It’s been a little over a year since we watched the Boy’s last minor hockey game and I gotta tell ya, it’s kinda tough to suddenly just stop doing something you’ve been doing 5-6 times a week 8 out of 12 months of the year for over 12 years. I’m sure any respectable addict, regardless the drug, will tell you the same. And yes, my kids’ hockey has been my drug of choice. That being said, we’ve still been plenty busy with the Devil and her schedule to which posts over the last six months or so will attest. However, in a coupla months she too will be entering her swan song season and then what? I’m just not going to worry about it for now and focus on enjoying each and every opportunity I get to see her play. I recently shared emails with the father of a another girl on the Devil’s three-age Midget team who is/was in her final year, which we are in the process of wrapping up (with just a couple of relatively meaningless “practices” and a year-end team party left). He was all but begging me, as the head coach, to consider putting our squad into one more tournament because it as he emphatically emailed, “Freekin breaks my heart – I really wanted to see her wear the Shark one more time.” Another addict, among many others I know (a few of which are no doubt reading and nodding), since we tend to travel in packs.
Speaking of travelling, the point of this recollection is a little road trip Momma, the Devil and I decided to take the earlier this week to quell our hockey jonesing. Ok, not so much for the Devil, but she came along as a show of support for her big brother and perhaps out of curiosity. You see the Boy has been playing intramural rec hockey in University with a bunch of his residence mates, many of whom are coincidentally former minor hockey foes, on a team called The Sturdy Wings (an homage to the Youth Help org from the movie Role Models). Being rec and University hockey, in that order, most of his games start sometime after 11pm. We generally receive next day reports of his squad’s progress and his personal exploits via text – hardly an ample fix for a hardcore addict. The last couple of texts and then follow up calls told tales of quarter and semi-final victories. To add salt to already slightly festering wounds, the Boy detailed a last minute come from behind tying goal, which sent their quarter-final game intto overtime. In four-on-four overtime hockey, as he told it, his side gained a man advantage, during which he sent a slap shot from the point over the flailing glove of the opposing goaltender for the win. At the height of his excitement, the Boy reported performing a Teemu Selanne-esque goal celebration (which I had selfishly requested repeatedly during his last minor hockey season to no avail).
Apparently, the gravity of the Intramural Recreational Championship Game prompted a semi-respectable 9:30pm start time, which led us to consider making the roughly 90 minute trek after work to get a taste. We rationalized the somewhat spontaneous journey by likening it to any other away game the Boy or the Devil have played in recent years where the return home arrival time is somewhere around midnight. Never mind that we had made the same trip only a week earlier to celebrate the Boy’s 19th birthday with a lunch and ceremonial alcoholic beverage (surely the first he’d had over his last five months at school #roflqtm). We also followed the Boy’s lead who was all for having us come down to see the Sturdy Wings go for recreational hockey Gold. We arrived at the rink where both the Boy and the Devil had played in tournaments past, flashing a few memories through my head. The arena bar would be the site of our pre-game meal and we were granted a brief audience with the lad before he and the Sturdy Wings took to the ice. Having grown up as respectable rep hockey players and taking cues from the pros, the Boys showed up at the rink in nappy attire. As the team arrived at their bench, we took note of the three-man coaching staff, likewise dressed to the nines (suits, ties, etc.) and fully equipped with clip boards and water bottles. Momma and I were curious to know what sort of detailed hockey strategy was scrolled on the clip board during a recreational university game. The Boy would later report it’s mostly gibberish and gobbledygook. For instance, during one critical break in play the coach shared a picture of dog he had drawn. A lovely dog to be sure, but little help where the game was concerned. Then again, from this point forward, I’m going to imagine professional coaches doing the same and might even pull something like this out when I’m on the bench next year. A lot of times players likely aren’t really listening anyway. One other obvious pre-game note was the disparity in players between the Sturdy Wings (9) and their recreational championship final opponents (15) whose name we were not aware of. The Boy would be one of only three Sturdy Wings defenders, a decided challenge knowing he’s likely lost a some of his conditioning while living the university student life. Where the good guys did have an advantage was in the cheering section as their fan base dwarfed that of the other side. And not surprisingly, there did not appear to be any other overly-devoted families in the stands. The game began and in relatively short order we noted the pace was not quite the same as the competitive hockey we were formerly used to; not that we should have expected it would be. The Devil, for her part, surmised she and her teammates could give these crews a run for their money; a stretch, but ya never know. In only his third shift, the Boy filled a familiar role, driving an opponent into the boards. Shortly thereafter he took his place in another familiar place as he was assessed a penalty. Penalties, in addition to being short benched, would prove to be the Sturdy Wings undoing as they fell behind by a goal. After a couple more shifts the Boy made a return to the sin bin after having words with an opponent in front of his net. Momma said he better not get another after we drove all this way to watch him play. The bad guys would score two more goals and despite some pressure with a few good scoring opportunities, the Sturdy Wings would come up short of their quest for university recreational intramural hockey supremacy. What the game certainly did not lack was passion as one of the frustrated Wings smashed his stick against a stanchion busting it into a few useless pieces as the clock ticked down under the 2 minute mark and the outcome was obvious. As I know from my own rec hockey experience, there is no taking the competitive drive out of most hockey players, regardless the level at which they are playing. The game ended and “We Are The Champions” rang out through the arena speakers; alas for the other side to bask in.
Post-game we retired to the lobby to wait for the Boy and his teammates, who would no doubt be dejected after the loss. I was a little concerned we would be partially blamed for the defeat after hearing of the squad’s prior exploits. We were assured by members of the waiting entourage the team had played much better in games leading up to this one, which didn’t much help to assuage my fears. But when he arrived, the Boy didn’t seem too disappointed in not having pulled out the victory as he said this we the first time they had played a team with so many players (a common function of rec hockey) and one of their key members had been in bed all day with a fever but played anyway; further testament to my thought above on persistent competitive drive. We couriered the Boy’s and some of the players’ gear back to their residence, then left them to lick their wounds and/or drown their sorrows as university students are wont to do. We’ll be back to pick him up for the Summer break in a couple more weeks. And so, our little adventure which encompassed driving three hours to watch a 50-minute game did not have the storybook finish. Yet, from my perspective, the night was successful as the little bit of hockey sated the appetite and should hold me over until the Devil’s or Boy’s next game. More so, the true value of the endeavour was echoed in a Tweet posted by the Boy as we made our way home, “And one last thanks to my awesome fam for driving down from Barrie to watch the game !! #luvya”. He was happy to have us there and we were likewise happy to be there. Mission accomplished.
p.s. Momma points out in hindsight she wished she brought her real camera to snap a few more pics (which has been her deal through 12+ years of hockey), but she was a little worried about da Boy being embarrassed. Go figure, one of his first questions was “Where’s the camera?” More, high quality action photos promised next time round seeing as there are three more years worth of intramural recreational hockey games for us to choose from, whenever the addiction strikes particularly hard.