Mid-Summer and Dad’s Got the Familiar Minor Hockey Itch

summer water hockey game
Been a while since I’ve jotted anything down here cuz there’s been no meaningful hockey played round these parts for a while. Summer’s a time to cool the jets, take a break, do something different. And this Summer, by comparison to many over the past 14 is definitely different. The kids are both year older teens with plenty of other priorities and interests in mind. The Boy, when he isn’t working, is preparing to head off to University, which is a whole nuther conversation. I play men’s league with a few guys who have younger kids and chuckle a bit when I hear them talking about summer tournaments, camps  and gearing up for the season ahead. I recall when hockey was nearly a 12-month activity for us; though we’ve always believed in taking a break to play other sports or nothing at all. And that’s not to say there’s been no hockey for us this summer or interest to get back at it. The time away, even if it is a couple of months, does get one chomping at the bit for ice, pucks and the not-so-sweet smell of a dressing room.

The Boy’s been on the ice once a week for the last coupla months with a Jr. C team just trying to stay in shape along with going to the gym a few times. I’ve gone out to watch a few of those sessions, but it’s really just practice and some scrimmaging; just enough to be watchable a somewhat sate the hockey hunger.  He has applied to have a tryout skate with the Mens’ Varsity team the week his new post-secondary school adventure starts. He knows he’ll be hard pressed to make the team as Canadian universities are rife with ex- major junior hockey players who weren’t quite good enough to get drafted, but have most of their education paid for by their junior team – kudos to the CHL for making that happen for these young men. He also knows school in priority one since it ain’t free and he has career aspirations in mind. But he’s gonna give it a shot because he loves the game and ya never know what a coach may be looking for when filling out a roster. He’s always been a smart player and a grinder, which has endeared him to more than a few coaches over the years, making up for what he’s lacked in speed. Failing earning a spot on the varsity squad, there is always intra-mural hockey, which I am told is likewise played at a pretty high level and why wouldn’t it be with a buncha Canadian kids just like the Boy unable to snuff out a torch for the game they love. Regardless, we won’t be seeing him play much hockey this fall and that will definitely be something we’ll need to get used to.

The Devil would probably play some summer hockey, given the opportunity, but her dad/coach won’t allow it and frankly can’t afford it. Just because we’re between seasons, doesn’t mean we’re not already paying for the next one. Funds are needed to enter a couple of tournaments, pay for practice jerseys and a few other team-related expenses so monthly post-dated cheques have already been written. There has been some hockey-related activity as the coach of the Devil’s team (yeah that’s me) has scheduled one hour of dryland training one day a week, more to try to get the team together socially than to keep them in shape. Many are playing other sports like rugby or baseball. But  I’ve assembled a group with a few players who’ve never met or played together before, so the sooner I can get them familiar with each other the better. I also want them to get used to me and set some expectations for the coming year. That’s not to say the “training” is secondary, as I have been putting those who show up through their paces for the hour we are together; at least trying to get them slowly into a “hockey” frame of mind and giving them some ideas for stuff they could be working on at home should they be so inclined. Being summer, the attendance for this non-mandatory team building activity has been spotty at best, but nearly 3/4 of the team showed up last week and I’m hopeful of bigger numbers as the hockey season nears.  I’s also pondering an on-ice session or two (though the league doesn’t officially condone such activities). Perhaps we’ll organize a birthday party for the Devil who turns 16 mid-August and surely someone else must have a special occasion we need to celebrate at a rink. We have an early-bird  tournament booked the first weekend in September and it sure would be nice to at least have the girls skate together a couple of times beforehand.

Yup, a few days before August and that old familiar itch is starting to grow. Before you know it, I’ll be back to complaining about being in the arena 5 out of 7 days a week, missing NFL football on Sunday and driving over hell’s half acre to stand in frozen rinks for a couple of hours with other hockey moms and dads. And, of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way once the puck is dropped and I get to watch my youngest gliding up and down the ice or launching a shot past a rival keeper. Mama and I’ve only got a couple of familiar hockey years left so we better make the most of them. I wonder how many hockey parents drive two hours to huddle in the stands at University intra-mural games? Just askin for a friend…


Image courtesy: http://www.incrediblethings.com/kids/get-down-on-your-knees-or-ill-shoot/

Summer’s Been Nice, but Startin to Get The Itch

Sometimes at night I can hear the ice crack
It sounds like thunder and it rips through my back
Sometimes in the morning I still hear the sound
Ice meets metal…
Can’t you drive me down to the Big League? 

Tom Cochrane

Midway through Summer and basking in a heat wave; a far cry from an icy cold rink in February.  It’s been a while since there’s been any real hockey talk, but it’s never too far from our minds.  Some kids continue with 3-on-3 leagues, Summer hockey camps or hockey-specific conditioning as the Boy and Devil have both done in the past.  I personally feel it’s important to get away from it for a couple of months and to develop rounded athletes in multiple sports.

We’ve been offering optional dryland training once a week for the girls on my team this upcoming season. Our trainer has done a great job of mixing team building in with the exercise. Attendance has been pretty good from week to week with only a few who haven’t been able to get out because of commitments they have in other sports from baseball to soccer to ball hockey.  And that’s just fine by me.  There’ll be plenty of on and off-ice conditioning once this team is fully assembled.

While there have been no hockey practices or games played, there has been plenty of admin in anticipation of the season ahead.  A bank account has been opened, rosters have been created, on-ice plans have been drafted.  The other night, hockey mom and I got together with a group of parents to discuss fundraising to offset some of our costs next year.  One tournament has already been booked for September, another is earmarked for November.  We have our eyes pealed for a few more to round out the schedule around practices, league games and playoffs.  Next week I’ll sit down with my coaching staff to get their input on how we, as a group of four 40+ men, will work together to develop the individual and team skills of a bunch of undoubtedly temperamental 13 and 14 year old girls.  Say a small prayer to the hockey gods on that front for us.

The practices and games will be upon us before we know it.  It’s likely no surprise that I’m itching to get going. Though they’re older, with other interests and priorities, I’m pretty sure the Boy and the Devil could use a wee scratch too.  Keeping us all away from a rink for a couple months serves to stoke the flames of competition; it’s good to miss the game; to want to get back to it again.  A new season will bring new challenges, new teammates, new friendships along with some victories and hopefully fewer defeats. Regardless, it’s all good when the Zamboni door closes after its final round inviting the quick clamour of skates, sticks and pucks just ahead of whistles and cheers.  I don’t have to be there to see,  hear or feel it in my mind’s eye, but there’s nothing quite like the real thing.