Mike Vs Hockey
I’m Canadian, but I am not a hockey fan. I know, I know, saying that is unpatriotic or whatever. And I mean, I used to be a fan, back in the day. I followed the NHL closely, and wore NHL gear. The 1994 New York Rangers were my favorite team ever. NHL 94 for the SNES was my jam. Playing ice hockey was beyond my means, but road hockey was always a good time. Eventually, though, I lost interest. Hockey just wasn’t it anymore.
Well, those were free tickets. I’m shameless that way!
Well, if I win the league, I get money! It’s just stats, anyway. You can play fantasy sports without liking the sport! Zero Games Watched isn’t just a great team name, it’s my motto!
Well, if someone offered you money to like hockey, you’d like hockey too, for that bag of cash. Like I said, I’m shameless!
Anyway, as I was saying, hockey ain’t it, dawg. And, for the most part, it didn’t really affect my life. Recently, though, dodging that bullet became more difficult. Or in hockey terms, I went from turning away pucks like Mike Richter in the 1994 playoffs for the Rangers, to letting in pucks galore like the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs every year.
Hey, Leafs legend George Armstrong, simmer down! Kids might be reading this, sheesh! Speaking of kids, according to my
totally made up calculations, 95% of all children in Canada are given a pair of skates and a hockey stick as soon as they exit the womb. Luckily for me, my kids were not. We’ve signed our kids up for a plethora of sports over the years. Soccer, T-Ball, baseball, basketball, flag football, tennis, golf, dodgeball, swimming, skating. We have a kid’s lacrosse stick in our garage for some reason. Maybe they’ve done that, too, and I forgot. Regardless, long story short, I’ve made sure that we weren’t a hockey family.
I have my reasons, and they’re probably all valid.
So, of course, after years of rink-free bliss, K signed up KJ for an introductory youth hockey class.
Basically, she learned about the NHL/NHLPA First Shift hockey program, through the parents of a couple of KJ’s school friends. For about $200, if your kid is between 6-10 years, you can sign them up, and get 6 weeks of one hour training involving basic skating, while learning hockey fundamental skills. You also get all of the equipment, head to toe.
Now KJ is at that age (six) where he’s not really into anything, but if you force him to do stuff, he’ll obediently do it. And who knows, maybe he’ll like hockey, K pointed out to me. This thought, of course, terrified me. Since K offered to take him every week, I could at least take comfort in that aspect. While she froze her butt off at the chilly rink, I secretly hoped KJ would hate hockey, and not want to continue, from the comfort of my warm, cozy house.
For the first four weeks, things went according to plan. I would dutifully ask how things went, too, when they returned. This was usually met with a vague ‘good’, in response. The only information that I got was from another family member, who checked things out one week. They described a scene to me as chaotic, with children out of control, flailing wildly, and lots of tears. I pictured it being like Lord Of The Flies, but on ice, and a hockey stick replacing the conch.
KJ likes to follow rules, so there was no way he’d be down for more hockey after a few weeks of that!
So, of course, after skating around going to KJ’s hockey every week, like I was Alexei Kovalev stick-handling around Vancouver Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup, things came to a disappointing grinding halt. You know, like how the Toronto Maple Leafs’ seasons usually end. K was busy, so I would have to take KJ to his weekly hockey class.
Flash forward to the fateful day. This was my first time doing anything hockey-related besides watching it, so I was (shocker) pretty clueless to how things were to go. The equipment, for example. I mentioned earlier that we received it all, as part of the program. Hockey requires A LOT of equipment, however. So much so, that giant hockey bags are needed to lug it all. Like, seriously, I’m pretty sure that half of Matilda’s classmates could comfortably fit in one of these things.
Once you get the bag to the change room, the next fun part is putting the equipment on. I highly recommend not doing this alone, if you’ve never done this before. There’s a whole sequence that needs to be followed. Fortunately for me, K wrote it all out beforehand.
Also fortunately for me, KJ was a pro at getting himself ready by this point, and he was telling me what to do. The only part he needed help with was tying his skates, which I handled. I thought that they were on tight….until within minutes of the training, KJ had to sit down on the ice so one of the instructors could re-tie his skates. Oops.
The equipment process took about 20 minutes. We were one of the last ones out of the change room, which meant that KJ was one of the last ones to line up to hit the ice. By that point, the place was jammed with onlookers. The stands were filled like it was Game 7 of the ’94 Stanley Cup. Standing room it was for me, by the main door to the rink.
The rink was broken down into three parts, and the kids were assigned to a part dependant on their skill level. KJ’s section was the beginner one. After the skate re-tying, the session was…..really well run.
Beyond one kid who kept defiantly skating as fast as he could and crashing into the soft barriers, to send them flying into the other group’s session (I thought that it was hilarious, but the poor exasperated instructor did not), there was minimal chaos. The children lined up and did the various drills, no problems. KJ even seemed kind of into it!
Sure, there was a lot of falling by the group, but there wasn’t a lot of crying, that I saw. Well, except for two times. Once was a little boy who tapped out early, because his feet were cold. I could totally relate, as my toes were numb, too, and I was holding back tears. #jokingnotreally
The other was as I watched the beginners play a rudimentary game of hockey with a beach ball. A little girl came off the ice, through the doors nearby, crying hysterically, with an instructor close behind. The two of them talked quietly, a few feet from me. The girl took a step towards the hallway, stopped….and threw up. The instructor and I both jumped back, in horror. The poor kid barfed, stopped, and then went to overtime and barfed a lot more. She then stumbled off, to the change room, leaving a giant pool of puke behind.
The funny thing, though, was that no one else saw this happen. Everyone was too enraptured with the kids’ hockey action, I guess. The instructor, who seemed a bit shy, asked if I knew the girl (nope), then asked myself and another dad who was right beside me (he had no idea about the puking) to help find the parents, in the rafters. We tried, but to no avail (“Uh, excuse me! Does anyone have a daughter named Sarah? She just threw up. It looked like creamed corn. Why did you give her that for breakfast?!”).
The session soon ended after that. One mop wasn’t enough to clean up the mess, so a warning sign was put up beside the puke pool. It was right near the door, and all of the kids had to line up single file, to leave the ice, to exit to the hall. I could almost guarantee that some beginner would lose their balance while gawking at the barf on their skates, and fall into it. KJ was not going to be that dude, though, so I made sure to grab him and hurry him by it, on the way to the change room.
20 minutes later, after reversing K’s list to remove the equipment from KJ, and we were on our way back to our warm, cozy home. I grinned from ear to ear, like Mark Messier with the Stanley Cup over his head when the Rangers won it in 1994. My child hockey experience was complete, never to occur again.
Hopefully. I don’t know.
Anyway, I’m off to watch some children’s lacrosse. Until the next one, peace!