How could this have happened? I was raised in a good home, attended a reputable university, spent much of my childhood and youth avoiding organized sports, and yet, the truly unthinkable has occurred: I have become a hockey fan.
There is, however, a distinct difference between my level of fanaticism and the guy who cries like a baby when “his” team loses the Stanley Cup during the last period of Game 7. (But frankly, the fact that I know and use the phrase “game 7” concerns me.)
My “poison” is Atom hockey. For those of you less savvy with the lingo, that’s little-kid hockey.
Although I have yet to stop criticizing my husband for the time he wastes as an occasional N.H.L. fan, I now have to consider the feelings of my 10 year old son. I no longer verbally express my opinion and still, my discrete facial contortions are much easier to decipher than the actual point to Don Cherry’s mono syllabic ramblings.
This is a revelation that shocks many of my friends who knew me before I had children. One friend, in particular, is childless and therefore not aware of the parental tendency to regularly eat words spoken pre-kids. A former competitive swimmer, she takes great pleasure in reminding me of my soapbox rants during which I apparently stated that MY children would never play organized sports. Instead, they would enthusiastically participate in many exciting library programs and a variety of other intellectually stimulating, non-competitive activities.
Now, whenever our conversation turns to hockey, I brace myself as she winds up with a cackle and shoots, “Ha! Hockey mom!” directly at me.
Our hockey experience began when our son, Nick, was five. I’m quite sure that first day of the hockey fundamentals program, before his skates were even tied, was the top of my slippery slope.
We were in the car, seatbelts fastened when I realized I had forgotten the camera. My husband, who doesn’t usually indulge my need to photo-document such momentous occasions, no doubt sensed it would be wise to nurture this emerging fondness. He waited patiently while I rushed back into the house.
Now, five years later while watching my son’s games, I have shamelessly joined the other parents in the unusual but wide-spread practice of constantly muttering (SOME MORE LOUDLY THAN OTHERS) useless advice to the players on the ice. “Go! Go! Yes! Shoot! Oh, nice try!” …as if our kids can hear us, or our words have any impact at all on the game.
This change in my personality is entirely the result of Nick’s contagious enthusiasm for the game. Tempting as it is to revert back to my old ways and suggest it’s contagious… just like the flu, I have to admit that I am beginning to wear my “hockey mom” badge with pride – much like the button that bares my son’s smiling face, thankfully with all of his teeth still in place.
I feel the most pride, not in my son’s ability, but in his unwavering commitment to the game. Nick is quite small, but plays hockey like he’s the only one in the arena who doesn’t know this. He’s fast, sharp and intensely focused, and as I watch him play, I easily forget that once the game ends and we’re back at home, he will be exercising a very different set of highly-developed skills: procrastination. We argue, as we always do, about his bedtime as he (very slowly) has a snack, shower and completes his homework.
But I simply can’t help but share his enthusiasm, and admire his commitment to the time he spends on the ice.
Great game, kid! Now brush your teeth and go to bed.