Dear Hockey family,
Tomorrow is our last day together.
When the final buzzer sounds, the hands are shook, and our sons take their final salute off the ice, our six-months journey together comes to a close.
Those first practices were wrought with uncertainty as we waded through tides of a seven- year-old’s self doubt, the murky waters of complete commitment, and the arduous prospect of fundraising. Those September days were spent with children stumbling on the ice and parents hesitantly hovering awkwardly at arms length of each other.
As the season progressed so too did the team, and the seeds of family were sown.
Our sons embodied the numbers on their backs, the wings on their helmets, and the colours of their jerseys. We watched, as one by one, their names changed and their identity strengthened. Loyalty transitioned from a vague concept to a way of life.
Slowly they grew from boys who would lean on the shoulders of their parents, relying on them to tie skates, fasten knee pads, and clasp helmets, to young men, self sufficient and basking in the profound pleasure of a parent-free dressing room.
As they matured together, the parents bonded. Each taking the other’s child under their wing; an unlimited supply of high-fives and roaring cheers of encouragement. I have never known a community of parents, who otherwise would never have met, to extend so much love, so much interest in the lives of a stranger’s child.
Coaches who gave each young player the courage to see the world from the eyes of a team; the courage to hustle through assuredness and self-doubt; awakening the responsibility and reward of promise and sportsmanship, and teaching that teamwork, passing, and being dependable are worth more than all the goals in the world. Coaches who brought kids out of their shells; who played and joked and held them upside down in garbage cans ; who brought them on road trips; and who took the lonely kids under their wings when strong male bonds were needed or briefly absent.
Our manager, our matriarch, held us together,ensured our bond, and breathed life and cultivated a family out of a motley of newcomers. How do you repay someone who believes unconditionally in the potential of hockey in the lives of children?
Our player’s siblings. The younger ones, at the rink every early morning and late night. Sometimes cheerful, sometimes engaged, sometimes cantankerous and finished altogether with hockey, but always in awe of their brothers. The older one’s, sacrificing free Saturday mornings to teach our children how to shoot pucks and circle pylons. Demonstrating the stride and dexterity of a (slightly) more seasoned hockey player. Inspiring, confidence bearing, exceptional young men. Role models we, as parents, are proud to see our younger sons aspire to.
We have shared in so much life in six short months. Winning streaks; hard losses; a new man; one man less; a knee injury that was felt compassionately by each player; a hotel stay that will be etched in our collective memories always; an uncontrollable fever that took one man away from the weekend of his year; first goals; hard hats; bottle drives; theatre productions; play dates; road hockey until dark; university idols; Fans of the Game; fierce friendships; brotherhood.
Tomorrow our family says goodbye. Hockey sticks will be traded in for ball gloves and shin pads. We will move independently to the summer family awaiting us on baseball diamonds and soccer fields.
When September returns some of us will mix in with new players, some of us will move up, some of us will move away. But I think, no matter where we tread, this first season, this first family, will be a beacon. One lighting our way, always in our hearts, and set as a precedent for what awaits us in the rinks to come. We will always be able to aspire greatness for our sons’ hockey experience on and off the ice, not only in terms of skill, but in terms of maturity and growth as individuals; as young men.
In our little group, while not every boy dreams of greatness, each is a Great One in his own right, and this is a direct result of the family he has been raised in this last half a year.
Thank you, dear Hockey family.
I am honoured that my son skated alongside your sons. I am proud to have cheered with you and stood along the boards with you.
Good luck, always.
Written by Leigha Chiasson-Locke