My boys play hockey…
Travel hockey. Both of them. To make this even more interesting, they play at separate rinks and separate clubs. Good times coordinating games, skills sessions, skating lessons, dry-land drills…
My younger is a Mite, the very beginning of competitive hockey, the first level, if you will. He likes to play. He’s a natural skater, quick when he wants to be, tough on defense, sometimes assertive, sometimes not. Depends on the day.
My oldest son is a Pee-Wee Minor…birth year 2001. (Everything in youth hockey goes according to your birth year.) He’s moved up the ranks a bit, playing on a travel team that competes in several states. So far this season we’ve been to Nashville, St. Louis, Indiana, Chicago…
He loves to play. He’s a natural too, but he works HARD. He has at least 3-4 practices a week which includes ice-time, video sessions and dry-land training, which typically involves running and agility skills. In addition, he works with a skating coach on Saturday mornings at 7am. 7am. This kid is up and ready to go, never complains. Seriously.
I remember him at 5 or 6 years old, just learning to skate. He got on that ice so eagerly and bam! down he went. He got up and tried again…bam! down he went again. I watched him from the stands fall, get up, fall again, get up. I thought for sure he’d want to try something else after that first session.
Nope…he came off that ice exhilarated and couldn’t wait to try again.
I had tears in my eyes the first time I saw this poster…
When he scored his first goal, the look on his face was priceless! Success! Cheers from the crowd! High fives from his 6 year old teammates! Big grins from mom and dad! There was no turning back.
In first grade, he watched the movie, “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team and their road to winning the Gold Medal. That very night while I was putting him to bed, he told me he wanted to play on the Olympic Team one day and…get this…he wanted to write a letter to Mike Eruzione, the captain of that team. “OK, we’ll do it tomorrow,” I said in my sleep deprived mode, never thinking he was serious.
Well, he was. The very next morning he wrote a letter to Mike Eruzione in his first grade penmanship and told him he was his hero. He even drew him a picture of the U.S. Team beating Finland for the Gold. He included $4 from his tooth fairy money and asked for an “ottograph”. My husband and I had no idea where to send that letter, but we had to try…
God Bless that man because about 10 days later, we got an envelope in the mail from Mr. Eruzione with an “ottographed” picture of him scoring the game winning goal vs. the Russian team. And with tremendous class, he sent back the $4.00 and told my son to “save it for a rainy day.”
But for all his hard work and extra time and energy, my son has been having a rough season. I take that back…this is his third rough season in a row. His team has lost way more games than they have won. Last season, his team won one game. One. The season before that was a bust too.
Today he had a particularly rough loss. I waited for him to come out of the locker room. I didn’t see him anywhere but I saw his teammates leaving one by one. Most were laughing, joking. A few were solemn. And then I saw him standing off by himself, with this look on his face that just broke this mother’s heart.
He had tears in his eyes, but he was trying so hard not to break down. Apparently, one of the goals by the other team had been accidentally knocked in by him…
What can I say to my child at a time like this? I’ve exhausted all the usuals…”Everyone loses sometimes.” “Everyone makes mistakes.” “Tomorrow is another day.” I’ve even taken to singing the song “Tomorrow” from Annie on the way home. I’m sick of this, but most of all, I am sure he is too.
I just took my son into my arms and told him I loved him. Surprisingly, he let me do this in public. ( He is a tween after all, and mom affection is not cool.)
“How many games have you ever played in?” I asked him.
“I don’t know…Hundreds?” he said.
“And how many times have you ever knocked the puck in on your own goalie?” I asked.
“Just this once…” he said.
But I think the continued losing must be getting to him. His team needs some success for all the hard work they put in. If losing builds character, my kid has tons of it.
I asked him this evening if he still liked playing hockey. He looked me right in the eye and said, “Mom, I LOVE to play hockey. I am a hockey player.”
Oh Boy. My son…I will continue to cheer for you the loudest, and hold you close when you need it, because I LOVE YOU!.
But I do have a question…
To Mike Eruzione’s Mom,
How did YOU do it?
“The sun will come out, Tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar, they’ll be sun”
The second half of this particular season was wonderful…the kids started playing better as a team, they had a bunch of hard-fought wins, they had improvements in developing and they had fun together. The parents got along well, the coaches were good, and the season was a success!