Is this really his final team hockey picture? We started this journey back in 2004 and had no idea that we were about to become a full fledged traveling hockey family on a ride that would last 14 years!
14 years later that picture shows a young man standing over 6 feet tall with a confident smile that tells me two things. First he is ready to take on the next chapter, which is college that starts in August. And secondly that every cent we spent on hockey, every trip we took, every sweet victory we shared and even the heartbreaking disappointments that our son sometimes shared alone and sometimes with a team was worth it all. And here is why I say that….
We supported his surprising request (we live in Phoenix after all) to take a hockey lesson at age four. We never looked back but instead chose to always look forward during the good times and hard times. And there were way more good times than bad I am happy to say. Mostly big smiles like this one…
He worked hard and through the years he went from a house team to a travel team and then even played on a AAA team! Boy we were excited for him that year! And this team even went to Nationals and came in a very respectable 2nd place, which shocked those teams from all around the nation that didn’t think desert kids could play real hockey. What a year that was!
That painful year when he didn’t make the team (and almost all of his buddies did make the team)….oh my goodness…was that a tough pill to swallow! That happened more than once.
But you know what? I wouldn’t change it.
Because our son learned how to deal with disappointments those years and still attend the games to support his friends that did make the team. He also learned humility and that has served him well and that has been noticed by teachers, coaches and employers.
Sometimes the hardest life lessons and disappointments are the most valuable, although it sure doesn’t feel that way at the time.
Hockey is a big commitment and costs time and money, but as long as our son was thoroughly enjoying this crazy, action packed fun sport, we supported him. Our #1 request was that he continue to make good grades, especially since this activity was costing us money that should be going into his college savings account!
Our other request was that he behave and be a decent gentleman and one who gives back since he was fortunate enough to be able to play this expensive game. The hockey teams did a good job of giving back to the community, like the several consecutive years that our son and my hubs put on pink hockey team shirts and walked in the downtown Phoenix cancer walk. This picture was taken so long ago now after one of those fund raising walks that make a difference.
Our boy kept up his end of the deal and has been offered nice academic scholarships to several colleges that have offset the money we spent on his hockey years.
He has also been a decent young man. Through the years, his coaches told their players that they also expected this of their team. It is very helpful to parents when coaches also tell kids that they need to behave and that their social media pages will be checked. Thank you coaches. It takes a village!
Our son made friendships with little hockey dudes who are now 18 and 19 year old young men, some already playing far away on Junior hockey teams (a big accomplishment for those friends and we are so excited for them) and some busy making their college plans now, along with our son.
He learned compassion when teammates got injured on the ice and they showed compassion to him as well. This picture of his teammate, Colten (now also 18 years old) helping my injured boy off the ice still warms my heart as much as it did that day. And compassion was learned especially when he experienced several friends lose moms and dads along the way. Like the time our son and his entire team wore their jerseys to a funeral for a teamate’s beloved mother. The team bond lifted those heartbroken kids and all cherished life a little bit more from when the season had started.
Our hockey trips became our family vacations and ended up being some of our best memories, like our summer trip to Canada one year.
The last trip to Nationals happened several weeks after our son had a cancer scare and had to endure a biopsy. What a reality check to go from a children’s hospital to a hockey rink 2,000 miles away in just a matter of weeks! The trophy photo is the win that sent the team to Nationals and our joy was so big since we had just been through the ultrasound, MRI and biopsy a few weeks earlier.
At Nationals, our team went undefeated until overtime in the championship game where we lost by one goal. Quiet tears from all of our players, parents and coaches that came from the roller coaster ride that the Nationals game had taken us on….and to lose in that last second was both heartbreaking and breathtaking.
Hockey gave us that. Those coaches gave us that. We were able to invest the time and money to give that to our son. So 14 years later, one broken wrist, one broken tailbone, one bruised ankle bone, thousands of traveled miles later…I can say that the ride was at times heartbreaking, but mostly breathtaking and those memories, both on the ice and off, were worth it all.
These memories are locked away in my heart and I think in our son’s heart as well. He always knew that he had our support, whether we were waving a big fan head poster or standing off to the side quietly observing a tough game.
Someone recently asked me what our parenting secret is and how have we been so lucky to have two kids who are respectful to adults, do well in school and seem well adjusted. Of course we have had our challenges, too and that comes with parenting!
However, I was so complimented by that question that it really made me think. I was asked that several times again and I thought even harder about it. Of course, some of this is luck because parenting is flying by the seat of your pants! I also believe that time invested in a child reaps rewards. In our case with our son, the activity was hockey that was completely driven by him. We didn’t persuade him to play or to not play hockey. He came to us and we supported it.
We invested the time in him and we drove him to every practice, game, flew to hockey tourneys and made sure that 98% of the time we were there and that he could see us through the glass.
The older they get, the less they look at you….but they do look FOR you, believe me.
I also believe that part of the equation is that it does take a village and we have amazing grandparents, teachers and hockey coaches, too. Accountability and consequences are also part of the equation. And when we had questions or concerns, we asked the coaches later instead of yelling it from the stands. Our son told us that he really did appreciate that. And that isn’t always easy to do when it is your kid that isn’t being played or your kid that takes an unfair hit that the refs don’t call. (Well I may have yelled out once or twice now that I think about it, but I kept my cool for the most part!) No not easy, but our son appreciated our decision to think things through, talk it over with him and then talk to the coach.
So thank you hockey! 14 years later as I get ready to hang up my worn out and treasured hockey mom hat, I salute the sport, the coaches, the awesome hockey parents. It has been quite the ride, both for our son and for us, too. From scoring a big goal as a little guy….
This Sunday I will be asked to step out on the ice with the other mothers of the senior hockey players for senior recognition night. I will be wearing that worn out old hockey mom cap and maybe that will hide my quiet tears. Tears that reflect years of hockey mom happiness, anxious tryout waits, joy and sometimes sadness coming to a close.
Someone once told me that the present is called present because it is a gift. So for all of you tired hockey parents out there getting ready to write another check or tend to a broken bone or book another tournament flight, as long as you have good quality coaches and your kid is really enjoying every second of it, then I can tell you it is worth it.
And if your kid doesn’t make a team or has a big disappointment (that happens with all sports and activities at one time or another), you may just look back someday and be thankful for those moments, too. I still can’t believe how fast we went from this to this….
But in the meantime, enjoy! Because before you know it, you will be putting on your old worn out hockey mom hat one last time, too.
Did I make any of the hockey Moms reading this cry?!
And this article can truly cover all kinds of sports, activities, clubs and more….Here’s to all the parents out there who drive, cheer, volunteer, attend, comfort and yes, tear up with every game, every victory, every tryout, every loss, every audition, every memory. Cherish it 🙂