a hockey dad
It was never supposed to be this way.
Still, the transformation has happened.
And I feel I am doomed.
I am now, officially, a hockey dad.
The mid-life crisis, for that is what it is, came on unexpectedly.
Last Sunday, in fact.
At about 1:18 p.m. In front of … oh, about 40 people.
First, a little history.
In the ‘60s, my uncle took me to a Vancouver Canucks game. It’s the only professional hockey game I have ever seen. I was, perhaps, five.
It was an exciting night for a gaffer like me, but the exposure didn’t take.
For the next 38 years, I have been totally ambivalent about our national sport.
Frankly, I reacted like a husky tossed a tennis ball — I didn’t care. At all. It simply didn’t register.
At dinner parties, I’m the guy who gets a 1,000-yard gaze when talk turns to hockey.
Somebody will say, “Whaddya think of the Leafs?”
Usually I’ll reply… “What are you talking about? They blew off months ago.”
With that, they usually wander off to refill their drink, perplexed.
It can get pretty lonely.
That is not to say I haven’t been around the stupid game.
My two brothers loved it, and played for years. One still does, in fact.
I remember watching, and freezing, as Dad shoveled the rink at Nepean’s Inverness Park — my brothers’ experienced their first breakaways in an outdoor league (now that’s old school — there are not many of those around these days).
I was dragged to rinks in Stittsville and Richmond and Bells Corners and Orleans and Cumberland and eventually into the US, where I watched my kid brothers skate in Potsdam, New York, among other places.
Often, I was the guy in the butt-numbing stands in the big coat under those heat lamps with his nose in a book.
I did little to promote hockey to my two boys.
In fact, I did nothing. And I crossed my fingers.
And, for awhile, it worked.
My sons were blind to the sport.
Or so I thought.
“I think I want to play hockey, Dad,” Liam told me in March.
“Um, have you taken out the garbage?” I said.
“Dad, hockey is fun,” he said.
“Have you ever had a root canal?” I asked. He looked puzzled.
“Take out the garbage,” I said.
“I like the Carolina Hurricanes,” he told my brother Peter during the playoffs last winter.
“You like the cinnamon buns? Get out of my house…,” said my brother.
Things are getting out of hand, I thought.
Through the summer, Liam was still talking about playing hockey. It looked grim.
In August, he balked.
“I think I want to play soccer,” he told us at the dinner table one night.
‘Whew! That was close,’ I thought.
“Why?” asked Shona, my wife.
I looked up. ‘What are you doing?’ my eyes said, before I turned my gaze back to my plate.
“I don’t know. I just don’t think I’d be good at hockey,” he said.
I looked up from the plate at Shona. Then to Liam.
“That’s no reason not to play hockey,” I said.
I told him that you don’t pull away from doing something because of fear.
“If you want to play hockey, then play hockey. It’s like anything you’ve done — you’ll get good at it soon enough.”
And so, after a bout of power skating, my 10-year-old son’s playing hockey.
And I’m back in those sweaty rinks listening to the rasp of skates cutting the ice.
Sunday he had his first game.
And I was standing, watching.
“Careful of the offsides,” I muttered quietly to myself.
“Get to the point.”
“Skate, lad, skate … harder. Pass the puck, c’mon. Keep it in … keep it in …”
And then it happened.
One of the other guys broke free.
“SKATE, LIAM, SKATE …” I bellowed. “C’MON. OH, FOR GOD’S SAKE, LIAM, SKATE!”
Down in the stands, about 40 people turned in their seats to look at me.
I smiled, sheepishly, and shrugged.
Then I skulked down and took a seat next to Shona.
“If you ever do that again, I’m going to cut off your … ” she started whispering in my ear.
“Yeah, I just kinda lost my head there …” I explained.
“Don’t let it happen again.”
Later, leaving the rink, my oldest son Thomas confessed that he hated the rink.
“I hate the sound of skates on the ice,” he said, suggesting it made his teeth ache.
I smiled down at him.
“Yeah, I know,” I said.
‘Just you wait …’ I thought. (RM)