An amazing, heart-felt piece from our favourite writer and hockey mom, Allyson Tufts. Enoy!
My brothers loved Saturday morning hockey, it was a ritual, a necessity, and the opportunity to be with their teammates. My husband used to join them when he could manage to escape me and the kids on the odd Saturday. I honestly don't think I ever understood how important those two (2) hours a week was to a group of guys that used to live on the ice. As marriage and kids became a priority they were now reduced to these two (2) hours of time, once a week, to feel young again.
My brother and his friend Kitch met every Saturday morning. Kitch would pick him up with coffee in hand. He'd have a smile on his face that made him look like a 10 year old about to play pond hockey for the first time. The two (2) of them looked comical on the ice. My brother on skates stood a whopping 5'8" tall and Kitch towered over everyone at 6'5". Although they looked like the odd couple, they were the best of friends. They had met playing ball hockey. After their first game, they went to a party, told stories all night and laughed until their stomachs hurt. In that moment, in that kitchen, at a party in the middle of nowhere, these teammates became brothers. He was always a gentle giant off the ice but a force to be reckoned with on the ice. My brother tells many stories of how he got away with being mouthy as a little guy because he knew nobody would touch him with Kitch towering behind him.
Kitch had played for our local Ontario Hockey League (OHL) team, he moved to our hometown and started billeting with a family at the ripe old age of 17. After his stint with the OHL, he went out east on a hockey scholarship. After graduation he moved back to our little hometown to set down roots. He wanted to come back to the town where he met all of his brothers, his friends, his teammates and his beautiful wife. They built a house next door to his billets and started a family. He literally built his life around the people he met through hockey.
One winter Saturday morning as my husband and I sat in our pajamas drinking coffee, I got a call from one (1) of my brothers. I picked up the phone and I could tell by the trembling voice on the other end that something terrible had happened. Kitch had collapsed on the ice and unfortunately he didn't get back up. My husband had the pleasure of many skates with this incredible man; he was also his teammate. I remember hanging up the phone and having to break the news that Kitch had died on the ice surrounded by his brothers and teammates. We both sat in our pajamas all day in utter shock of the news. In the next few days as we walked around in a haze we all told stories of him, his friends gathered at their favourite watering hole, they cried and they laughed as they spoke of this incredible man.
I think one of the most impactful moments on the day of the funeral was when a group of young Junior players walked in wearing their jerseys from the OHL team where Kitch had played for so many years before. They never played with him but somehow they were still his teammates. In trying to decide on pallbearers it became too difficult. He had played hockey with so many guys that they ended up having over 30 of his former teammates walking in a procession behind his coffin. It was one of the most powerful things I'd ever witnessed. I couldn't help but think that this man had moved here for hockey at 17 years old and didn't know anyone, yet today he filled a church with family, friends and teammates.
I don't think you can ever underestimate the power of the moments in a dressing room with your teammates, those giggles as a seven (7) year old playing tyke, a 15 year old playing Midget or a 40 year old playing Saturday mornings. Those relationships are the ones that will carry you through your adulthood, your wedding, your promotion, your divorce and perhaps those relationships will carry your family through when you no longer can. Is it really as simple as, "They played on my team" or does it come down to, "We started out as teammates and now we're family." Enjoy your moments on the ice with these incredible friends, never take them for granted and most of all, "Never underestimate the power of a teammate."
- Written by Allyson Tufts
About the author:
Allyson Tufts is a new author that has had many meaningful careers to date in non-profit, social work, and human resources. Her proudest accomplishment is that of being a wife and mother. She spent many years watching her son and daughter enjoy their extra curricular activities. Nothing could prepare her for the stress of standing behind her son's net for his debut as a goalie. As her experiences as a Hockey Mom started to pile up, she realized that not only were they funny, most importantly, they could be helpful to other parents going through their own experiences watching their kids play. She decided to take the leap and put her stories into her first book and so was born, “Lessons from Behind the Glass”.
Since the launch of the book in 2015, she’s sold thousands of copies in both Canada and the United States. She’s had the opportunity to speak to the senior staff and President of Hockey Canada. Most recently she has partnered with BC Hockey and Hockey Eastern Ontario to create a video series for parents based on the lessons from her book.
This article is the property of Allyson Tufts and is not to be used without her permission. To learn more about Allyson Tufts or to purchase the book, please visit www.lessonsfrombehindtheglass.com.