I am a hockey mom

Many things signify the end of the minor hockey season but perhaps none more than the return of the game jerseys to the appropriate team official.  This final act of returning goods on loan truly says, “This is it.  We’re done with these jerseys, this team and this season.” To some hockey parents I’ve met along the way it also says, “This is it; we’re done with this sport!”

Many a riveting Friday evening have been spent involved somehow with hockey and last Friday was still no different as I tracked down my seam ripper (aka, a hockey mom’s best friend) and gently – occasionally not so gently – extricated our family name off the back of six game jerseys:  two Romans jerseys, two Osgoode-Rideau jerseys and two Nepean Wildcat jerseys.  While a little sad for sure, it’s also a very restorative activity.  It signifies that I have indeed survived yet another minor hockey season and I am returning my banners of pride and joy.  The name bars zip off thread by thread, black thread from Visitors jerseys and white threads from Home jerseys.  Was it not just last week that I sat in the family room watching the tail end of the MLB season or yet another episode of Mythbusters or the Suite Life of Cody and Zach with one of my kids while meticulously sewing on all six name bars?  Sidebar:  Curses on the child who came back week later and said “I switched my jerseys!” 

I’ve begun to wonder why I put them on the first place.  Everyone knows my kids by now – they are the goalies, for crying out loud, right there between the pipes!  It’s not like I have to answer the inevitable first question of the season from any another parent, “what number is yours’?”  I just have to point to our end zone:  right there – guarding the crease.  Always either number 31 or number 1.  Another sidebar: I have secretly loved saying, “I’m Number 1” when with the team in a restaurant and the server asks the jersey number.  “Of course you are”, is usually the answer, like she’s never heard that one before.

So this past Friday evening, as I am guiding my seam ripper through the second number 31, I notice a straight pin, a lone reminder of the season’s beginning and sewing on the name bars in the first place.  I must have forgotten to remove this one.  One of my poor kids went through the entire hockey season with a straight pin in his back!  This lone pin serves as a sad reminder that clearly I did not wash this jersey all season as that would not have survived a washing!  This lone pin makes me afraid to ask if he ever felt a little, slightly painful jab at any point during any game.  This lone pin may have distorted his save percentage!  This lone pin (given where it’s been) could have been the source of some horrible staph infection.  Or maybe, like the Princess and the Pea, this lone pin strategy will be my quiet but persistent test of sensitivity for years to come!

On my kitchen counter now lay six name bars and on my kitchen floor now lay six game jerseys… six game jerseys which now must be transported to the washing machine.  Six game jerseys that now barely fit in the washer – they’re growing up so fast!  Long gone are the days when I could fit all game jerseys, all practice jerseys, all socks and underarmour in the washer at the same time.  The stench is over powering so this procedure must take place quickly and I waste no time reminiscing.  Open the machine door, throw them in, pour in the soap, close that door, push those buttons, and get the hell out of there! 

The season is finally over! 

Time to go pick up the spring hockey jerseys…

My recent blog post hallucinating about the end of hockey season was perhaps a little too Sheen-esque.  I’m feeling a little more charitable after a solid week with no hockey, a great day skiing, and only two games left in the season. 

During the off season, those 45 days between late June and mid-August, I know my friends and family may actually find me more tolerable as I won’t be able to end every rant with “This damn hockey schedule is going to be the death of me…”.  I know I’ll have to endure at least one of them saying, “Oh, we thought you died” when we see each other over the summer.   While I am looking forward to the end of hockey season, there are, in truth, a few things that I will miss in our hockey hiatus such as

  1. Regular emails from one of my kids’ coaches that always begin, “Gidday folks!  How’s she goin’?”  No matter what kind of day I’m having, I can’t help but smile when I see his emails.
  2. A full hockey agenda trumps house cleaning hands-down.  It is my standing excuse that disappears once the hockey season is over and I seriously have to get the dust mop out.  Pray I don’t find my daughter’s hamster among the mess.
  3. Those quick trips to the grocery store for celery, baby carrots, peppers, ranch dip, potato chips and Fruitopia.  To which the cashier always quips, “Yep, looks like a hockey party to me…”
  4. Wearing fleece-line jeans.  They are a throw-back to the ‘70’s for sure but oh-so-cozy and warm. In fact, I may take them to the cottage for those cool morning coffees on the dock!
  5. Blaming my perio-menopausal bitchiness on 6am practices and lack of sleep.  Oh dear; I have only a small window of time to come up with an alternative, marriage-saving excuse.
  6. The sympathetic nods that always follow my declaration, “All 3 of my kids are goalies…”, which seemingly absolves me of any wrong doing or peculiar sideways glances during games.
  7. A fluctuating Body Mass Index.  Comfort food is vital sustenance during the hockey season and if I have a poutine for breakfast on Saturday morning, no one bats an eye.  My fitness regime as well is entirely schedule-permitting.  I will regret these lifestyle choices as I am hauling out the deck furniture!
  8. Having the hockey gear and goalie pads double as guardrails for my groceries.
  9. Hockey tournament weekends away – God, I love a good road trip!
  10. The familiarity of my kid’s winter laundry:  UnderArmor, pajamas, sweats, UnderArmor, pajamas, sweats, UnderArmor, …
  11. The rapid accumulation of points on my Subway card.
  12. Eavesdropping on teenagers conversations during carpooling.  Lordy, what a mum can learn by keeping her mouth shut and ears open!and the thing I will miss the most?
  13. A level of alcohol consumption that is entirely tolerated.  Is it a bad thing that the staff at the local LCBO knows me by name?  or occasionally point out,  “We missed you last weekend …”?  God, I hope they don’t forget me over the summer!

 I will always have Stompin’ Tom to exalt me to my superior class status… “My hockey mom, ain’t she a plum? Forever young, my hockey mom.” 

I have had it.  I am completely fed up.  March Break is now over and I am ready to call it quits.  If that makes me sound like less than a totally committed hockey mom, then I will just take my multi-coloured team scarf and my noisemakers and go cry in the corner with my hockey blankey.  Since the end of August, my husband and I have probably been to and from some hockey arena no less than 200 times.  Though my daughter still has her play off games, both boys are all but golfing.  While two of my kids will be playing spring 4-on-4 through June, the spring hockey season simply does not require the same commitment that the regular hockey season does.

 Of course the main reason I am sick of hockey is that we have just returned from an outstanding March Break Caribbean cruise, sporting new tan lines and tacky t-shirts.  Re-entering one of our many hockey arenas will be painful – almost as painful as making it past 4pm without a drink and having to wear shoes the whole day long!  Instead of being greeted with sun, tropical breezes and steel drum Caribbean music, my senses will once again be assaulted with the smell of sweaty equipment and zamboni fumes.  I’ll do just about anything for my kids, but after the vacation we’ve just had, I’m not sure I can summon the enthusiasm to finish it off – the hockey season that is – not the rum punch.  I am tired of “the schedule” (the red-inked hockey times on our kitchen family calendar) dictating our very existence.  I am fed up with family meals that require less than 30 minutes of preparation so they can be consumed in twelve.  I am frustrated with postponing my Friday happy hour knowing I have to drive that evening.  I am really sick of my long underwear and arena parka.  Most of all, I just wish I was still laying on a beach in the Caribbean listening to the ocean waves rolling, the kids’ shrieking and someone offering me a Bahamamama.  I’m telling you, my husband and I are so sick of ice surfaces we refused to enter the famous SVEDKA ice bar on board our cruise ship…. “Let me get this straight… you want me to PAY to go in there?” Not a chance.  Just like a rink rat back home, this twig thin hostess could not guarantee that the ice bar here had not been spat on, barfed on or peed on. 

In garages all over Canada, hockey moms are secretly doing a happy dance as their kids are eliminated from the playoffs and I don’t blame them.  I’m just bitchy because I’m not one of them – yet.

 It really is Better in the Bahamas…the ice glistens much nicer in my glass 🙂

A great link to another hockey mom story:

http://news.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/op_ed/view.bg?articleid=1321491&srvc=home&position=emailed

Once upon a time, I was going to be a chef.  That’s right.  While you were playing jump rope and eating ice cream, I was whipping up crepes or baking brioches.  Oh, and decorating some spectacular award winning cakes too!  So I set my sights on the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.  That’s right.  While you were busy picking out your Psychology and Computer Science texts, I was picking out Henkels and chef’s whites.  Well, you know the saying, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”?  I certainly did and within 6 months of my first semester at Cornell, I knew the kitchen was way too hot for me.  For one who thrives on both giving and receiving positive reinforcement, I was asked too often “Who made this shit?” and told too many times, “I wouldn’t feed this to my dog” and I soon realized I had neither the stamina nor resilience to be a chef.  The hotel industry, however, still offered so many alluring alternative careers and the side step to Human Resources has faired me well both within the hospitality industry and elsewhere.

While at Cornell, surrounded by would-be hoteliers from around the world, I have to admit I was involved in and exposed to some pretty spectacular food that evolved from a healthy amount of creativity, inspiration, insurmountable taste.  Of course there was also no thought to the cost or the time involved in preparation and no need to give thought to the cost or time involved in preparation.  Every once in a while, my classmates and accomplished some spectacular shit.  We would ogle over foodie publications from all over the world.

Ten years after graduation, and 2 kids later, the Beef Wellingtons and Veal Marasalas have long digested in my distant memory.  For a while, my husband and I would put the two boys to bed and enjoy a late night dinner creation.  But add one more child to our mix and my new favourite foodie website became Kraft Canada and Campbell’s Soup (oh, but that Cooking with Philly is creeping close).  If my hotelie friends could see what I now whip up, they’d sprinkle me with Peruvian pink pepper and roast me.  Aside from the challenge of trying to find foods the whole family enjoys (I’ve given up; if 3/5 of our family give it a thumbs up, it’s a keeper), it’s even harder trying to find recipes that can be made awhile changing out of your work clothes, packing a hockey bag and signing a school permission form.  I’ve decided that my hockey momoir will have an entire chapter devoted to recipes I have found that can be assembled the night before, popped in the slow cooker and that taste as good at 5p (for early practices), and at 7p (for normal dinner time) and again at 830p (for the one who missed the first 2 dinner seatings).  It’s a pretty short chapter so far.  

Times have changed for me and time is short for me… especially through the winter.  Dinner time sneaks up so quickly and suddenly I am in a pickle.  I do what I have to in order to get kids fed and out the door.  I’ve sacrificed the prep time to salvage some family time.  I’ve come to realize it doesn’t matter what you’re eating (to a point, of course); what matters is that you’re eating together.

“Whose turn is it to set the table?” 

http://www.kraftcanada.com/welcome.aspx

http://www.campbellsoup.ca/en/home.asp

http://www.cookingwithphilly.ca/philadelphia2/page?PagecRef=1

Outdoor winter activities are commonplace here in Ottawa and skiing is one of them.  We used to do a fair amount of family skiing annually prior to our kids’ minor hockey careers taking shape.  Though we still get out several times a season – an advantage of living in the Ottawa area and its proximity to numerous ski hills – the trips are now tinged with a small amount of guilt.

 The hockey season is all-consuming.  When the snow finally falls, I beseech the calendar for a free Saturday or Sunday when we can hop in the car with the gear and head for the hills.  There are never any free Saturdays or Sundays during hockey season.  So I try for the next best thing:  a half day skiing.  If we have a 4 to 5-hour window of opportunity during which it is possible to catch a few hours of skiing at one of the hills that offer half day or hourly passes, just maybe we can take advantage of it.  Yet recently I have found this practice of mixing hockey and skiing increasingly more difficult for a couple of reasons.

There is some amount of guilt I feel when I bring one of my kids to the hockey arena for a late afternoon hockey game or practice after an afternoon of snowboarding.  “…Looks a little worn out today…”.  Um, possibly.  Don’t make eye contact.

Secondly, I’m getting old.  I’m just plain old too tired to combine a day of skiing and hockey (even though the later only involves chauffeuring and spectatorship!).  Knowing one of the weekend days involves the usual mundane household tasks of grocery shopping, mountains of laundry and cleaning, I am in need of some quiet time at some point.  There is some amount of guilt I feel for choosing this over my kids’ recreation.

As with all ages and stages of raising kids, I know the time is coming when I can just drop them all off at the ski hill.  I will soon be blissfully sitting in the lodge reading my book, sipping coffee or perhaps penning my great novel!  Maybe I’ll catch a couple of runs on the slope.  I already see glimpses of this future as my boys now occasionally hitch rides with other parents, and we pick them all up (or vice versa).  Their only need of me is for money.  My youngest will soon join this league of independents but not quite yet. 

On the other hand, I’m sure that despite my vision of latte and book bliss, instead I’ll be racing around to multiple hills as one wants to hook up with friends at Cascades while the other is expected to join the gang at Edelweiss and the third wants to be up the valley at Pakenham.  As always, there will be compromises!

Happy winter!

Q.   Is it too much to ask for a decent cup of coffee? 

A.    It’s 10am and you’re at a hockey arena, so yes, it’s too much to ask.  Honestly though, did you really want a cup of canteen coffee? Brewed 2 hours ago?  By a surly, hungover teenager?  Or better yet, a surly, hungover hockey parent who volunteered to run the canteen the morning after the office Christmas party?  If you were hoping for a chipper, “what can I get started for you today?” followed by a silky smooth and frothy caramel latte, better keep the engine running. Uh-uh. It ain’t here.

Q.   Is it too much to ask for one of the stalls to have toilet paper? 

A.    I’ll answer that with another question:  You found a washroom in a hockey arena with functioning [indoor] plumbing?  Wow!  Good on you!  Honestly, were you actually thinking of going to the washroom in a public hockey arena? That’s tantamount to taking a pee at a roadside picnic area  in late July .   Uh uh.  Not recommended.  Just hold it.  Next you’ll be asking, “is it too much to ask for there to be soap in the soap dispenser, water that doesn’t scald you or congeal your fingers, or a working hand dryer?”  Sheesh.

Q.   Is it too much to ask for the heaters to be on in the spectator stands?

A.    Didn’t anyone tell  you?  The heaters only come on the last week of March when the municipality realizes it still has 100% of its indoor heating budget remaining.  The heaters will then come on full blast to help melt the ice surface scheduled to be removed first week of April.  Suck it up, buttercup.

Q.   Is it too much to ask for my kid to be one of the first out of the dressing room instead of the last

A.    If you ask your kid to be one of the first out, I guarantee s/he’ll be the last out.  Keep your mouth shut and go warm up the car!  I pay my kid cash to be in the top 5…

I know.  There is still so much to learn about being a hockey parent.   I hope you found this Q&A helpful.

Referees typically make a lot of calls during a hockey game:  offside, icing, goals, penalties.  Occasionally some of these calls are questionable.  Often spectators find it necessary to yell at the officials from time to time because, apparently, some of these questionable calls can make or break a hockey game.  I suppose some spectators think that perhaps yelling at the refs will change the outcome of the game.  Thankfully (or tragically, depending on the type of hockey fan you are), I don’t know enough about hockey to be yelling at referees about their calls.   More often than not, something that looks real dirty to me is a clean hit. I think I know almost all the hand signals now, but I still tend to ask “our guy or their guy?” to the parent sitting next to me.   I miss most offsides, because I’m stressing too much about this kid making a breakaway on one of the 3 goalies in our family! 

Once in a while, those in the stands can get really irritated with the officiating; rarely do they express satisfaction with the officiating. “Great game!  Those refs were amazing!”  I don’t think so.  There is a fine line between “Hey, let the kids play, Ref!” which means an official is calling too many penalties, and “Waddya blind?!” which means they are not calling enough (on the opposing team)!    In the Ottawa District Women’s Hockey Association there are 29 first year officials which means each of my daughter’s games are bound to be officiated by someone who’s a newb.  Let’s assume this stat is similar with any recreational minor hockey league.  75% of those will quit after their first year.  The competitive divisions typically get more experienced officials and you’re more likely to actually see an adult doing the job but in recreational  hockey, it’s almost always a teenager (and sometimes barely a teenager  since they can start officiating games at 14 years old following training).  They are paid $20 a game.   It’s a great part time job but obviously you have to be thick-skinned.

The world and my local hockey arena would be a better place if everyone would think for a minute before opening their mouths:   If this ref was an ace and able to see everything, would s/he really be a ref in a minor hockey game?  In the end, it’ll all work out.  Bad refereeing is like karma:  what goes around comes around. 

Though sometimes I wish my kids would give up hockey – at least give up being a goalie – I pray they don’t replace it with refereeing.

After 10 years of minor hockey dispersed over recreational, competitive, winter, spring, summer, fall, girls and boys PLUS adult men’s hockey, I have finally tired of all the comparisons made between girls and boys hockey.  I used to put up a fight and pull out my composite gender equality shtick, but no more.  Isn’t it great that we all get to play (it’s actually probably a really good thing for humanity that I DON’T play)?  My 3 kids (2 boys and 1 girl) and my husband play our national sport (sorry, it IS hockey not lacrosse) at some organized level.  When I was young it certainly wasn’t an option for me other than the occasional neighbourhood game where Groskie’s baby sister was thrilled when begrudgingly included in the “boys” game by being thrown in nets (and with no equipment I might add). 

Girls’ hockey is a different kind of hockey for sure.  In case you’re wondering, here are a few things that go on in girls’ hockey that make boys (and some men) gag:

  1. Team nicknames are carefully shortlisted and voted upon annually and become part of all team communication henceforth for the season.  Past team names I’ve happily cheered on include the Kool Katz, the Fireblades and the Ice Cats.  As team manager I confess that I’ve successfully rigged the voting to avoid ever having to wear team gear with “Go Cougars!” brandished across my chest.  So help me God, I’ll do it again.
  2. I’ll admit the brouhaha surrounding appropriate attire of the stuffed team mascot took some getting used to, but that too is part of girls’ hockey.  The fact is, this mascot presides over pregame warm up more than the coach so don’t argue.  Doesn’t every professional sport have a team mascot?  I have yet to see one at a boys’ game however.
  3. Let’s not forget the post-game treat schedule rotation requiring a team volunteer on its own.  Shame on the mom who forgets her “turn”.  Unforgiveable.
  4. Each team requires a crew of DenMoms because they ensure ponytails don’t get stuck in the neck guard Velcro and other such faux pas.
  5. It’s ok to delay the puck drop because you just recognized your opposing winger is a team mate from last season.  It’s pretty critical to reconnect after all.
  6. War paint in team colours is an essential accessory at hockey tournaments. Quite frankly, I’m not sure why this stuff hasn’t caught on in boys’ hockey (ok, not the paw prints of course).  Surely guys would love this pre-game ritual, no?
  7. Hockey tournament dead time (free time between tournament games) is spent painting nails, wrapping hair and making jewelry; therefore there is no dead time.
  8. It’s vitally important to get all your team mates’ signatures on your restaurant paper placement (unlike boys’ hockey that will use same for spit balls).
  9. Group photos are soooooo the thing.

I could go on…

Almost 600,000 players are registered with Hockey Canada. While still trailing the male numbers by a huge margin, female hockey players registered with Hockey Canada jumped from just over 43,000 in 1999 to over 85,000 in 2009.  The male numbers are pretty flat for the same period having gone from 462,000 to 490,000.  Let’s give this number some perspective:  2% of our nation’s population play organized hockey (I imagine there are thousands more little sisters serving as pylons and target practice all over Canada!).  More and more girls are playing the sport and changing its unofficial rules of play.  It’s time to just accept the gender diversity of the sport and enjoy the game! 

Oh- but don’t forget the homemade noisemakers with colourful beads …

The away – hockey tournament is always all things excessive:  too much food, too much driving, too much cheering, too much alcohol, too much noise, too much this and too much that but waaaaayyyyy too little sleep.  Hockey tournaments usually start on a Friday requiring one parent to take a day off work, leading me to my first side note:  my husband and I are fortunate to have generous vacation policies.  Between our 3 kids we need to take 10 days off work for hockey tournament attendance alone never mind medical, dental and teacher appointments or PD Days! 

This tournament was my turn and I was actually trying to schedule in a little R&R and time with my daughter.  Side note #2:  never expect R&R or quality time with your child on a hockey tournament weekend.  As with any road trip, I am up late Thursday night packing, cleaning and making sure there is enough food in the refrigerator to last my weekend bachelors who will call me three times a day to ask where something is or how to make it.  Our trip to the first game unbelievably did not involve a roadside restaurant stop – it was relatively close by.  Even more fortunate was the fact that the mother and I that were carpooling had the foresight to pack the hockey equipment last since our first stop was, in fact, the hockey arena, and not the hotel.  Usually I neglect the all-important car-loading schematic and am unloading all my luggage, coolers, and personal trappings bury us as they come tumbling out of the car in front of all the team, in order to get to the hockey equipment.  Goal scored by the moms on this one.

Checking into the hotel is a feat as well.  As I  overhear someone mention that the hotel is fully booked, I am reminded that I seem to have a knack for checking in just behind the masses, making any special requests to be near other parents or amenities like asking for the clerk’s first born – or more!  As my hockey mom friend and I wait and wait and wait and wait to check in, we send our girls off to locate the trolley for our luggage (a hotel with bell staff on duty during a hockey tournament check in would be like a glass of water in a desert – both are in fact mirages, right?).  Twenty minute later, we’re checked in our girls are nowhere to be seen, nor is a trolley.  Our pint-sized veterans of the girls’ hockey tournament weekend have already had quite the little reunion with present and past team mates and snagging our trolley was not even close to one of their priorities.

With no sherpas in sight, we begin the trek to our rooms with our gear on our shoulders and backs.  Sweating like true athletes we finally coming across our daughters, to whom we pant, “Did you find one?” and the response from four blinking blue innocent little eyes and two mouths saying in unison,  “Find what?”

Maintaining a steady march we haul all this stuff from the hotel lobby (stuff being luggage, coolers, craft boxes, food and snacks and possibly some hockey equipment, jersey bags and goalie pads for good measure) when we come across another mom about to return her trolley to the lobby.  We pounce upon her like two senior citizens at a two-for-one – we literally drop our “stuff’ and pounce on this trolley.  She was grateful not to have to walk it all the way back to the lobby not realizing that we were willing to pay her $50 for the privilege!  Now to organize our stuff on the trolley while dripping in perspiration.  Forget for a moment that both this mother and I are highly educated women – she in fact an engineer – that under normal circumstances would likely be able to marshal the resources required to stock the hotel let along organize this trolley to travel from the lobby to our hotel rooms, which yes, side note #3, are about as close together as Russia and Alaska (which evidently one can be seen from the other).  We unload half the trolley in one room and my daughter and I depart to our room in another wing… only to encounter the worst possible enemy of a body laden with gear:  a set of stairs.  God help us.  We finally get to our room and I immediately set my daughter to task2 which is finding the closest ice machine (my wine needs to chill after all), praying it isn’t broken.

More later because now it’s back out the door to the next hockey game.  No rest for these weekend warriors.

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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