Just when I thought I was going to have a nice relaxing, relatively rink-free Winter, the Boy has gone and messed up my plans to put my feet up and watch the World, along with the NFL season, go by. But, who am I kidding. I had no idea what I was going to do with myself for the next 10 or so years as I waited for the next round of Riddall progeny to strap on the blades. And yes, I am assuming the hashtag #imahockeygranddad is in my fairly distant future. However, it seems my return to the ranks of Hockey Dad is going to precede people in the stands respectfully referring to me as Gramps.
You see, early on in the Summer the Boy revealed a plan he and a university roommate hatched, which would see them make a triumphant return from minor hockey retirement to competitive action; a mere two years removed (or perhaps not so mere as time would tell) from their midget careers. I guess as they say, you can take the Boy outta Hockey, but you can’t take Hockey outta the Boy. I suppose I should know with each new beer league sign-up of my own. Both boys had become somewhat disillusioned/bored with post-secondary intramural play and happened upon a call for players from Junior C team in a town close to where they go to school. The reason this idea had to be morphed into an actual plan revolves around the fact the Boy does not own a vehicle, while the roommate does; automatically making them a package deal if the Boy was able to gain a roster spot. The Boy’s desire to make and actually play for this team became obvious in the Summer when I came home one night to find he had worn divots in my backyard doing shuttle runs to simulate hockey shifts. Explained why he offered a, “Sorry about the lawn Dad.” earlier in the day. He also reached out to his most recent Coach to see if he’s put in a good word with his soon-to-be evaluator. There was a clearly exhibited desire to play. Our only stipulation was and remains this “hockey thing” can not get in the way of his studies.
So two weeks ago, Momma and I shipped the lad back to his home away from home nearly a week early in order for him to begin the tryout process. Yup, back to the tryout game. We would attend the first skate as we had so many times before. Suffice it to say we could kinda tell he hadn’t really been on the ice for a coupla years, while most of his younger counterparts were a few months removed from their previous midget or Junior C seasons. Probably didn’t help to only have 14 skaters on the ice meaning few, if any, breaks between drills. The Boy spent most of those on bended knee gasping for air. But, in the end, they were all gassed and the Boy had done ok all in all. When I asked him how he felt on his way out of the dressing room he quipped, “That sucked. Maybe I don’t care if I don’t make this team.” He obviously forgot how much an end-to-end rush can hurt. I promptly replied, “Yeah, now you know how I feel.” bemoaning my own aging hockey bod. Two days later he would return for a second challenge, after which he texted to say he was having second thoughts about giving up some of his coveted weekends with friends to travel to faraway rinks. I got it, having once been a 20 year old uni student myself. My hockey dad retirement would continue unfettered and all was good.
However (you knew there had to be a however), it turns out the prospective team evaluators saw enough in the Boy’s couple of tryouts and apparently had a dearth of defensive options. The Boy’s roommate, who had already been signed by the team, told the Boy his presence was requested at the next skates, which would include a weekend, minimum three-game tournament. I could tell when I spoke to him his interest was renewed and somewhat piqued. Somewhere I heard Sally Field’s famous Oscar acceptance speech “…you like me. Right now, you like me!”
Five nights later, Momma and I found ourselves sitting in a nearby rink to watch the first game of the pre-season tourney. The game itself wasn’t pretty, but the Boy and his roommate represented themselves well in a one-sided 2-0 loss as half of the four defensemen who dressed for the game. If the Boy was gassed during tryout drills, this would certainly test his mettle along with his legs and lungs. Post game he complained about getting roughed up a little and favoured his shoulder. Par for the course I said and told him we’d likely be around for game 2 in the morning; cuz what else would we have to do on a Saturday morning?
Later the same night he called to report his shoulder was more than just a little sore, to the point where he thought medical attention may be in order. A few hours and a middle of the night trip to the ER later we received news of a sprained shoulder. Odd coincidence is he had sprained the other shoulder in the same rink a few years earlier. I’m going to suggest he avoids said arena if possible in the future.
Having sustained the injury and not able to participate in the remaining tourney games or any other “tryouts” for at least a couple of weeks, we assumed his journey back to competitive hockey had come to an abrupt end. Only two days later the next however arrived when he called to say he’d been offered a spot on the team. Somewhere between his brief showing, the dearth of players, his old coach’s no doubt flattering letter and his obvious enthusiasm to play the game, he found his way back to the ice. Congrats Boy!
Now, if I can somehow subtly suggest the Devil look into senior women’s hockey options, we’ll be set for another season. But I kid…I’m a kidder. A few of the Boy’s Junior C games here or there should be enough to satisfy this ol’ hockey dad for a bit. Yes, we’re delaying the inevitable, but the NFL isn’t going anywhere, so I’ll put those plans aside for a bit.