I’ve been thinking a lot about the anxiety I used to feel about going into a new hockey season. In my book I described it as playing Red Rover but having to wait a long time before someone calls you over. It’s that dreaded feeling of trying to fit in and watching your child trying to fit in to a new team or new season every year. It all seems so minimal when I think of what every parent is facing this year with the challenges that COVID-19 has presented. I can’t imagine trying to explain all of the rules and changes to your younger kids. The challenges of getting them to keep a mask on is more than enough to worry about.
I thought I would share a story with you of a fellow hockey parent that stood behind the glass with me for my son’s very first game playing Rep hockey. This is a “what not to do story.” He is the reason I named this article, “Don’t be that guy!” I’m hoping my story makes you smile at a time when everything just feels a little bit harder. More importantly, I hope this reminds you to welcome all of the newbies to your team. Whether that’s new parents, new coaches, trainers, arena staff and, most importantly, new players – please remember to be kind and welcoming. Don’t ever forget what it was like to start on a new team. One kind word or smile can make all the difference.
My story starts at the beginning of the hockey season when my son finally made the Rep team. We were so excited for him but that excitement quickly turned to stress for me. I started to worry about what it would be like to join a team where the parents had known each and travelled together for a year. My greatest anxiety was watching my son, who was a goalie, fit in on a team where they only had one net minder the year before and he was good.
I arrived at the arena on game day and settled into my spot “behind the glass” for the first game. I recognized the man beside me, he was a father from our team. I smiled and took comfort in the fact that we were both cheering for the same kids. Boy, was I wrong!
The game started, and it became very apparent that Rep hockey was significantly faster than my son was used to. Within seconds the puck was in our end, and to my devastation it was then in our net. My stomach sank, I felt so sick for my boy, who was doing his best to play well, to fit in, and to learn the speed of this new level of hockey. I looked to the father beside me for some comfort and perhaps some words of encouragement, but he was too busy swearing and beating the glass to help me in any way.
As the game progressed, my son continued to get scored on, and this man continued to bang on the glass harder and harder. My son was getting very discouraged, and to my devastation I knew that nobody would let me on the ice to hug him or offer him a Timbit (yes, I know – I learned early on that hugs on the ice were not an option). I thought if he could see me, that might help him. I did everything else to get his attention, to give him a thumbs up or a smile. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a spot behind the glass to watch through because the father beside me was now pacing, yelling, and swearing - he may have even been possessed; believe me, it was hard to tell the difference.
At this point I started to get angry, and the thoughts going through my head were not nice. Red Rover, Red Rover, I want to knock this guy in the choker. I wanted to tell him that he could use some of this pent-up energy to spend some much-needed time on the treadmill. I wanted to tell him that when he was sleeping at the hotel that I was going to put his tooth brush in the garbage. I didn’t, but believe me, it took every ounce of restraint not to act on those ridiculous thoughts.
Thankfully one of the other Dad’s on the team came over and stood next to me. He spoke loud enough so the Grim Reaper beside me could hear him. He turned to me and said, “Don’t worry about your boy, he’ll get used to the speed. It took all of the kids a few games to adjust.” I could have cried right then and there. His kind words meant the world to me in that moment. He then turned to the Dad beside me and said, “I think you left the lights in your car on, you might want to go to the parking lot and check.” Within seconds he got rid of the crazy man beside me and I was able to watch the rest of the game in peace. We became fast friends and he managed to take a bad experience and turn it into an amazing friendship. Later that season I asked him if the crazy Dad’s lights were really left on in the parking lot and with a wink and smile, he said, “Of course not, but I thought you could use a break.”
A smile and a kind word go a long way to make a person feel welcome. Don’t be the person swearing from behind the glass, be the person smiling from behind the glass.
Good luck in your upcoming season!
- Written by Allyson Tufts