They say that “children fill your heart in a place that you never knew was empty…”. They also say that “to be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today”. it is this second statement that really resonates with my wife and I. Which is way for the past couple of seasons we have greatly enjoyed being hockey parents. Our son Eias who currently plays first year novice is such a joy to watch. We enjoy going to all of the practices and games and watching him interact with his teammates and hockey buddies and coaches. We have been really fortunate to have lucked out to have great coaches and some great parents.
I am a hockey fanatic, no doubt about it, it is part of the reason why I started this blog. I am a lifelong fan of the Edmonton Oilers and was lucky enough to grow up in Northern Alberta where as a child I got to experience the games greatest players and last true dynasty of the NHL. To me players such as Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Andy Moog and other Oiler greats were the greatest hockey players ever to skate on ice. While Mark Messier was always my favorite player Wayne Gretzky was always in a league by himself. One of the reasons why I admired Mr. Gretzky so much was because of how respectful he was for his family especially his father Walter. Wayne would also describe stories about how his parents helped him develop into the player that he was to become from when he was three and his grandmother would have bruised shins from being the goaltender that a young Wayne Gretzky would shoot on to his father providing hockey wisdom and life lessons. You’ve most likely heard the infamous line from Wayne Gretzky that “you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take”… well it’s no doubt that this knowledge was passed on to him from his father Walter. I am a hockey fanatic but I am also a hockey parent and I love it!
The Joy of Being a Hockey Parent
There are so many tremendous feelings I get from watching my son play hockey. And not just my son but his peers, teammates and the kids that he plays against in his games. Take for example today, one of my son’s teammates, Carson got to be goalie for the first time ever at practice. This is something that he has wanted to try for a couple of years but never had the opportunity. When he found out the other day that he was going to be goalie for the next week (which included two practices and a game), pure joy shone across his face. So as we arrived at the rink for a Sunday morning 9:00 am practice his father mentions to me that his Carson was up at 3:30 am asking if it was morning yet because he was that excited to be goalie at practice. How great is that? His father responded that he need to get his rest or that he would be tired for practice in a few hours and Carson replied with “I know dad, but I just have those pads on my mind”. It was a great example of how much joy the game of hockey can bring to a child and his parents. You know what? Carson had an amazing practice in goal that morning and was smiling from ear to ear the entire time (between yawns of course). To me as a hockey parent this is what is is all about.
You see kids out there who are six and seven and are just learning to skate and look like a lost deer on a frozen pond with their legs going in opposite directions. They fall down a lot but they get back up every time. I love it. Like many families across Canada, we are a very involved hockey family. My wife is our team manager and spared no time stepping up to be the team manager when no one else would. She has done an amazing job in between organizing jersey name bars, hockey tournaments, arranging games, scheduling goalie practices and the countless other tasks that a minor hockey team manager has to do in this critical but thankless job. She’s at every practice and game and cheers loudly and proudly and still cries whenever Eli scores a goal. She cherishes the role of being a hockey mom and dare I say hockey wife. For me it is another joy of being a hockey parent. Hockey is a sport that we as a family have taken a common interest in even though I was the original hockey fanatic of the family.
So what are some of the other joys that hockey parents receive? Here is a quick list of 21 experiences that make being a hockey parent a rewarding experience.
- Seeing your child put on a team uniform – the sense of team and of belonging is just a great thing to see.
- Hearing which teams are the favorites of all the kids – of course we have Canucks fans on our team (as we live in BC), but there are also Oilers, Flames, Leafs, Habs and Blackhawks fans on our team.
- Seeing the smiles on the face as the kids fly around the ice – is there anything better than an ear to ear grin?
- Seeing the coaches take the time to properly explain a drill – and watching the kids take it all in as the try to execute what is asked of them.
- See all of the pre-practice and pre-game rituals of the youngsters – some kids still require help with their equipment while others have their moms slicking their hair back with water to keep it out of their eyes. It’s like a great big family.
- Seeing the kids play mini-sticks in the hallways – a practice that is quickly being banned in many arena and hotels. It sure is fun to watch the kids just be kids.
- Seeing a dashing end-to-end- rush – culminating with the player missing the puck as they attempt to shoot on net. Hey at ages six and seven and eight these kids are still learning the game.
- Seeing your son or daughter score their first goal – this is especially great if your child does not get an opportunity to score a lot of goals. Seeing the look of the proud mom, dad or grandparent beside you after their child scores is always heart warming.
- Hearing the players congratulate one another – in the hallways or in the dressing room, when you hear the kids say “hey Owen great save out there”, or hey Tristan great goal, just puts a smile on my face.
- Seeing the players shake hands after the game – a tradition that unlike any other sport.
- Hearing the players thank their coaches and referees – as a hockey parent it makes you proud when your child thanks their coach or the officials after a game. It lets us know as hockey parents that the kids are respectful and appreciative.
- Seeing the kids trade hockey cards – another time honored tradition is seeing the kids exchange cards of their favorite players.
- Seeing the kids wear a new jersey or piece of equipment for the first time – its like a badge of honor for some as the kids are so proud of their new jersey or piece of equipment. “Hey dad this new stick is so cool. Thank you.” It’s the little things that often mean so much.
- Hearing the kids talk about their favorite players – “did you see when P.K. Subban did this” or “when Connor McDavid did that”. Hockey players are often a little competitive so its always fun hearing the kids discuss their favorite players.
- Hearing the kids describe a certain play – there are leaders and there are followers but as a hockey parent it is always cool to see the kids discuss a certain drill or play that they are working on. It’ a great communication mechanism that shows us that they are trying to apply what they are being taught. That they have the discipline to execute on what the coaches are showing them.
- To hear the kids select their numbers for their jerseys – while some kids and parents do not have not have a preference its always refreshing to hear the reasoning behind some of the selections. I like number 5 because my dad likes number 5, or I like #9 because Gordie Howe wore #9 or I just like number 14 (no reason given). It’s pretty special when players get their favorite number and again display it like a badge of honor.
- Watching the players develop and grow their skills – no matter if its a novice level player, junior b player or professional hockey player, it is always great to see your child hone their skills and get better at the various aspects of hockey whether it be skating, shooting or stick handling.
- Seeing the coaches and other parents get excited when the child in net makes a big save after having been scored on a number of times – these types of events tend to get the loudest cheers from the parent and coaches in minor hockey as there can be some pretty lopsided scores, but the score doesn’t matter when your child makes a huge save (regardless of the actual score). Such a great feeling.
- Watching the kids play and interact off the ice – whether is playing at the pool in the hotel, having Pizza after the game or going to Tim Horton’s after practice. Kids are kids and they like to play and just hang out. In minor hockey, some of the greatest memories are from just hanging out with your teammates away from the rink.
- Seeing your child participate in a social setting with their peers – there is a lot of anxiety and stress in life in this day and age, All of that seems to go away when the kids lace up their skates and participate in a practice or game of hockey. Sports are a great environment for children to develop their social skills. Regardless of skill level, being part of a team offers people a sense of belonging and a sense of family.
- Seeing the kids be active – we are in the digital age and while screen time is ok i moderation as a hockey parent it is great just to see the kids doing something physical and getting some exercise in the process. Sometimes it can get to be a little much, but watching the kids on the ice, skating around, being creative and making plays is just an experience to behold.
Being a hockey parent has proven to be much more rewarding than I could have anticipated. I now know a little of what Walter Gretzky must feel like every time Wayne stepped on the ice.