When I was young, there weren't any hockey teams in the South, much less in Florida, where I grew up. (I'm not sure if there were any ice rinks in the South, for that matter.) There weren't hockey games on the television; football is king in the South and the fall meant SEC rivalries, not the start of the hockey season.
All I knew about hockey was the brief clips I'd occasionally see on ESPN, and those were mostly fights. When I was in college, I watched a hockey game at a bar in Tallahassee that had satellite tv, and I was bored to tears. It's brutal, I said at the time. Uncivilized.
And then this small town Southern girl moved to the Chicago suburbs and before I'd had a chance to buy a real coat, got dragged to a hockey game at the old Chicago Stadium. I remember the parking lot was a sheet of ice, and friends pretty much took me by each arm and slid me across the ice, kindly turning mostly deaf ears to my nonstop bitching about the brutal, ridiculous cold.
Then, the game. I don't remember who the Blackhawks played, but I remember the National Anthem. And by the end of the first period, I was standing on my seat, screaming at the players who were fighting next to the glass. "Hit him! Hit him!"
Civility be damned; I was hooked.
Fast forward a few years and many Blackhawks games later (although by now at the United Center, sadly) and I had a young skater who wanted to play hockey. Not so fast, I said. It's dangerous. Brutal. My baby could get hurt. But the boy and his father were adamant about being on a team, and so I set about investigating every piece of hockey equipment young hockey players wear, and why, and manufacturers, and materials and....yes, I was that mom.
If I thought I liked hockey, I truly fell in love the first time my son skated off the ice after his first tryout, with the biggest grin on his face I'd ever seen. Because he loved it so, I couldn't help but love it, too.
I've been to hundreds- probably over one thousand- hockey games. Both my younger sons played club hockey, and then college hockey, and both are goalies. I've cheered at amazing, stand-on-your-head saves and winced in sympathy at soft goals. I've bought a bazillion bottles of Gatorade, traveled tens of thousands of miles, and washed more disgustingly stinky hockey jerseys than I care to remember.
Hockey has brought my sons opportunities and broadened their horizons. I've packed up and headed out the day after Christmas for Canadian tournaments and spent Thanksgiving weekends trying to juggle two kids in two different tournaments at 2 (or 3 or 4) different weeks. My sons have met their share of famous hockey people, and all have been kind and gracious with their time with the next generation of hockey lovers.
(A special shout out to Chris Chelios, who unexpectedly sat with my youngest son's hockey team at their table in his restaurant in Detroit for over an hour, answering their questions, and acting like he was just one of the guys. Truly a class act, even if he played for the RedWings.)
I've been to veeeerrry slow and charmingly unskilled Mite games and I've been to NHL playoff games and I've loved every second of them all. Hockey is the most amazing game with some of the nicest, most generous people you'll ever meet. I know the stereotype of hockey parents is the noob getting into a fight in the parking lot after a game, but 99% of the parents (okay, 93%) are fantastic.
I've loved every minute of it of being a hockey mom. I've made lifelong friends who have been the ballast during rocky times. Hockey taught my boys to be fearless and steadfast, and it has taught me that everything evens out in the end- even bad calls by the ref. Sometimes the bounce goes your way, and sometimes it doesn't. That's hockey...and that's life.
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