Leaning on my vast experience and sage wisdom as a now relatively elder hockey dad, I am digging deep again to give back to the game by laying down some ground rules for would-be hockey dads and moms out there. This guide (as a follow on to my previous rants “So You Wanna Sign Your Kid Up for Hockey, Eh?” and “New Hockey Parent Do’s and Don’ts“) is intended to not-so-subtlely inform and suggest ways to prevent yourself from becoming “That Hockey Parent.” With all the negative hockey parent news bouncing around of late, one would think it wouldn’t be necessary to come up with such an obvious list, but I’m sure we’ll all bounce into one or more of those less than savoury progenitors who cannot help displaying their buffoonery in the face of what should otherwise be junior’s simple, happy pursuit of pucks and fun. So here, for those who need to be told or reminded is another list I welcome anyone to add to from their own hockey dad or mom experience:
- DO not only let, but actively encourage, Johnny or Susie to play soccer, lacrosse, karate, basketball, Xbox, chess, piano or whatever else catches their fancy and gives them a break from what can be six hectic months of hockey depending on which level they play at. And they don’t need to get back on the ice a couple of weeks early to “get their hockey legs.” Don’t worry, they won’t have forgotten how to skate or lose their stride. Rather, come September, they’ll be chomping at the bit to get back on the ice with renewed enthusiasm, picking up where they left off. Or if they don’t, then maybe hockey just ain’t their thing and that’s ok too.The Devil, for example, tried gymnastics, dance and soccer, while her semi-foolish Dad enrolled her in an Introduction to Mandarin course when she was 8 (from which she would no doubt benefit when she entered the work force several years later). The soccer may have stuck as she was pretty good at it, but we did say only one competitive sport was allowed. She just kept going back to hockey and now in her final year is as eager as ever to get back to it after an unusually long delay thanks to a past season-ending broken fibula. She didn’t make it past one Mandarin class in case you were wondering.
- If you’re not on the coaching staff, DO NOT try to be another all-knowing coach when transporting your impressionable young player to or from the rink. Positive reinforcement and encouragement is always welcomed…hockey instruction, which may contradict what the actual coaches are saying, is not.
- I probably don’t really need to say this one as true hockey parents already get it, but if you’ve played the game, DO get on the ice with the kids as a helper or coach. Especially with younger players, there is no such thing as too much help and we all need to pitch in to keep this great game going. I have been very fortunate the past few years to have a friend and two young adults who want to give back help me with my teams. They and so many others like them are to be commended for their efforts. I’m not sure if I’ll continue coaching beyond this year, but I may after I take a little minor hockey sabbatical.
- If you coach your own kid, DO NOT hold him or her to a higher or lower standard. Coaching your own can be tough (I know all too well) because if you’re an honest coach you don’t want to be seen favouring your kid. Of course, we also know coaches who seemingly don’t care and put their kid on the ice every second shift. DON’T be that coach. The Devil and I have bumped heads a coupla times before because I know other players look to her for cues as to how hard they have to work in practice or a game. Even this Summer in dry land I’ve had to remind her if she doesn’t put in a full effort, no one else will. Bottom line on this topic – BE FAIR – and treat your kid like any other player on the team.
- DO let your children watch as much hockey on TV or the Internet as they like on non-school nights. And if they ask for popcorn, make them popcorn.
- DO allow your kid to miss that early morning or late night practice if they really just don’t feel like it. If it happens more than once, it’s time to find out why, take a break or find another pastime. Making a kid do something they really don’t want to serves no purpose.
- DO NOT offer to play goal in a ball hockey game with 9 year olds in the dead of winter unless adequate…nay AMPLE…protection is readily available. A frozen tennis ball, or even worse orange hockey ball, is a deadly object, which you should not, under any circumstances, put any part of your insufficiently padded body in front of.
- Promote healthy eating habits to your young athletes, but also DO let them have arena fries or McDonald’s after some games. Arena fries, in my humble opinion, are an integral part of the Canadian hockey experience, eh.
- DO occasionally boast to your friends about how well your kid or your kid’s hockey team is doing. We’re all allowed to be proud parents. However, DO NOT recite stats including your offspring’s CORSI rating, GAA or current goal scoring streak, re-enact your kid’s recent scoring plays complete with colour commentary or share junior’s 3-hour highlight reel on DVD at friendly get-togethers.
- During games, cheer loudly for, not at, your kid and the team. To be quite honest, neither really hears you anyway, unless you are “that parent”, who goes over the top and not in a good way.For a couple of years, I developed something of a schtick (appropriately termed under the circumstance thought I) whereby I would scream C-O-L-T, COLTS, COLTS, COLTS prior to the drop of the puck before each period of the Boy’s games ala Fireman Ed in New York. My voice paid the price on more than one occasion following multi-game tournaments. However, I believe the gesture was appreciated, or at least noticed, as I often caught both teams looking up at me. I’m sure the other squad and at least some of our own boys just thought I was nuts. Simple validation came in the form of the Boy saying some of the guys loved it.
As I enter the final year of the Devil’s minor hockey career, the last sentimentally-driven, recommendation I will make for new hockey parents is to cherish the family time you have together with your kids in the car, at the rink or out on the pond. For me anyways, even shivering through the coldest 6am practices top nearly anything else I could have been doing at the time. Watching the Boy and the Devil joyfully skate, pass, check, shoot, score is at a whole nother satisfaction level. #imhockeydad