One Hockey Season Ends and Another Begins

The Sharks season ended somewhat unceremoniously, but not without significant prideful effort or drama this past weekend.  Three round robin contests; three one goal games including a 1-0 win in the opener, a 2-1 loss to one of the strongest opponents we’d faced all year and a 4-3 heart-breaker to cap things off.

As an aside, I must reflect briefly on a scene that I happened upon between games one and two which could only occur with a group of 13 and 14 year old girls.  Many of the parents had decided to book hotel rooms on the first night of the tournament as we were just over  90 minutes from home with an early morning game on day two.  After game one, we grabbed lunch and then most of the team retreated to the hotel to kill some time.  After checking in, my room was almost immediately usurped by 3/4 of our 17 player crew with an iPod boom box and several curling irons in tow.  Players who only an hour earlier had battled hard in corners or jostled aggressively along the boards for pucks were now partaking in what I could only best describe as a “pretty party” complete with a blasting techno/rap soundtrack. I peeked in at one point to discover my room had been converted into a makeshift salon.  Half the players taking on the roles of stylists and the other half as satisfied patrons donning new curly locks, which would shortly be jammed into sweaty helmets in preparation for another hostile on-ice engagement.  The dichotomy of the moment did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

The third and final result in our last tournament was particularly stinging because our side entered the third period with a 2-1 lead needing only a tie to advance to the quarter-final round.  Our tenuous one-goal lead was flipped to a 3-2 deficit with just over two minutes left following a few ill-timed penalties and scattered play in our defensive zone.  However, our ever-resilient squad battled back with just under two minutes remaining to tie the game at 3.  We went from the top of the coaster to the bottom and then back up again all within a few minutes.  Unfortunately, there was yet one more disastrous trip down as our foes managed to pull back ahead again with less than a minute to go.  Another magic marker was not to be found in our creative comeback kit so the vision of a Provincial crown came to an abrupt conclusion. Not the results we wanted, but also nothing to be ashamed of.  We knew the competition would be stiff as all 24 teams needed to qualify for this tourney as we had. I was most pleased with the level of compete displayed by our young players after having not played any games for a few weeks. Rather, the Sharks picked up their competitive play from where they’d left off in our league division finals.

And so, all that’s left is an end of the year party scheduled for later this week with a game of mini-putt, a few slices of pizza, thank yous for the many volunteers who helped the team function and no doubt the recollection of some memorable moments from a topsy-turvy year. I, for one, have been enriched and handsomely rewarded by my rookie head coaching experience.   I hope the Devil is able to say the same about having her old man run the ship.  I am sure there are those onlookers and perhaps even players who disagreed with my approach, my attitude and/or the decisions I made behind the bench this year. In fact, I believe my hockey loving wife was an unwilling witness to some of those opinions recently; opinions I respect whether I agree with them or not.   But I’m quite proud of what our team was able to accomplish from the beginning of the season to the end — proud I had at least a small part to play in the progress we made as a team — confident I granted each player a fair opportunity to compete and have fun playing this kids’ game — hopeful I was able to impart some lasting messages; hockey-related or otherwise.  A few months ago when the opportunity came up to reapply for a head coaching position our squad was going through a rough time on and off the ice, which in part led me to decide to forego pursuing a second campaign. But now, of course, after the team’s impressive turnaround there may be a twinge of regret in that decision.

Instead, for now, the day after the Sharks’ end of year party I will reclaim a spot up in the stands to invoke my parental bias and simply cheer on the Boy and the Devil in their renewed quests to make the rosters new teams for next season.  Perhaps the next coach will see fit to have me help out on the ice or behind the bench.  I’m pretty sure I won’t miss being responsible for selecting and more importantly not selecting who makes a team.

Yup, just the one partial week away from the rink is all this hockey dad will be afforded in the short-term.  However, as I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion recently, I will enjoy each and every moment of my kids finite minor hockey careers to their fullest and wherever they shall lead us.


Being There Through the Kindness of Others

Hangin out kinda late on a Friday night.  Hockey Mom and the Boy ventured four+ hours this morning for the Midget A International Silver Stick tourney our Colts qualified for a couple of months back.  A nice experience for many who are maybe in their final years of rep hockey.   The team left amidst a first-round playoff series in which they trail two games to one in a best of five format.  Their win came two nights ago, which put them in a positive mood for the tourney.    The Devil and I stayed behind as she has two games of her own this weekend.

While I wasn’t physically there to watch the Boy and his team in their first game this evening, I was provided with a running commentary of via text from a sympathetic mom who would be my remote eyes and ears; my fan-via-proxy if you will.  This duty couldn’t fall on Mom as she was perched on the bench fulfilling her role as trainer/rabbit’s foot.  And while I wasn’t physically there, I most certainly experienced the up and down nature of the game as the Boys reportedly fell behind 1-0 then came back and scored a go ahead goal with only two seconds left in the second period. I then followed with growing anticipation as the Boy redirected a shot from the point in behind the rival goalie.  3-1 good guys.  I may have even done a little fist pump for no one but me and the dog to witness.  But then I also tracked the action with mounting disdain as the two-goal lead disappeared amid a flurry of questionable penalties. I could feel the game slipping from 400 km away. As my phone announced the next update, I had a feeling it would not be of the positive variety.  4-3 bad guys with only five minutes remaining. I wanted to jump through the phone to implore a last ditch surge by the boys.  I held out hope on the second-last mobile chime I received, which pronounced a hitting from behind penalty and the final death knell for our beloved Colts in game one.  Unfortunately in a 14 team tournament where only four squads advance to a semi-final round, there isn’t a whole lot of room for losses in the three round-robin matches.  They will hopefully continue to battle hard in search of outside shot with a 2-1 record.  I will have my cell at the ready for whoever is willing to keep me updated when game two rolls around bright and early tomorrow morning.

Later in the day tomorrow the focus will turn to my girls’ team who we’re hoping to be able to refocus for a momentum-building final three regular season games.  Focus and discipline will be the recurring message.  As always, time will tell whether or not the message is heard and applied. I’m fairly certain mom will do her own patient waiting for a scoring update sent from my phone.  She may even try to coax someone into being her fan-via-proxy.

It’s weekends like these when my good hockey wife’s notion of rigging arenas up with closed circuit TVs and offering pay-per-view or recorded coverage of our kids games may not be all that far fetched.  For now I’ll have to settle for the OMGs, WooHoos and Scooooores accompanying the goal announcements from afar.