I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what makes hockey parents so passionate about the sport. What makes a good person lose their mind at an arena when their son or daughter gets a penalty, misses a shot on net, or doesn’t get the ice time they think they deserve. What is it about the game that causes so much stress that they feel the need to discuss it on the way to the rink, on the way home, and when they crawl into bed with their spouse at night (you know we’ve all done it).
I was recently at the hospital with my daughter. She was getting her appendix out and we had a long time to wait around before her surgery. The doctors were swamped and the emergency room was a flurry of people trying to do what they could to move things along. I went to buy a coffee for my husband and I came across what I would assume were two doctors. I assumed this because they had lanyards around their necks, long white jackets, and looked to be discussing a very important surgery. The Emergency Room was so backed up I felt sorry for them. As I approached them I could see the stress on the face of the male doctor. I remember thinking, “You couldn’t pay me to do this job, there is no way I could handle that kind of stress!” Walking by, I heard him say to his female counterpart that he was going to go to the executive if his daughter didn’t soon get the ice time she deserved. I laughed to myself because I realized it doesn’t matter who you are, how busy you are, what your profession is, or if you’re about to perform open heart surgery: if you are a parent this game can consume you regardless of what else is going on in your life.
As I re-read the introduction to, “Lessons from Behind the Glass” I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. The beginning of the book describes my childhood, the moments with my Dad that were embedded with hockey. The moments with my brothers and sisters in the glow of our kitchen around the table eating the delicious supper our Mom made. The supper we raced through so we could get out to the backyard rink.
“As soon as the weather got cold enough, my father would spend hours flooding our backyard rink to make sure it was perfect for all of us. I remember standing on my bed watching from behind the frosted glass of my bedroom window as he flooded the ice late at night. It’s a vision forever etched in my mind. I remember what the water sounded like hitting the ice. I could barely make out my dad’s features, but I knew he was relaxed, perhaps envisioning that one of his boys would make it to the NHL with all they’d learned on the rink he built. I’d watch him in his big work coat, trying to keep warm as the smoke of his breath filled the air. At the time he worked long hours driving truck for an oil company. He always found time to flood the ice when he got home regardless of how many hours he’d been on the road. I loved looking out the window on those cold nights. I’d spend most of my time wiping my breath away so I could try to see even a glimpse of my dad. On really cold nights all I could see was his shadow, but I loved the view just the same. He looked completely at peace, knowing that his kids were all sleeping comfortably in the home that he worked so hard to pay for. “
Those memories for me were everything and I will cherish them for the rest of my life and hockey was at the centre of them. For my husband, his memories were very similar although he actually played the game and was good at it. He has memories of winning championships, travelling to tournaments, and getting new skates for Christmas. You see, these aren’t simple stories of our childhood, they are feelings, memories, that make us the essence of who we are. No wonder we are so passionate about the game. No wonder we want the same for our kids.
So, when we arrive at the rink with all of these feelings in our heart and then we see our child get benched, get cut from a team, or worse, miss the experience we once had, we lose it! For us as parents it feels like the ultimate rip off if they can’t have a piece of what we fell so in love with. I guess we need to remember that they’ll create their own memories, they’ll fall in love with their own stories of hockey, they don’t need ours. So, the next time you see a Mom yelling and banging on the glass perhaps she was once a little girl standing on her tip toes watching her Daddy flood the ice from her bedroom window. At the end of the day, in some small way, aren’t we all eight-year’s watching this crazy sport.
- Written by Allyson Tufts