There comes a time in every Canadian father’s life when he rolls over checks that the time on the alarm is in fact correct, shakes off the weariness of a sleep cut short and then wonders deeply, “who the #*$& invented the NHL?!” He will then endeavor to wake his child to force feed him remicrowaved porridge drenched in maple syrup in a valiant and unsuccessful attempt to mask the flavour. He will have to bang the frost off the hockey bag stowed carefully along the coldest wall of the garage, away from Mom’s keen sense of smell. Then he’ll toss the boy in the trunk, strap the gear into the back-seat, realize his folly, grab his coffee off the top of the car then drive down the road to the nearest hockey rink where he will make a gallant and bleary-eyed attempt to tie skate laces together on the wriggling and writhing wrong foot of an all to ungrateful brat of child. Finally he will be able to refill his coffee and stare grimly across a dank smelling refridgerator of an ice-rink at boys who can’t skate, chasing around a black puck while leaning too heavily on their luxuriously priced hockey-stick which they will outgrow by the end of the season. As consciousness begins to defrost, he will realize that he’s been staring not at his son who is skating circles in his own end, but the “Timbits” logo on the front of the jerseys. That will remind him the level of coffee in his cup will not be enough to fuel the trip home and he will have to stop yet again in that cattle-train drive-through and add yet another doughnut to the growing girth around his middle.
At least that’s how I see it going. That is my nightmare. Oh, how I pray I don’t become a Hockey Dad.
The oldest unfortunately is shaping up to be a left-handed virtuoso, a marvel of physical achievement, a tour-de-force all compactly wrapped in the 20th percentile height/weight category. It is with great pride and deep anxiety that I watch this 3yo take to the street to play hockey against the neighbourhood giants. These eight to twelve year-olds have years of experience on him! Towering above him, missing teeth, smacking well worn sticks against the pavement, they seek to intimidate and he stares up at them unphased.
“Give me the ball.” he demands, and in the next fifteen minutes, he will out maneuver, out run, out play and out score some invisible opponent while chasing a ball he barely gets to touch often in the wrong direction and without worrying about what team he is on. In those fifteen minutes he gets bowled over, tripped, starts a fight with a five year old, and pretty much looks like the oft-celebrated goons from the 1970’s Summit Series. Sorry, that’s another Canadian thing…
How can I NOT put him in hockey this year?
We’re a family of nerds raising a jock. This week I “published” a children’s book written in iambic pentameter with illustrations I made myself using an iPad. I’m a drama teacher. I play recreational soccer. I can skate, but I can only turn right, and I can’t stop. I use a hockey stick to hold up the Thai Chili Peppers that grow in my indoor green-house, and I worry that other hockey dads are going to beat me up. The only reason I know anything about hockey is because I listen to sports radio during my morning commute so that I can at least hold my own in conversation with the arrogant 14yos I teach in middle school who know every player on every roster on every team in the NHL… and no one is going to want to talk to me, especially since my tiny little 4yo spark-plug is poised to become the next Theoron Fleury (without the unfortunate history, and subsequent torment), while their 6yos are still trying to figure out which part of the jersey is the front. Who am I to hold him back?
I do worry about the injuries and the life lessons learned by competitive hockey players. We’re all aware of the hazing, and the spinal injuries, but lately all the talk has been the concussions… and good Lord is my son’s head large. But he loves hockey. He wants it. As a stay-at-home dad, and a Canadian, it is not only my curse, but my civic duty to support him in this. Anyone have some old gear I can borrow?
Oh well. I guess it could be worse; at least I won’t ever end up a soccer mom.