Cold mornings at arenas and weekend tournaments weren’t part of this parent’s reality, until she agreed to help out.
Let me make one thing clear: I am not a hockey mom. I did not grow up in a hockey family, had never even seen a hockey game until about five years ago, and couldn’t have cared less. But it’s safe to say that, at 47, hockey changed my life.
True story: the day after my son was born, his dad (who played competitive hockey until he was 17, not entirely by his own choice) cradled him in his arms and whispered, “It’s okay if you don’t want to play hockey.” Alas, as soon as Sam could walk, he wanted to be on skates, and by six he didn’t want to be on the ice without a hockey stick — the game was in his DNA. Thus began our Saturday morning rink ritual. Turns out he was pretty good. Good enough that he made a rep team when he was nine. He was on the ice four or five times a week, and our whole family (including his grandparents) came out to watch every game and cheer him on. I started to love watching him play.
But I still didn’t feel like a hockey mom.
A year later Sam joined another rep team. After the first practice, the head coach walked up to me and another player’s mom. “We need a manager,” he said. “Do either of you want to do it?” We looked at each other like we had been asked if we wanted to wash a live scorpion down with a shot of sulphuric acid. “Uh… Sure. I guess. Maybe we could do it together?” We knew it would be a ton of work, but neither of us felt we could say no. “Great,” said the coach as he shuffled into the dressing room. “I’ll call you guys and we’ll get together and get started.”
That first meeting was a whirlwind of budgets and jersey orders, rosters and schedules. Which tournaments should we go to? Can we book the ice for our twice-weekly practices? What about fundraising ideas — and should we try to get a sponsorship? My head was spinning…what had I gotten myself into? This co-manager thing was starting to sound like a full time job. I really did want to help out, but maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew.
Yes, it’s a commitment, but you will end up loving it.
I said as much to my best friend the next day over coffee. Her response was unequivocal: Do it. Don’t even think twice. Yes, it’s a commitment, but you will end up loving it. You will feel so happy to have done it when the season is over. Trust me.
And so I leapt in, feet first. My co-manager Julie and I spent the next couple of months figuring everything out together. We emailed, texted and called each other (and the head coach) constantly about every detail. My suspicion was right, it really was like a full time job. (All three of us had some work flexibility; no idea how people who have demanding full time jobs ever run their kids’ hockey teams).
But it was so much fun. The parents — all of them — were helpful, kind, and very, very thankful for our hard work. The kids started to form bonds, both on and off the ice, and our rag tag group started to come together and play like a team. And the dedication, passion and hard work of our three coaches (all dads with kids on the team) was humbling.
We ended up making it to the finals. There were so many memorable moments, but one stands out. In one of our final games, two of our players scored their first goals of the year. Shy and hesitant, they had started off among the weakest players on the team, but had both improved tremendously over the season. When they walked out of the dressing room, faces beaming, I went over and put my arms around them, leaned in and told them they had won the game for us that night. The pride on their faces is something that will stay with me for a long time. This, I thought, is the reason I said yes. This made it all worthwhile.
I suddenly realized I had become a hockey mom — not to one boy, but to 15. And my best friend was right, I felt incredibly lucky to have been a part of it all.
Sara Curtis is a freelance writer, voice artist and mother of two in Toronto.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, Nov/Dec 2016.