When asked to do a story about when Hockey was Simple, I have to admit I never really thought there was anything simple about hockey. I’m a school teacher and have heard many stories of politics in hockey at the high school level and at younger ages. Having kids that played hockey was never anything I was too excited about because I knew that once my kids started, it could be all consuming on our day’s off. When my son was only four years old, my husband wanted to register him for hockey. We argued many times over the hockey debate concerning whether he was too young to start and then we decided to put him into a “learn to skate” program instead. After a year and a half of this program, we felt like it was time to register him for the ‘Under 7’ team.
I didn’t realize that the “Under 7 Team” meant we were driving to the rink at ungodly hours for this five and half year old to learn hockey skills. Every time I’d wake up on a Saturday and Sunday morning to get him ready, I didn’t see the value in the time and money we were dolling out for a child this age. I also didn’t realize that many kids would be more advanced than he was already, but this didn’t seem to faze him at all. He loved it. He loved the uniform and he loved putting his equipment on. You couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face as he dragged that huge hockey bag into the rink. He was super excited when he’d walk in the arena and see his friends from school. He thought it was so cool to see them somewhere other than in his classroom, he loved that they were going to be on the ice too.
Early on, he was one of the slower skaters and was always a little behind when they’d do the drills. Although he could skate, he had trouble keeping up with some of the other players. We noticed each week that about half way through the practice he was spending a lot of time in the net. We asked him about it and he said he always gets tired trying to skate as fast as the rest of the kids. He was using the net as a little rest stop. It always bothered Chris if he couldn’t keep up, whether it was in school, on the playground, or the ice – he really liked to be in the middle of things. I wasn’t surprised when he came to us and asked for roller blades. He had watched his friends in the neighbourhood skating with them and he wanted to play too. I loved the idea of him playing outside and getting exercise, so we were happy to get him a pair. The first day he had his new rollerblades he was out for five hours and he was flying. A few weeks later we went to practice and he had no problem keeping up. He had the biggest smile on his face and didn’t go anywhere near the net. In Chris’s way, he found a way to keep up. He was determined to learn to skate as well as the rest of his friends. I don’t know who was more excited: him or me? Spoken like a true Hockey Mom!
His “learn to skate” program and “Under 7 Team” is now over for the year and he misses it terribly. He has taken his game to the road and wants to play road hockey on his roller blades all the time. As a Mom who thought the whole “hockey” thing at five years old was a crazy idea – I have to admit I have loved watching him evolve into this little skater. I also loved watching all the kids on the ice evolve as the months went by. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but seeing young kids learn, grow, and have fun at the same time is invaluable.
Once COVID hit, I was no longer able to watch him for every skate. My husband and I had to take turns. I caught myself reminding him to take a ton of videos so I wouldn’t miss a minute. I will admit I really missed standing in a freezing arena, watching my boy learn about hockey. I guess what I’m saying is, I get it now. Whether it’s roller blades or ice skates, whatever Chris is wearing that allows him to play hockey puts the biggest smile on his face. I get why Mom and Dad’s spend hours travelling, waking up early and paying for the chance to see their child play the game they love. I can’t wait to see him in action next year – his smile is priceless!
-Written by Allyson Tufts