I am a hockey mom

I just want you to know I’m not one of those hockey moms

But sometimes I wish I was.

My daughter’s team was in a hockey tournament recently in Cornwall and alongside the usual pre-game superstitions (mostly her), chips and wine in bed (mostly me) and juicing up the Jambox (both of us), her team made it to the semi-finals of the tournament – a game that they , the Hungry Hippos,  sadly lost to hometown rivals, The Ugly Pucklings (the nicknames girls’ hockey teams give themselves is an entirely different blog post).

One of her round robin games saw them play a team from the Outaouais region just across Quebec border from Ottawa. It was not a pretty game. We tied 1-1 but not before our trainer had to tend to two Hippos who’d been checked by girls on this team (girls hockey is non-contact by rule but not always in practice), and saw the opposing team accumulate 8 minor penalties in one game. I’m don’t think my daughter’s  team accumulated 8 minor penalties in the entire season last year. To make matters worse, one of their team members accumulated 5 of those penalties, and the coach then saw it fit to nominate her for player of the game. Not only is that bad coaching and parenting, but let’s agree that that is bad everything.

It was one of those games that gives hockey a bad reputation. Thankfully, the game finished with no real havoc and no serious injury.

The havoc started when we got home from the weekend – when I get to talk about my stellar parenting.

I should have just let it go, but I was irked, and the game became the subject of our family dinner conversation on Monday evening.

“You would not  believe this team,” I shared with the boys. “Eight penalties in one game! Five to one player! And the coach gives her Player of the Game. Can you believe it?”

My son asked, “ Did you yell at the ref? Did you and another hockey mom go at it?”

That’s when it happened. I faked it. I faked the bad ass hockey mom.

“You bet I did! The refs were totally useless! And then you know what else I did? I stood up and yelled at the other parents. Oh yeah. I gave them a piece of my mind – and a piece of my hot dog. That’s when it really got going. I stood up and screamed “what kind of a goon show is this?” and one of the other hockey moms told me to shut up and then the coach of their team told me to shut up. Then, this other hockey mom and I got into it in the stands. Then you know what I did? I spit on her. Oh yeah. I spit on her. That b!tch was asking for it, you know it!”

They stared at me.

They know I did nothing like that at all. *Sigh*

“Well … well,” I stammered, “I wanted to do!” I said. “I’m totally going to do it next time.”

I’m such a rebel … in my dreams ….

“Ice cream, anyone?”
 

777I was tagged by Lesley Donaldson in the 7-7-7 Challenge in which writers are invited to share seven lines from the seventh page of their work in progress, starting from the seventh line. Lesley’s urban fiction book “The Queen’s Viper” is due out in the spring of 2015 and her non-fiction book, “Growing A Rainbow: The Premature Journey of a Two Pound Hero” will be on sale imminently.

The seventh page of my manuscript happens to be a blank page (chapter separator) so already this challenge did not bode well for my marketing.  So I cheated a little. The number “7” is a lucky number, after all, right? Well, not for me as this story unfolds …

Below are seven lines from the eighth page of my manuscript “Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom”.

My husband, Peter, turned from packing balaclavas, thermo ski mitts, and HotShots hand warmers into the ski bag and said, “He’s going to find out, you know.”

“Find out what?” I asked innocently, though I knew only too well what he was referring to.

“Right . . . ,” he answered, rolling his eyes heavenward.

“Well, I’m not taking full blame for this one, buddy!” I snapped back as he continued shoving ski helmets into the bag. “I learned to ski for you! Our kids learned to ski for us! We’re a skiing family, and that’s final!” I bellowed, and hammered my fist onto the kitchen counter.

I knew he was right, though. Connor was going to find out sooner or later that we’d lied, that first-year hockey starts at age four, and that even though this had been a mutual decision between my husband and me, odds were good Connor was going to blame me. That’s motherhood for you.

These lines set the stage for a fourteen-year odyssey which continues to this day: my après-ski life as a hockey mom. I am hopeful that my book, Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom” will soon be published. Stay tuned!

I am supposed to now play  this forward to a few authors that I know. These incredibly talented women are very busy, so I am putting NO pressure on them to participate but I know they have a few great projects in their quills and inkwells!

Amy Sherman, Barbara Cooley, Sharon Enck,Brenda MoguezBonnie Jean Feldkamp and Kimberly Dalferes? Whatcha workin’ on?

Well, that’s it. My kids’ minor hockey seasons are over for another year. I realize I’ve done a lot of whining over the past thirteen years about how crazy our hockey schedule can be. Not this year, though. This year was different.

This year my son Connor had a valid driver’s license and could drive himself to his hockey games and practices. Yes, that achievement calls for bolding and italicizing. It’s the pinnacle of hockey parenting. It’s kind of like that first time your kids were old enough to be left at home without a babysitter, only better because this time they’re old enough to go out by themselves and you’re the one being left at home by yourself (where the heaters actually work).

At first I was a little nervous about his driving alone especially at night and in this crazy never winter we’ve had.  I quickly realized I’d died and gone to heaven (also known as the section of the stands where the heaters actually work). I did not even have to leave the house. I could put on my comfy pants, bunny slipper and pour myself a glass of pinot grigio.

Of course, I did go to as many games as possible (and not always in my comfy pants, bunny slippers and with my glass of pinto grigio). I haven’t been a hockey mom for thirteen years just because I like canteen coffee. I actually do enjoy a good hockey game and my kids have always made me proud.

But the pressure was off me – kind of like having a two-goal lead when we’re not even the Home team.

But as we all know, a two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. Just as quickly as my chauffeuring him to the arena had come to a screeching halt, so did my son’s minor hockey season. He’s eighteen now, and graduating high school this year and (likely) off to university in the fall with its dorm living, intramural hockey and all those other experiences that I will no longer hear about on a daily basis.

When the 2014-2015 hockey season rolls around in five months, I’ll be down to one hockey player in this family.  And though my car still bears all the badges of a hockey mom that shuttled three kids around to various practices, games, hotels and tournaments (like stray water bottles and few French fries from 2009 languishing under the car seats), it’ll undoubtedly be a quieter season.  Less skates to sharpen and less hockey bags to trip over in the garage.

I still probably have about four years of girls’ hockey ahead of me, so it’s far too early for ‘end of an era’ drivel.

But it is the end of an era … the end of my son’s thirteen year minor hockey odyssey. That makes him that much closer to being a man than being a Timbit, and much closer to beer league play, than minor league play.

And that makes me snivel just a little.  I may have to go drown my empty-rink sorrows at the local pub.

Oh but wait … he can drive me!

And just like that … all is good in the world again.

If the regular hockey season is responsible for my proclivity for coffee and pinot grigio, then the minor hockey playoff season is to blame for my increasingly regular consumption of energy drinks and tequila.

playoff ladder

The intensity of the playoff season is largely due to its unpredictability. Until the regular season league standings are final, we never know who we will face first in the playoffs, when the games will be, where the games will be and what practices will now be added to the schedule – or even if we’ll make the playoffs at all!  Hockey dads have no doubt analyzed numerous playoff scenarios and while I’m reasonably certain these scenarios where rhymed off several times over various dinner conversations, I think I tuned out around mid-January!

There is an entirely different atmosphere around playoff hockey, filled with traditions and superstitions.  Although most players are too young to sport playoff beards (at least until about Midget level anyway), nothing says ‘playoffs’ to a minor hockey player like a new outrageous hairstyle.  I really thought I’d seen the last of the mullet in my high school years, but it makes an unfortunately popular comeback around playoff time. And in striking contrast to the mullet, another playoff favourite is the military buzz.  The mane of choice for my two boys was decidedly the “hockey flow”.  A respectable playoff flow necessitates serious lock-nurturing of this long-ish hair (meaning, sporting a toque or baseball cap pretty much 24/7 to “get her goin’.”). If you ask me, a flow is just a millennial mullet (but no one is asking me).

Playoff hockey also intensifies players’ irrational behaviours.  Superstitions that are typically reserved for just the goalies during the regular season suddenly become major team events during playoffs. It could be the same t-shirt, the same toque or ball cap, and yes, even the same socks, all to be worn with religious regularity and without interruption right through to the Championship game – or elimination (which I am forbidden to speak of except in secret hand signals to my husband). The same goes for seating arrangements in the dressing room, and even in the car during carpools.Those who aren’t quite daring enough to trim their locks (meaning their mom didn’t give them permission) may be otherwise playoff-inspired to tint their locks (if their mom gives them permission). A whole bench of Billy Idol look-alikes.  Girls’ playoff hockey hair is certainly not left out in the cold either, as the low-lights in various team colours are decidedly playoff chic.

faceoff

Is it just me or does it seem that, between the hair, the rituals, the music and the whatnot, the more painstaking the preparation for playoffs, the sooner the team is eliminated from action? I wouldn’t dare say so before or during playoffs – that’s an epic jinx – but sometimes the lead up to the playoffs lasts longer than the playoffs themselves!  Oh well. At least their fashions are all set for NHL playoffs, and hopefully I can finally wash those socks!

So what is my best advice for survival of the post-season?  Take it one superstition and one tank of gas at a time.

Now, where’s my shaker of salt?

 

The Ontario Minor Hockey Association is expanding its existing Respect In Sport training program aimed at ensuring a safe and enjoyable atmosphere for all to enjoy Canada’s great sport of hockey. The association plans to make it mandatory for all coaches, on-ice volunteers, on-ice officials, and at least one parent from each registered player to take this course effective the 2014/2015 hockey season.

hockey_stick_and_a_puck2“Canada’s leading online bullying, abuse, harassment and negligence prevention program for parents, coaches and community leaders” takes about an hour, costs about $12 and is offered online… and will soon be mandatory if your child plans on playing hockey.

I know why Hockey Canada implemented this program and why OMHA is making this mandatory. I’ve been to hockey games where a few parents have gotten out of hand and yelled at the officials, yelled at the (child) players, yelled at each other.  I’ve been to hockey games where the officials themselves seem bent on punishing one kid, or one team or one coach.  I’ve seen coaches be issued a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct (usually the stands are too far away to hear what that unsportsmanlike conduct is all about). I’m pretty sure what the association is doing is trying to deflect the current image the sport that hockey holds to some.  In short, they no doubt hope to curb the behaviour of ‘hockey parents from hell’ and prevent videos like this one

from ever taking place and ever going viral.

But on the whole, it’s quite rare.

As a fourteen-year hockey mom veteran, I can say so.  I can also say the only time I misbehave at hockey is when there’s no Tim Horton’s in a 2km radius of the arena (and, if you live in Canada, you know that would be a long shot). I can’t believe a sports association is making this a condition of my child’s participation.  The wrong group is being asked to set the example for, and fund, the rehabilitation of the few bad apples. Plus, I’m really bad at tests. What is there’s a final and I fail? Who’ll take my kids to practice then?  Hmmm, on second thought, maybe a ‘fail’ would be a ‘win’ after all!

The goal of hockey is to have fun. As if the cost of hockey hasn’t become prohibitive enough, this is just another potential barrier to getting kids into this national sport of ours.   Hockey is not an elitist sport but to suggest that specialized training is required of the parents for their children to even participate, sets it above other sports.

Rather than collect $12 from the vast majority of hockey coaches, officials and parents who are there for the kids for all the right reasons, why not levy a fine on those relatively few hockey parents that are offside? Suspend them, fine them, and ban them if necessary.  My parents taught me how to behave in public and I’m trying to do the same by my own.

If you have no respect in life, you will have no respect in sport, and no $12 training program will change that.

<steps down from soap box >

 

I keep all my New Year’s resolutions to myself – that way no one can hold me to them.

alcohol freeAs many of my friends know, every January I abstain from alcohol.  Stop laughing, I’m serious. This annual resolution – or 1/12th of a resolution – seems to be difficult to keep to myself and elicits much commentary by my friends and family alike. They are all very supportive, in a this-I-gotta-see kind of way.

I do this because, like many, I tend to overindulge in the all manners of food and beverage during December and have convinced myself that abstaining from alcohol for one month will set my life back to  Zen.  No way am I giving up comfort good in January so alcohol seems to be the appropriate sinful pleasure to slash instead of slosh. I’m pretty sure I can pull this off. God knows I was pregnant three times and breastfed three kids while abstaining from alcohol. But as the gap has grown considerably between the present day and my birthing and breastfeeding days, and I find it more and more of a challenge to do this annual “cleanse” – or is just because now I am mother to three teenagers? Judging from my Christmas presents, my teenagers may also think it’s a challenge for me.

For my first cleanse five years ago, I decided to go flat out and tried ‘Dr. Joshi’s holistic detox – 21 days to a healthier you’ made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow. I know, but I liked her back then, didn’t you?  Joshi promotes a detox diet regime – with no red meat, no dairy, no fruit, no wheat, no alcohol, no coffee, no sugar and no artificially processed foods. Yeah, so basically cardboard (you might know this as rye crackers). I recall reading a Canadian Living magazine writer’s review of this cleanse at the time and she wrote that she felt awful the first three days, then rather “kittenish” when she awoke the fourth day.  Clearly the kittens she knows are starving, acerbic, hypersensitive creatures with a razor-sharp tongues because that’s pretty much how I felt the fourth – and subsequent – days.  Of all the forbiddens on Dr. Joshi’s list, the hardest for me to give up was my coffee. It was not an enjoyable January and I have since then decided that giving up the alcohol is going “cleanse” enough for me. My friends and family generally agree.

The January detox doesn’t start until after the Kingston hockey tournament and it ends January 31st when the Nepean and Cornwall hockey tournament begin. Am I making excuses? Have you ever tried to make it through a minor hockey tournament weekend without alcohol? I rest my case.

So right out of the gate, my month-long January cleanse is reduced to 27 days. I am almost half way there, already.  Hooray! A toast to me! Oh wait …

Wish me luck on the home stretch… and keep all sharp objects (and chardonnay) away from me.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

no alcohol

Like many Canadian parents, my husband and I have been saving for our three kids’ post-secondary education pretty much since the kids were born. This is partly because I struggled with the cost and subsequent debt of post-secondary education and didn’t want to see them burdened like this but mostly because my mother is very much still alive and appears bent on spending my inheritance. Thanks a lot, Mom.

Saving for education and paying for minor hockey occasionally leaves our disposable income a little short-handed.  Once my three kids started playing hockey, my eyes gleamed with the prospect of prosperous athletic scholarships to big U.S. hockey universities. I quickly realized that perhaps the parents of the other 585,000 Canadian youths playing minor hockey may also have also had the same idea.  The reality is that the number of Canadian kids being awarded scholarships to US colleges and universities has drastically diminished over the last decade and even when a scholarship is awarded is pays only a fraction of the cost of a earning a degree south of the border.  In 2007, the rosters of the top ten hockey teams at U.S. college hockey that season showed only 59 Canadian players on those rosters. Even more sobering is the fact that according to a 2008 New York Times report on NCAA scholarships, hockey scholarships only cover an average of 80% of the cost of the education (and hockey ranks pretty high on the percentage of the cost of the education the athletic scholarship covers!).  So given that neither the NCAA nor my inheritance will pay for my kids’ education, saving for it is the really the most likely options.  Unless of course, I win the lottery.

So, my kids’ have had social insurance cards almost as long as they’ve had Ontario Health Insurance Plan cards, because a SIN is required to set up a Registered Education Savings Plan.   The federal government will actually match 20% your RESP dollars under the Canadian Education Savings Grant (CESG) to a lifetime grant maximum of $7,200. Canadian Scholarship Trust Plan ( CST) can help you get started with your RESP.

cstAs for paying for the kids’ hockey, well that too has always been a balancing act.  Certainly the two years when all three of my kids were goalies ranks as two of the most expensive years we’ve ensured as parents of minor hockey players. And certainly none of my kids get all the hockey equipment they want or believe they are entitled! We’ve often drawn from and contributed to the neighbourhood chain of equipment hand-me-downs. We’ve brought picnic lunches and dinners to many a hockey tournament and occasionally even shared hotel rooms with other hockey parents to help reduce the cost of hockey travel.  Right now, CST’s Beyond the Blue Line has a contest going on, where hockey moms and dads can help their hockey team or organization win $10,000 to help make hockey a little more affordable. Submissions can be in the form of a video or picture with an essay (no longer than 1,000 characters).Entries must be received by December 31, 2013. Details and rules can be found on CST’s website.

I will, however, still buy a lottery ticket once in awhile!

How do you balance the cost of yours kids’ sports activities and saving for their post-secondary education?

 

Disclosure: I am part of the C.S.T. Consultants Inc. – Beyond the Blue Line blogger program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog post are my own. Oh, and I love my mom and don’t want her inheritance.

Here is another delicious, nutritious slow-cooker soup to complement the busy hockey mom’s recipe book!

hearty minestrone

Hearty Minestrone

1 Tbsp  olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 each, stalk celery and carrot, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

½ tsp salt and pepper

1 can tomato paste – 5.5 oz/156ml

1 smoked ham hock (1lb/500g)

1 piece Parmesan cheese rind

8 cups  water

1 large potato, peeled and cubed

1 sweet red pepper, diced

1 small zucchini, sliced or chopped

1 cup each rinsed and drained canned red and white kidney beans

1 cup dried pasta

~~

Fry onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper and scrape into slow cooker.

Stir in tomato paste, ham hock, parmesan rind, potato, red and white beans and water.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until ham can be easily pulled off the bone.

Discard bay leaves, parmesan rind and ham bone.

Increase heat to high and stir in red pepper, zucchini for 20 more minutes.

Add some cooked pasta (adding it uncooked to the soup is possible but may make it a little mushy).

My trick?  I make this on a Saturday and then leave it in the frig (or garage, if it’s winter!) and then leave it on “Warm” all day Sunday as my hungry hockey players come and go!  Enjoy!

From Canadian Living’s Comfort Cooking, Winter 2007

There are two reasons I would travel in a snowstorm: I am in labour and need to get to the hospital, or one of my kids has a hockey game. “You’re crazy,” said my husband, “Who goes out in a weather like that to have a baby?”

blizzakThis past week, we have had the kind of winter weather that Bridgestone will use for its Blizzak tire commercials for years to come. Saturday, I drove two of my kids to their hockey games in near-zero visibility. “Really?” you ask. “Zero visibility? Well, then how did you get there?”

Because I am a hockey mom.

My vehicle and I instinctively know how to get to all the local arenas.

As I read the Saturday morning paper with my coffee I thought, “Humph! One centimetre of snow.  No big deal.”  My faith in the accuracy of meteorologists is about as high as my pile of pile of fresh, scented hockey equipment.  I dropped my speed by 10km per hour when I saw the first car in the ditch and another 10km when two fire trucks screamed by me clearly en route to another accident.  Mother Nature loves a smug winter driver (and so do tow truck drivers).

Yesterday, Ottawa was blanketed with 25cm of winter wonderland fun. The school boards called a snow day. The hockey associations did not. I helped push one car out of a snowbank and two hockey bags into the back of winter drivemy SUV. The car was a Toyota Yaris with no snow tires and had no business being out in this weather. The hockey bags? Well, they had a much easier time making it out of the parking lot.

For the better part of the last thirteen winters, I have driven my three hockey players through some crazy weather – the kind of weather that halts airport operations and sends emergency road crews into high gear. I guess snowplows and hockey moms have a lot in common.  My passengers are usually oblivious to the white-knuckle driving conditions that have often punctured the excitement of trips to practices, games and tournaments, but we hockey moms are not.  We are reminded that ‘the first goal of hockey is having fun’ yet there is nothing too fun about some of the winter drives I’ve had to and from the arena.  I don’t know why we do it. I tip my cup of Timmies to the snowplows and give them a wide berth.

And it’s only November …

Another book in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series was launched on November 5, 2013. It’s called O Canada The Wonders of Winter with 101 stories about bad weather, good times, and great sports. A very typically Canadian book, it is filled with iconic Canadiana, community spirit, the great outdoors Great White North-style, hockey stories, snow stories, ski stories and stories about our internationally famous politeness and kindness and of typical Canadian holidays and traditions.

chicken soup for the soulOn page 178 of this book, you will find the forty-seventh story called The Angels of Hockey and it was written by me. The challenge for me was not in writing this 1,200-word piece, as the words and emotions flowed freely considering the subject matter which some of you might recall reading about in my post last year called, A Zamboni of My Own.  That would be the one in which my husband decided that the best time to go golfing would be during hockey season on a weekend where all three of our hockey playing-kids were in three different hockey tournaments.  I know. I know. I’m trying to forget it too.

No, the ultimate challenge for me turned out to be committing to the book launch party in Toronto and in publicly reading my story to about 100 people who had gathered to celebrate its launch.  I realized, though, if I could marshal the resources required of a weekend with ten hockey games in forty-eight hours and not kill anyone – and write a story about it which would ultimately end up getting published in a Chicken Soup for the Soup book – surely I could get myself to Toronto to celebrate this personal achievement.

So, I took the afternoon off work and drove four hours to Toronto from my home in Ottawa and arrived at the Keating Channel Pub and Grill at Lakeshore Blvd and Cherry Street, with my sister in tow. After all, you never know if this is your ‘fifteen minutes’ or not! I was soon directed to a group of thirty or so other contributing authors and we sat and signed one or two or 300 copies of the book for the publisher. Just the day before, I had received an email from the publisher asking me if I would be interested in reading my story to the crowd.  Of course my inclination was to say, “No way” but once again, you never know if this is your ‘fifteen minutes’ or not!  I was one of four people chosen to read and, while I realize the crowd was a gracious gathering of almost entirely family and friends, my mouth felt stuffed with cotton the whole evening.  So with a little liquid courage in hand, I stood and read my story, which took probably no more than four minutes and concluded with an appropriate amount of laughter and polite applause -mostly from my wonderful family, my cousins, their spouses, and my friends!

Soup book reading

I can take forward the experience of ‘contributing author’ and ‘public reading’ to my repertoire and still have ‘eleven minutes’ of fame remaining!

Oh yes, and my husband wished for me to add this disclaimer: no husbands were harmed in the writing of this story. Not this time anyway.

About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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