Last weekend, my daughter and I attended the annual Cornwall Girls Hockey Association Fall Tournament – as we have done the first weekend of every November for the past nine years. It’s become another hallowed hockey tradition in our family and I’m not allowed to mess with it.
Only ‘mess with it’ I did.
This was our first tournament after my book, “Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom” was published. Now that I am a famous author and all, I get to go on a luxurious book tour and jet set to exquisite book signings all over the world, and be interviewed by incredibly famous people. Except in my case, I jet set to cold hockey arenas all over eastern Ontario and get asked riveting author questions like, “Do you know where the washroom is?” That’s fame, people.
So Saturday morning, I left my daughter1 sleeping soundly at the hotel the morning after her first round robin game, and headed back to the arena to set up my book signing table amid all the hockey bags, coffee-sipping parents, and the typical hockey tournament vendors (hockey hoodies, sports equipment, sports photography, etc.) selling their wares. Since I wasn’t selling – or wearing – hockey hoodies emblazoned with “I’m a Cougar Mom” or “I’m a Wildcat!” it took a little while for people to wander over, and ask me about the book.
As it turns out, it wasn’t just my potential book buyers that were asking questions. I was asking a lot of questions. I met people from all walks of hockey life. I met people who had just as busy a hockey life as I have (ok, some even busier) and many more offering a completely different hockey perspective on which I had zero experience.
Have you heard about the one where a dad takes his son to hockey for the first time, then somehow becomes the volunteer hockey coach? Sure, you have. We all have that ‘dad’ either living in our house or right next door. Well, I met such a hockey dad who went on the coach at a pretty senior level and then ultimately became a hockey scout for the CHL. He opened my eyes to a fascinating side of hockey that I will never know anything about, but for the stories he told me last Saturday.
What about the one whose kids were going to the NHL? Have you heard that one? We all have. And then reality sets in and we realize our kids have a much more likely chance of dying while taking a selfie than playing in the NHL, so we refocus our efforts! I met a very interesting man who talked about his kids’ experiences with athletic scholarships to US schools. Good, bad and ugly … mostly ugly.
Have you ever bought an action photo of your child at a sports tournament? I made eye contact and small talk with the photographer traipsing back and forth between ice pads taking photos and he finally came over and talked to me for a bit. Seems his business got started when he was taking photos of his grandkids playing hockey. He quickly realized he was shooting more than just memories – he had a great business opportunity in his hands. He shared his woes of weekends spent in cold arenas at just a time when he should be finally warm. He too shared a perspective of hockey that I never knew about (and that all photographers focus on the younger age groups when parents are still innocent and beholden!)
I met a fascinating dairy farmer who, when he wasn’t in the barn or on the tractor, was in a hockey arena (or some other sport venue) with his four kids. He was sad that none of his kids was going to the NHL, but sadder still that none of his kids were going to be a farmer. I’ll say this about farmers: the most sincere handshake I’ve ever received.
Then, I ran into one of my daughter’s teachers at the tournament with her two young daughters. I was able to bring the usual parent-teacher awkwardness to a new level when I warned her to please not take the chapter about me being a prostitute and Hookin’ for Hockey too seriously.
And finally, as I expressed my gratitude for my little corner of the arena foyer to the tournament organizer, I discovered he doesn’t even have kids in hockey anymore. All day long, I had been telling people that I got to finally finish my book when my two boys retired from hockey and that, with only one child left in hockey, I can see the light at the end of my hockey tunnel. Yet, here was this hockey dad who continued his relationship with his kids’ hockey association, long after his kids did. I told him to go buy a condo in Florida already! For some, like him, there’s more to hockey than skates and sticks.
I told each and every one of them, “Hey! You too should write a book!” and they all laughed. I guess we each recap our hockey memories a different way.
My daughter has no more hockey tournaments planned until after Christmas. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t plan another hockey tournament for myself … and my book. Because …
It’s the people that you meet.
1 And just so you don’t go calling Children’s Aid on me and all that, she’s fifteen years old and her teammate mom’s and my friend were on it, ok?!