It’s been a couple of weeks since my two oldest sons started their foray into the hockey world and I am still lukewarm about this venture. Coming from soccer to this organized mayhem, it’s a shock to the system. Maybe next season, if there’s a next season, all that would change and I’ll plunge headlong into being a full-blooded hockey dad. For now, let’s just go with lukewarm.
“Why don’t you like it?” You might ask. “After all it’s fun. The parents are very friendly and willing to help when needed, so why don’t you like hockey, Carlos?” Maybe I’m cheap? I never thought I was but after paying a high price to sign up for this fun sport, I thought I was done dishing out the coin. Not even close. I didn’t reckon on the game ice fee and the jersey fee and the socks fee and the jacket fee and the practice ice fee and the…I gave up. I just take my checkbook to every game and do what I’m told. It’s fun! The first time it was announced in the dressing room that we had to bring $300 to the next practice, I tensed, preparing for the parental outbursts of opposition. To my amazement, no one questioned this request. Good thing I didn’t. It would have been a embarrassing rookie mistake. The other parents took it right on the chin without flinching!
Did I mention the volunteer shifts? Well duh! The team needs money to operate and volunteering either in the canteen or bingo games is a fun and easy way to earn the team some cash. But what about all that money you pay? You must be a rookie for asking that question. Like I said, THE TEAM NEEDS MONEY! A couple of late evening shifts in the canteen never hurt anyone, has it? Shouting “50/50!” during games is fun too. Too bad it’s so early on a weekend that your voice is still cracked and barely audible or you’d probably sell more tickets. The team needs money.
It’s fun, that’s what they told me when I walked into the dressing room, kid in tow, for his first practice. Maybe it was fun for them to watch this first time hockey dad trying to make sense of the puzzle-like pieces of his kids hockey equipment. This looks like a elbow so it must be an elbow pad. What’s this gladiatorial thing? Oh it’s just a chest pad. Skate tying is another thing. I simply hate it. After tying the laces for the first time, I stood up, proud of myself, until my son goes, “Daddy, it’s too loose.” Well how could I make it any tighter? I have pulled the laces as hard as I could. Could one of you nice parent come help me with this instead of standing around laughing at me? It also wasn’t much fun watching my first year skaters trudge around the ice like penguins while the other kids on the teams, obviously entrenched in the system since birth, glided like swans. At this rate, I would consider it an accomplishment if they touched the puck once in a game.
Like a said, it’s been a couple of weeks. Hold that, it’s been a month. There have been some changes since the first week. The boys not only touch the puck, they get shots on the net! They do not look much like penguins anymore. Not quite swans but definitely not penguins. I also do not pay hidden fees quite as often anymore, in fact, I now leave my checkbook at home! I still have a few shifts in the canteen to cover but from the last two that I did, they are not that bad. You get to work alongside an unhappy teenager who is quite happy to have a gofer for the night. Grab me a bottle of coke and a bag of popcorn!
The boys still need to learn how to stop. No, not stop playing hockey, come to a stop while skating. I thought of asking the coach to maybe give them some pointers in this regard as they apparently haven’t noticed this slight blip but I didn’t feel like writing a check for extra skating lessons. These coaches from what I understand, are not paid for their work. The new-hockey-dad in me wanted to point out to the coaches that maybe they should work on getting the team to be a ‘team’, like say have them introduce themselves to each other or have some team-building exercises so they could be more cohesive on the ice instead of a few pockets of friends but that would be so not the way to do things in organized kids hockey. And hello! They are not real coaches! Just some nice fellas helping out. A true hockey dad wouldn’t notice that his son still seem like he’s playing a free-for-all than a team sport. If it’s good enough for Sidney Crosby, it’s good enough for my kids. Who cares if the kids on the same team barely know the teammate lining up beside them? As least they are all on the ice having fun.
So yeah, organized kids hockey is fun. I am just being cynical and a party pooper. All the other parents are fine with it. They seem like they are having fun and other than the visible cups of coffee at the early morning games, you’d never suspect they were up way too early. I should just relax and think about the big payoff when one or both boys make it to the big leagues. After all, that’s what this is all about isn’t it? I can like this. I can really like this…Just not right now.