At a time of year when there is a lot of talk about Christmas gifts and giving, my story of “When Hockey was Simple” is the story of a gift that was given to me by a man I have yet to thank. A gift that changed my life and my parent’s perspective about the game of hockey.
I know there are a million stories about crazy hockey parents, parents that pushed their kids too hard, or parents that wanted to live vicariously through their kids playing the game. In my home, that just wasn’t case. I often think my brother and I won the lottery with my parents. They are good people, they work hard and they loved us unconditionally. Most of all, they are extremely modest people and have always expected the same from us.
I started playing House League hockey when I was about six-years-old. I caught on fairly quickly and I absolutely loved it from the moment I stepped onto the ice. I was old enough to know there was higher levels. I knew playing at a higher level meant more ice time and a lot more time in the car. My parents never encouraged it because they weren’t too sure what all it entailed. Looking back, I often wonder if it also had something to do with money, but it’s something we’ve never discussed to this day.
One day a coach from the select team approached Mom and Dad and asked if I could play for him. I so wanted to play and could hardly contain my excitement. I think this man could see it all over my face. My parents didn’t jump at the idea and, if I remember correctly, they seemed pretty ready to turn him down. He asked if he could come to the house and discuss it in person. Being the polite people that they are, they agreed. He came over and told them what to expect, what was involved as far as travel, and the financial commitment. He even offered for them to make payments if money was an issue. After speaking to him, my parents agreed to let me play. Without realizing it, that meeting changed all of our lives.
My brother was a few years younger than me and he loved the game as much as I did. It wasn’t long before he started to play higher level hockey as well. With two kids traveling to play hockey, our parents sacrificed a lot of weekends for us – one was in one car and one was in the other going in two different directions. I bet if you asked them today, they’d never give up those car rides and games with us. I’m sure they’d love to thank him too. I honestly don’t know if he’d even remember this story, maybe he met with a lot of parents, but for me, it’s something I’ll never forget.
Sometimes gifts aren’t always something you can unwrap. Sometimes the best gifts are a gesture from a stranger that changes your life forever. I joined his team and I’ve loved the game ever since. One day, I will get the opportunity to tell him to his face that the conversation he had with my parents about hockey will always be one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
- Written by Allyson Tufts