowly missed. 1-0 would hold up until the 13:40 mark of the final frame, when our keeper would be pulled in favour of an extra skater. The advantage would not be enough as the puck found its way into our empty net, forcing a do or die contest back on home ice.

Game four started only a few hours ago with everyone trying to say all the right things. “You’ve done it before Boys…and you can do it again.” But somehow, for me anyways, there was a more palpable bad feeling around this game borne out of the frustration of having outplayed, but not outlasted, the competition to this point. Many of us sincerely hoped, nay prayed, for another great comeback. Yet knew it would take a monumental effort with only one point to spare through the next three contests.  And for a fourth time in as many games, the Colts buzzed around the opposing net with nothing more than shots to show for it. One made scramble and several whacks at close range were somehow stifled by the other side’s large, agile netminder.  Instead, and as had become the norm of late, they trailed 1-0 heading into the third period. They were by no means out of it, but assuredly feeling the pressure of being 15 minutes away from elimination. A fellow spectator correctly observed and pointed out, “They need to get a bounce…bang in a dirty goal…just something to get them going.”  Yet, the dirty equalizing marker would not come.  With six minutes left in the game, a powerplay for the visitors after a questionable tripping penalty would result in a  doubling of their one goal lead.  Now the series and the season were indeed slipping away. Our young men would continue to battle. Goals would remain elusive. The final buzzer sounded and shortly thereafter I watched a few Boys (and Hockey Momma to be sure) wipe their eyes before entering the series-ending handshake line. Something may have inadvertently found its way into my tear ducts as well.  A wonderful, somewhat surprising, playoff run had ended sooner than any of us were ready for; particularly in light of this being the final season for a majority of our lads. Though it ended abruptly, these young men and the older men who led them can be proud of the way they competed and conducted themselves throughout the season.  The efforts of all are to be commended.

hockey team discussion

Yet, I said off the top we marked the almost-end of a minor hockey career. Almost because we’ve been notified there is one more tournament on the horizon. A coincidental affair tied to the Boy’s 18th year of existence. He’ll enter adulthood playing his beloved childhood game in an official minor hockey capacity one last time. Not to say there isn’t likely plenty of hockey in some other capacity in his future, but what more fitting conclusion to this chapter for him and a certain proud hockey dad?


Against All Hockey Odds & With a Little Help from the Hockey Gods

Just when we thought we’d been put through an unmatchable emotional wringer with the Boys in their first round series, they messed with our frail hockey parent nerves again in round two.  We all knew going in it would be an uphill battle, having to upset the second place team on the heels of having ousted the first, but we were hopeful the Boys would ride the wave of momentum they’d created.

Unfortunately, what we ended up watching in game one could only best be described as a sh*t show. The previous series, which had only ended two days earlier, had drained  the kids (much as it had us watching in the stands) both emotionally and physically. They surrendered a goal on the very first shift and the match went downhill from there with the scoreboard showing a 4-1 deficit heading into the third period. Then the fun really started as an over-zealous referee decided to put his mark on an already lopsided affair.  Now I don’t want to sound like one of those biased hockey dads, but there is simply something unfair about spending 12 of the 15 minutes of a period on the penalty kill, with the majority of it being two men down. I believe the final tally was 34 minutes in penalties for the visitors to six for the home team. What was particularly frustrating was watching our Captain trying to get clarity from the head ref on why a couple of the questionable calls were being made and being demonstratively rebuffed.  He further refused to even speak with the head coach who likewise wanted to have calls explained.  This particular referee was going to do what he was going to do without question.  The bench did what they could to try to keep the Boys’ emotions in check, but their frustration got the best of them and one was ejected from the game for what were likely unsavoury comments. Another was tossed after he took a hit to the head and retaliated with his stick. Just after the game we would find out his penalty would escalate into a four game suspension; thereby removing an important component from our side who were already underdogs. To put the cherry on this mess, the goaltender took a pretty good slash up around the neck during a scrum in the crease late in the third period prompting a visit from the team trainer aka our hockey Momma. Her attempts to get the ref to acknowledge the flagrant foul likewise went unheeded as he stood at centre ice with his arms firmly crossed. She was able to grab the ear of a linesman who actually sympathized with her saying, “This guy shouldn’t even be reffing at this level,” a damning comment to be sure. After all the drama the game ended with the Boys on the wrong side of a 6-1 drubbing, but the officiating was so bad it almost lessened the sting. The Boys did not play well and would have lost the game, but I thought the third period simply fanned the flames of their determination. Surely they would bounce back with a better effort in game two.

I was not able to attend the second game as it coincided with playoff game for the Devil. However, I was told the team indeed turned in a much better effort, though they would find themselves behind two games to none after a 2-0 loss. Pretty much everyone had a feeling the end of the kids’ run was near as it would take three victories to advance. It wasn’t feeling like the tide would turn any time soon.

I was likewise not able to be at game three as the Devil and I had ventured north for a three day weekend tournament, which generated a few stories of its own to maybe be recounted at a later date.  So I waited and watched my cell phone with bated breath expecting hockey momma to report less than favourable news.  Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Boys were able to grind out a 3-1 win in enemy territory.  While faint they had injected some hope back into their quest to advance to the provincial semi-finals.

Game four was played just a couple of nights ago and started out well with the two-goal hero of game three getting the ball rolling with another marker in the first period.  But the visitors would bounce back with two goals of their own and would carry a 2-1 lead into the third period. The Boys were 15 minutes away from elimination, hadn’t played a great game to that point and an uneasy feeling made its way into my stomach. The stress induced indigestion would hold firm along with the rivals’ lead until five minutes left in the third when our side managed to bang in a rebound to knot the score at 2-2. A tie would prolong the series, though the opposing side could end it with another tie to reach the magic six point threshold.  Little did we know our side had no intention on settling for a tie. As luck, or fate, would have it, my Boy would supply the heroics. He says right before a draw to the left of the rival goaltender he went up to his centreman and said, “Tie him up, I got this,” a conversation I haven’t corroborated with his linemate, but I believe him. The centreman did as he was told and the Boy swooped in from the right wing boards to throw a shot on net; a shot which found its way under the goaltender’s left arm and into the waiting mesh behind him. The home crowd erupted in near disbelief and my pride-filled heart nearly burst from my chest.  The series was tied at two games apiece with the deciding game five scheduled a mere 17 hours later back down at the enemy rink.

Could the Boys complete the surprising, amazing comeback? No other team had beaten their counterparts three games in a row all season.  We would find out early in game five our guys were more than ready to change that trend. It was their take a quick lead again courtesy of one of their hottest scorers who’d had three goals in the previous two games. He rifled a shot over the right shoulder of the keeper to provide the quick advantage.  A couple of minutes later the Boys doubled their lead, the shaky opposing goalie was yanked  and the visiting crowd around me was ecstatic. But we all hate two goal leads, particularly in such a pressure-packed game against a tremendous foe who we suspected would not go quietly.  Early in the second period the Colts would get the insurance goal we all hoped for. Yet games of this magnitude rarely end easily. In a seeming flashback to game one, the head referee suddenly found his whistle, calling no fewer than five consecutive penalties against our side. The Boys would need to fend off several minutes on the penalty kill, near the end of which they surrendered the first goal against.  However, they counted a small win in only giving up the single. The upstart visitors would head into the third period with a still precarious two goal lead. The ice flood between periods gave us all a chance to take a breath and check our unquestionably rising blood pressure.  In the third, the ref continued to emphatically blow his whistle, only this time primarily signalling penalties against the home side who probably felt they needed to play more aggressively to survive.  Instead, one of the two-man deficits they created provided an opportunity for the underdogs to extend their lead by one; more high-fives and hollers echoed from our end of the rink.  The Boys, on the shoulders of an incredible playoff-long performance by their netminder, would successfully protect their three-goal cushion and secure their spot in the next round. The Boy, in his final year of minor hockey, has now risen to the loftiest heights of his personal career thanks to a true team effort. Though I’m pretty sure if you ask any of them, they are far from done their ascent and all have their eyes firmly fixed on a berth in the Finals.

Coincidentally, I am spinning this tale from a seat looking out onto the very ice where the Boys completed their comeback a day ago, as the Devil and her crew prepare for a do or die match on a rink only a few steps away.


Stay tuned hockey fans (and maybe say a wee prayer to the hockey gods)…methinks, nay I know, there is plenty more drama to come.


Back to Reality and Full Steam Ahead

The Nashville hangover is nearly gone…I think. The Boy’s team got little to no rest with a practice the night after their return and a game the night after that.  For most of the trip I kept saying, “Glad I just have to watch and not play hockey”. That’s what young legs, lungs and hearts are for.  I even bailed on my men’s team, the mighty mighty Iceholes, who had a game at 10pm the night we returned. This old dog just wasn’t up for the hunt that night.  I’m sad to report the Iceholes dropped that contest 4-0 (not that my feeble contribution following a 15 hour haul on a bus would have likely made much difference).  But we’re certainly not here to talk about me and my faint grasp at youth.

The Boys were fortunate to re-enter their regular season with a match against weaker team because they too showed signs of a Tennessee hangover.  They were only up 1-0 going into the third period of a game which thankfully ended 4-0 and saw its share of fireworks down the stretch. Fireworks that even found their way up into the stands as there was some post-game quibbling amongst parents.

Games two and three of the week would not allow for any extended latency on behalf of the Boys as they’d face the two teams ahead of them in the standings.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get the memo in time for game two, which saw them come out terribly flat and give up a two-goal lead in a matter of minutes. And memo or not, they weren’t able to recover as the deficit mounted to 3, 4 and finally 5-0.  Not a pretty game to watch as my friend who came out to see the Boy play could easily attest.  Let’s just strike that one from our combined memory shall we?

And in game three of the week, the squad indeed seemed to have quickly stricken the memory as they came out a decidedly different team taking a 3-0 lead into the first intermission including one by the Boy (who’s been on a bit of an uncharacteristic goal-scoring tear since our visit down south) and two short-handed markers.  Unfortunately, despite several powerplay opportunities and good scoring chances, they were unable to extend their lead, and in fact, a couple of mistakes led to their advantage being whittled down to one. It was still 3-2 heading into the 3rd period, but that difference too would evaporate around some shaky backchecking/defending.  What started out promising ended in frustration as the home team would climb all the way back to take a 4-3 lead with just over two minutes remaining on a shorty of their own.  Said frustration would mount when with four seconds left on the clock and our goaltender on the bench, the Boy would tap a loose puck into the opposing goal only to have an out-of-position referee waive the tying goal off after claiming to have lost sight of the black biscuit. Don’t get me started on the quality of refereeing in this particular game, lest it should sound like sour grapes. At the end of the game, the team let this one slip away.  A little more memory striking required and/or a few more paddles in the water at the same time all the time moving forward. It’s still relatively early in the season, but these are the teams our charges need to impress against and defeat.

The Boys have what could be another fireworks-filled match tomorrow on the road followed by a game against an opponent they already have a 2-0-1 record against this year.  Two winnable games to be sure, but not games to be overlooked by any means.

Meanwhile, the Devil and her Shark crew have become something of a hockey Juggernaut with a 7-1 record in league play. So as not to risk perturbing the hockey Gods I will simply report 7-1 and 8-0 victories in their last two contests against weaker and somewhat depleted opponents. In the most recent match, they faced a team with only two lines vs. their full complement of three. This game could have actually been more lopsided had it not been for the heroics of an embattled goaltender in the opposite net.  The Sharks will have a better test tomorrow night against a team as yet undefeated in league play. From what we’ve seen so far, our ladies will hopefully be up to the task. They need only show up in a confident frame of mind and play to their potential.

Lots more hockey to watch as always. What’s that you say? “The NHL and NHLPA have been making some progress this week.”  Who cares…I got all the hockey drama I need.


A Tale of Two Teams or So It Seems

Meahwhile, the Boy’s team is on an enigmatic carnival ride of its own.  Dating back to a 6-2 loss  little over a week ago against a team they certainly should be beating. In their defence they were coming off a one-week layoff.  The squad appears to have developed a somewhat troubling rhythm of late which sounds eerily like good games/bad games/good games/bad games.  I sympathize with the Boy’s coach who must be roundly befuddled at the Jeckyll and Hyde bunch he watches take to the ice from one game to the next. There has been some paint peeling from what we’ve heard; with good reason in my humble opinion.  Generally speaking I think a team of under-performing 16 and 17 year old boys can benefit and perhaps will respond positively to a strongly delivered wake up call.

They followed up their 6-2 loss with a 10-2 victory, albeit against the 10th place team in their 12-team league.  That game was, in turn, followed by what was described as an inspiring effort on the right side of a 6-2 score against a team ahead of them in the standings. After a somewhat slow start the Colts need to put together a winning streak in order to avoid entering the playoffs as a constant visitor against teams above them in the standings. Another line of thought is for them to finish low and catch the others off guard when the games really matter. But I’m sure we’d all like to see a little more consistency before that time comes.

After a scheduling SNAFU, which saw them miss and forfeit the first game of a nearby tourney on the weekend, the Boys turned in what I am told was one of their most lackluster performances of the year, falling 3-2 to a presumably mismatched opponent who only iced nine of the standard 15 players.  The Boys took the game for granted, letting it slip away in the third period.  In their third and final tournament game, which unfortunately was moot from an advancement perspective based on two previous losses, Team Hyde showed up to dominate in a 3-0 victory.

To round out the week, they would meet their 10-2 victims again, but this time the Jekylls surfaced to squander an obvious opportunity to win with an underwhelming 2-2 tie.  Lots of shots in the other goalie’s chest; plenty of passes poorly delivered and received.

In looking at the rest of the regular season schedule, it would appear to favour more wins than losses against “weaker” opponents, but they must play the games for a reason; particularly with this lot, who are making every contest interesting.

Mom and the Boy are also off on a trip to the Near North for a tourney the weekend after next with an opportunity for the lads to gain a berth in the annual International Silver Stick competition.  Here’s hoping they correct their tune in time to play a few of those “good games” in a row to secure their spot and some momentum for the home stretch.


Back on Ice

Alright…..so it’s still August and the Devil’s been on the ice a couple of times over the last two weeks.  Some would and have argued a couple of times too many.  An opportunity arose for some ice time with another team, which was offered to all of the members of her and my team.  A few, including the aforementioned Devil, who weren’t occupied with other Summer activities, signed on to get some early practice in.  Having not had her blades touch a frozen surface since mid-May,the Devil out-loud wondered if she may have forgotten how to navigate a sheet of ice.  While her conditioning was questionable and some rust was obvious, she took to it as she has every other season following the mid-year break with renewed enthusiasm for a game she’d come to miss even after only a couple of months. Though I know catching an edge in a drill and landing firmly on her ass did not sit well with her (pun wholly intended).  I likewise marked myself appreciating the sights, sounds and even the smells of the abruptly sprayed snow, the well-struck goalpost and the ripe dressing room – familiar indeed.

In a week’s time, my new team will take to the ice for our first official practice. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some nervous energy guiding my new role.  Everything to this point has been administration.  Next week the proverbial rubber hits the rink.  I’ve already mapped out two full sessions, replaying instructions in my mind both before I hit the pillow and upon waking at least a full hour before I need to the last couple of mornings.  I’ve always said of delivering presentations that if you’re not nervous, it doesn’t matter enough to you. This does matter to me.  I have expectations around building a team, imparting a few hockey skills to propel these young athletes forward and hopefully instilling some positive life lessons along the way.   I assume my players have expectations of me; varied as they will surely be.  And I know many parents have already fashioned a set of desired outcomes, as they’ve every right to do. While I will have a staff to support me, I will still be the focal point in good times and bad.  I’ve accepted this role. I expect to look back six months from now to see my fretting was worth it.  I’ll measure success on the hopefully enlightened faces of players after a solid practice or hard fought game – win, lose or draw.  I want my players to realize it is just a kid’s game, the rink is an unbeatable place to be on a frigid Winter morning and they are fortunate to have the opportunity to just play.

As for the Boy, he and some buddies are entered in a pre-season “fun” tune-up tourney this weekend.  “Fun” in midget boys games generally means lots of inappropriate, testosterone-induced trash talking followed by the occasional dust-up in the corner along with a few goals tossed in.  I understand it’s been tough rounding up enough players, but the Boy for his part is raring to go.  I’m pleased to note he still loves playing the game — he comes by his competitive spirit naturally. I get the sense he’s also looking forward to tryouts in a few weeks as he’s been chomping at the bit to get some frozen pond under his restless feet.  As a coach, I’ll likely see fewer of his games this year, but will make a point to cherish each of them more with the clock undoubtedly ticking down.

So, ok…enough with the romantic talk already…gimme a stick, puck and bring on Hockey Season!


Sometimes the Hockey is Pleasantly Secondary

This past weekend was a great example of how hockey can be an excellent backdrop and excuse to simply get away to have some fun.  Our family spent the weekend in Niagara Falls where the Boy took part in a Summer tournament. Where else would you expect me to spend Father’s Day?  You naturally go into any tournament wanting to win, but the emphasis in this case, as it should be in the majority of situations, was on having fun – both for the Boys and their families in tow.

Upon dropping our Boy off at the front door of the first arena on Friday afternoon, we made our way to the back of the parking lot to join several other hockey moms and dads in some Summer hockey tail-gating.  As I scanned the parking lot I could see pop-up trailers, RVs, bbq-flavoured smoke rising from well-prepared grills and multi-colored, ice-filled coolers.  The general rule is to arrive one-hour before game-time, which leaves plenty of time to pop open the back door of the van, turn on some music, sit back in a lawn chair, sip a cold beverage and wonder what the unfortunate working people are doing.  It was almost difficult to rise up and head to the rink to watch the game as puck-drop drew near.  And such would be the case over the next few days as the temperatures rose and the beverages seemingly got colder or at least certainly more refreshing.

The rest of the weekend included a surprisingly efficient and affordable team dinner, a customary trip to see one of the Wonders of the World, a pre-game round for a few fathers including yours truly on a phenomenal golf course, purposely missed late-night curfews and two white-knuckled walks for me and the Devil thru a couple of Niagara Falls’ finest haunted houses. I’m confident the feeling should come back to my over-gripped hand any day now.

And oh yeah, there was a little hockey mixed in there too.  The hockey portion of the weekend saw the Boys play to a 1-1-1 round robin record putting them firmly in 5th place entering the playoff round.  All of the games were close and they could have just as easily been 3-0.  They would fall 3-1 in their first playoff game, which relegated them to battle it out for 7th, which they were able to secure with a 4-0 victory to end on a high note. It may have just been me, but it seemed the fun had outside the rink found its way onto the ice – win or lose.

The original plan in putting this team together was to enter two tournaments, with Niagara being the second. But at the end of day two Boys and parents alike were talking about looking for a third opportunity to hang out and maybe play/watch some hockey.  And to be clear, a few more wins than losses will certainly be welcomed. For some this will perhaps become more of a priority as the real season draws near.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in hoping the fun stays the primary focus.


Progenic Revenge aka Dads v Boys Part Deux

The end of a hockey season generally culminates with a team party of some description. In the case of the Boy’s team it was decided that the father’s should give their offspring a chance to redeem their pre-season loss at the hands of their proud papas in the Father/Son challenge.  That rematch took place this past weekend.

In the pre-game dressing room banter and on-ice warmup, we on the father’s side were fairly confident we would be able to repeat our prior victory on the strength of our vast combined hockey experience and superior game management.  But we somehow forgot six-months had passed. The Boys were six months older and so were we – a factor which would prove to affect each team in decidedly opposite directions.  The Boys played like they had gained six-months experience playing together against a high level of competition along with six-months worth of post-pubescent muscle, agility and speed; while our ragtag group of fathers had simply become six-months older.

Within a couple of minutes of the initial puck drop, the Boys were tic-tac-toeing their way to a two-goal lead.  I, for one, was questioning the advisability of scheduling three 20-minute, running time periods.  Having not played for a few weeks, I was fairly certain a single 20-minute, running time period would be enough of a challenge for those of us on the other side of 40.  Our saving grace was our teenage goaltender, who filled in for our previous keeper who wasn’t able to attend.  Our young netminder made some great saves to keep the score closer than it should have been on the back-end of several odd man rushes by our able opponents.  We did get scoring chances of our own, but the 15 year old goaler we faced, turned our shots away with veritable ease.

The scoreboard revealed the lopsided nature of our game as we entered the third period. Only some very questionable off-sides and penalty shots called in our favour by our father-friendly ref allowed us to artificially cut the score to 9-7.  We also had a sympathetic father running the clock.  Enthusiastic mothers chirping from the stands above were quick to let us know that the real score was somewhere in the 12-7 range.  Who would have ever thought they’d cheer louder for their sons than their husbands?

At the end of the trouncing; and indeed it was a trouncing; the victorious Boys took back the coveted cup we had so proudly, if not nefariously, earned only months earlier. They mimicked so many previous championship teams by kissing the cup, raising it high above their heads and taking it for a couple of victory laps around the rink.  Some fathers hung their heads in semi-feigned shame.  Other clutched their backs or wondered aloud how their unaccustomed muscles would feel the next morning.

After the game players, moms and we severely ego-tarnished dads retired to a local establishment for wings and beer of both the root (for the Boys) and the un-root (for the thirsty Dads) variety.  After some memories of the season past were shared by players and coaches alike there was one final declaration to uncap what was meant to be a capped season. Without need for consultation with his battered teammates, the head coach proclaimed that the Boys’ victory only served one real purpose; to tie the series at one game apiece; which of course summoned the need for a customary rubber match.  All I can say is that match better come sooner rather than later as our age-induced father/son chasm ain’t gettin any smaller.  We’ll be sure to sign up the same short-sighted ref and occasionally forgetful time-keeper as ballasts against another trouncing.  In Game 3, we will no doubt need all the help we can get.