It’s a big day in our family…my youngest son, Zachary, is playing his very first Select hockey game at 7:00 tonight! It felt a little like Christmas in our house this morning as Zach bounced out of bed at 5:00am. He looked at my clock and said; ‘only fourteen more hours Mommy...I just can’t wait!’
We were living in Dundas, Ontario when Zach was born nine years ago. We were known in Dundas as the family with the three adorable curly-haired sons. We were also somewhat of a curiosity because we were not a hockey family. In Dundas, that was unheard of. I am certain that there is something in the water in Dundas…everyone plays hockey!
Despite the teasing and the pressure, we held firm and quietly celebrated the fact that we were narrowly escaping the fate of extremely reluctant hockey parents.
I am a downhill skier. I am my happiest when I am on a cold and snowy ski hill. Weekends in the winter are for getting up early and hitting the slopes for an invigorating day of exercise, fun and family togetherness. And when the temperature starts to drop in November, I rub my hands together in gleeful anticipation of another magical ski season!
Needless to say, there has never been a yearning for the cold and damp hockey arena anywhere in my winter dreams.
Two years ago Zachary started collecting hockey cards. We got him a big binder and he spent hours poring over his collection. One week he would organize them by team. Another he would have them scattered all over his room so he could re-organize them by position. At about the same time, Zach started watching hockey with Simon and couldn’t seem to get enough of all the NHL footage on YouTube. I think what really tipped me off to Zach’s burgeoning passion was when, one morning over breakfast, Zach earnestly said to Simon; ‘Daddy, what are your fifteen favourite NHL teams?’ We all burst out laughing…fifteen favourite teams! Instead of joining in on the laughter, Simon’s endearing response was; ‘I’ll have to give that some serious thought honey and I’ll get back to you.’
And, make no mistake, Zach wanted the question answered!
It seemed that, overnight, Zach became a walking hockey encyclopedia. Every statistic, every player, and every team was stored in the hockey database of his brain…even dating back to the 60’s. Our youngest son was eating, breathing, sleeping, reading and absolutely loving hockey.
All I could think was; ‘thank goodness he doesn’t want to play hockey!’
Fifteen months ago Zach sat us down and laid his cards on the table; ‘okay guys, I need to play hockey…you need to make this happen for me.’ I could feel my stomach drop…goodbye snowy ski hills and hello cold, damp hockey arenas. Oh dear!
Simon took the request in stride and assured Zachary that he would be playing hockey that winter. Simon researched and found the team for Zach. He also let me know that I was not ‘on the hook’ for any games or any practices. I could still enjoy the ski season. It would just mean I would have two less family members to enjoy it with.
When Zach started playing hockey just over a year ago he looked like a newborn colt. His ankles were wobbly, he had no idea how to stop once he got going on the ice and his stick handling was almost non-existent. What he did have was confidence and an enthusiasm for the game that knocked our socks off. He never got discouraged and, week by week, he learned how to play hockey. And I am proud to report that I made it to about 60% of his games.
For Zach’s birthday last April my mom and dad gave him Bauer Hockey Blades. Zach spent every waking moment of this past spring and summer on those blades and logged hundreds of hours playing road hockey with Simon, his brothers and the neighbourhood kids.
Even though it was swelteringly hot, Zach was still eating, sleeping and breathing hockey. Oh, and did I mention he played 3-on-3 summer hockey as well? Hockey in the summer? Oh yes, we were now a full-fledged hockey family!
It seems that all the hours of summer hockey, blading and street hockey paid off. When Zach got on the ice six weeks ago for his house league hockey team, it seemed as if the butterfly had emerged from his cocoon. Zach was graceful, talented and fiercely confident. Gone were the wobbly ankles of a year before. Zach truly looked like a hockey player and I’m not sure who was more excited about it, Simon or Zach. Simon was so proud of Zach that after every practice I would get a blow-by-blow of what Zach did that day.
It was days into house league when Zach announced that he wanted to try out for the Select Team. Needless to say, Simon was 100% supportive and they talked very frankly about the fact that Zach had only been playing a year (where most of the other kids had been playing four or five) but would certainly benefit from the tryouts if nothing else. Zach was bound and bent that he was going to make that team and, much to our surprise and delight, two weeks ago he got a call from the coach offering him a spot! Because the coach saw so much potential in Zachary, he offered him the opportunity to share a spot with another young boy. Which means that Zach gets to practice with the team and play every other game.
And so, after only one year of hockey, Zach’s passion, drive and enthusiasm have brought him to this exciting night. My stomach is filled with excited butterflies as I anticipate watching our little hockey player suit up and hit the ice with that 100-watt grin lighting up the arena!
It seems that the reluctant hockey mom is just a wee bit proud, wouldn’t you say? And she is deeply appreciative of the hockey dad who makes it all possible!