All three of my boys are now playing hockey. Middle Man and Little One's season ends this weekend. Middle Man is ready for a break but Little One LOVES hockey and asks almost every day, "How many more days until hockey?" Hockey Boy is on a more competitive hockey team this year. He has mid week practices and weekend tournaments. So we spend a lot of time at the rink. A LOT of time. And this is only the first year of competitive hockey. As the younger kids move up we will be spending even more time in big coats and warm boots lacing up skates and trying to stay warm.
One of the my favorite parts of hockey is the community we are building with the other families. We are in a small hockey program so this group of kids will always be playing with or against one another which means we will be seeing the same parents at the rink week after week, year after year. And as one mom said, it is like a big family complete with a crazy uncle or annoying aunt that always shows up for the family reunion. We will be hanging out in the lobbies and stands of hockey rinks for years to come. Hockey is not really a drop off sport until the kids are in middle school. Skates are really hard to tie and the rinks are not just around the corner so we end up hanging out at practices in case our kid gets hurt or because it is not worth driving home just to come back. This adds up to a lot of hours where the parents and siblings get to be together.
I make a horrible first impression. I know this about myself. I need a little grace when you first meet me but I will grow on you. Because I know this about myself, I have gotten a lot better about taking some time before I let my initial perception of a new person set in. Hockey has been a great place for me to practice this. We all come from various parts of our metro area and often it seems hockey is the only thing we have in common. But as I am getting to know these families better, I am finding that hockey may be the thread that binds us together, but together we are. We have become a community. A community that cares for one another. A community that looks out for each other. A community that shares carpool responsibilities and keeps an eye on each other's kids. A community that bands together when someone needs help outside the rink.
I have really felt this idea of community at the rink for a while, but it became even more real for me this weekend. It's a bit of a long story.
Hockey boy moved to forward this year. He had always played defense before so scoring goals was never really on his radar. He was more focused on making sure the other team did not score. But suddenly scoring goals became paramount. He wanted a goal. He watched all his other teammates score goals this season. Everyone but him. There was a point in the middle of the season when win or lose, he would cry and get upset after a game because he did not get a goal. We watched the movie Rudy and talked about how not everyone was meant to score, but he could work hard, he could be tenacious, he could do everything he could to help his team succeed. It took a few weeks but it finally sunk in. He stopped worrying about scoring and started focusing on helping his team win. In the movie version of his life, that would be when he would score a goal. But he still didn't score. The buzzer went off just as he was about to shoot on an open net. The goalies stopped his shot. He hit a post. He kept getting so close but the shots weren't going in. And then this weekend, in the semifinal game of the league championship, with 3 minutes left in the game, a pass went across the crease, Hockey Boy had to reach out for puck, he got his stick on it and put it in behind the goalies pads.
Hockey Boy scored. I jumped up and cheered. His Dad who was working the penalty box was cheering. But what really amazed me was all of our fans who were cheering and jumping and hugging me. You would have thought he had scored the game winning goal with how the crowd erupted but the game wasn't even close. They were all just so happy to see Hockey Boy score.
There were tears in my eyes, seeing my boy who had worked so, so hard finally get a goal. But I was not the only one with tears of joy. A lot of the moms were so thrilled for him that they also got a bit emotional. It meant the world to Hockey Boy and his proud parents, but it also meant the world to his teammates who kept congratulating him. I think it brought a lot of joy to his coaches and manager who made sure to get him the puck to keep. The win was nice, but the goal was amazing! And we got to share it with people who really understood and had been with him through the whole season.
It was an amazing moment to share with our hockey family. And it kept going the next day as moms who missed the game came up to talk about the goal and how happy they were for Hockey Boy.
These may not be the people I would have chosen to spend so much of my life with and that is why I am loving hockey. We have met some amazing people and our family's lives have been enriched by them.