I never thought I would have anything in common with Sarah Palin aside from being biologically female. However, I have to admit, there is something we both share. I am a hockey mom. And so is she. Remember that whole lipstick-pitbull-hockey mom quote from 2008? (That being said, that is where the similarity ends.)
Yes, it's true. I am a hockey mom. I am the one who wakes up at 4:45 a.m. to drive to away games. I am the one who screams from the sidelines to cheer on her son and his teammates. I am possibly the loudest parent -- the one who (if I must be completely honest) frustrates other parents in the stands. (I can't help it. I know that my son can hear my grating voice yelling for the team.) I am also the parent who volunteered to share a team manager position with a far more seasoned and organized hockey mom. (Sorry about that, Lisa, you definitely got the short end of the stick. Pardon the pun.)
My love of the sport developed over time. I grew up in a house with a father who didn't play it, but loved it. Our dad took my sister and me to games at Nassau Coliseum and while he cheered on the New York Rangers, much to the dismay of the home crowd Islanders fans, I learned all sorts of profanity from the drunk guys who sat behind us. (I am certain that my love of four letter words comes from those nights in Uniondale.)
Hockey was the spectator sport for my father, but I didn't play hockey. I really didn't know anyone who did. Imagine my surprise when I met the man who would be my husband and he was a hockey player: he played as a child, at college, and still to this day, he plays in a men's league.
When our son, Maverick, decided to take up hockey, I really didn't know if it was for him or for his father. That's a tough spot to be in as a parent; weighing your own dreams against those of your child. Today, there is no question that while the inspiration may have come from my husband, Mav's commitment and love for the game is all his own.
Until becoming a real life hockey mom, going to MSG to root for the Rangers (yes, I turned) was fun, but I wouldn't have chosen it over a night out to dinner or, well, a bar. But now I understand the game. I know what offside and icing mean, I know what hooking looks like, I recite lines from Slapshot in my sleep, and I have no problem screaming when a ref makes a bad call. (Though of course, I would never do that last thing at my kid's game. She says with a wink.)
I guess what I am trying to say is that I never expected to love this hockey mom job. And more importantly, I never realized how much these kids -- and their coaches -- would teach me.
It is important to know that until this past December, our travel Squirt team was 0-20-something-1. We were the Bad News Bears with sober (and engaged) coaches. We were a mess. We didn't gel. We couldn't win a game. I don't want you to think that this is a league where every kid gets a trophy. It's not. This is the big league. Or as big as you can get for nine and ten year olds.
It would have been easy for the kids to check out or give up. It would have been just as easy for the parents to do so, too. (And when you're schlepping all over New York and its boroughs, believe me, this would have been really easy.) To say that every game was demoralizing is an understatement. After 20-something losses, even those of us who believe in the "Never Quit" philosophy get a little shaky in their convictions.
Those kids didn't give up, nor did their coaches. Four times a week they would be out on the ice skating. On evenings after school. On weekends. Practicing. Drilling. Taking extra skills' clinics. Fighting to have a chance.
It is now five and one half months since these boys got together on the ice for the first time. And the tides have turned. They ignored the trash talk of other teams. They hustled on the ice and skated hard. They focused on the details of the game. They started to win. There is no question that they are a team. And even though their league is relatively small, they fought their way into the last playoff spot. Who would have ever thought that they could pull it together? Honestly, it wasn't the parents; it was the kids. They believed in each other. And the coaches believed in them.
I asked some of the kids what kept them going these last few months. This is what they told me:
We had fun.
We were told not to give up.
We worked our hardest in practice and in games.
Our coaches kept us up and convinced us that we got better in every game.
We love hockey and even though we like winning, we love playing more.
For me as a parent, as a hockey parent, what could be better than hearing that your children love what they're doing, that they're committed to a team, and that they have coaches and mentors who believe in them? As adults, isn't that exactly what we need in our own lives: to love what we do, to be supportive of those around us, and to have the trust and encouragement of people we trust?
In the end, I have no idea whether or not hockey is in my child's long term future, but for now, I can confidently say this: I couldn't be happier.