THAT Hockey Mom

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I am a hockey mom. Please do not confuse me with the Alaskan hockey mom. I am not like her.  Although I must admit, I was more than a little thrilled at first when she was introduced to the U.S.A. Notice I said “at first”.  Having her run for vice president did put somewhat of a spotlight on us other hockey moms. Or should I say “real” hockey moms. I highly doubt she spent hours upon hours weekly at the local hockey rink each week bundled up in blankets reading the latest crime novel while she waited {kinda} patiently for practice to end.  She probably didn’t attend 99% {like me} of her sons games while she was the Governor of Yukon Territory. I would bet my sons Bauer Total One hockey stick she didn’t help manage a youth hockey team,coordinate hotel rooms for 14 families, drive three hours {one way!} for her son’s hockey practice plus games twice a week for an entire season, cry when a favorite coach quit, or piss off other parents when she supported the two rookie coaches brought in two different times throughout her oldest son’s youth hockey career. Wait, she only had one kid playing, right? Hmmm….I have three. While she was showing up occasionally to her boy’s games wearing his team’s apparel and lipstick…I was …well…doing all of the above.  Then some.

There are plenty of better hockey moms out there. Many of them are in my kids’ youth organization.  I’m not saying I am the best. Just trying to paint a picture. Each of us are individuals in this sport. Some are fantastic at coordinating fundraising events for this money-sucking game.  Others can really bring on the post-game snacks.  My favorites are the ones who sport the cowbells, noisemakers, and team attire. Extra points for wearing their son’s third jersey. What beats all of that? The ladies with the pom-poms! My goodness, that takes someone really special. But, don’t go thinking that any of those ladies described are me.  Let me make something very clear; You will NEVER, let me repeat, NEVER, catch me doing any of that.  I’m not THAT kind of hockey mom.

I’ll  explain my kind of hockey mom style in a moment. But first, let me give you a little background.  I didn’t grow up around hockey. I’m a California girl, there is not much pond hockey here.  My brothers didn’t have interest in the game, nor did my dad.  My first exposure to the game was on a date when I was a teenager. It was beer-league at its finest. I brought a book.  Years passed and I stopped going because, well, the husband would take all the kids to the games. You know what that meant to me??? Here’s the math; Hockey= An empty, quiet chunk of time for me! I loved hockey.   Eventually the kiddos became obsessed with the game and started playing in our local youth organization and thus my role of hockey mom began.   Before long we had the most kids in the organization from one family at the same time. Three boys. Three levels. Three teams. Three different rinks to be in at least three weekends a month.  Usually three hours to a game and three hours back. Three smelly hockey bags.Three coaches and three sets of team parents to deal with.  As for the number of sticks and pucks in the garage, and money spent…well, that’s way more than three. Way.

I started off as a relatively mild hockey mom. I didn’t really know the game so I didn’t get that into it. Of course when we scored I hooped and hollered, but when it came more to the details of the game I was lost. Offsides? In the crease? Slashing? Its like one was speaking Italian to me. I did not understand. And early on, I really didn’t care. What I did care about was my  boys having fun. Making sure they were being treated with respect by coaches and teammates. And also respecting teammates and coaches.  Over the years I became more passionate about this aspect of hockey. The life lessons it taught. There was heartbreak from losing games and losing good coaches. Teachable moments when other coaches, parents and teammates forgot that winning wasn’t the only thing. I found my voice and place as a hockey mom on a deeper level in the last couple of years.  Understand this, a youth hockey team not only includes the players and coaches. Parents are a huge part of it.  They honestly are the ones that set the tone to the team.  Each year I notice the dynamics and how different they can be.  Supportive parents are more important to the teams success than the many hours spent at practice.  Some years have been incredibly fun, other years have broken my heart.  My patience and tolerance has been put to the test many times, mainly this last season.  And it didn’t even have anything to do with the actual game.  Ice time plays into the teams growth, but unfortunately so do club politics and egos.

And don’t even get me started on side-line coaches {for those of you who don’t understand, this means parents who think they know more about the sport than the qualified coaches and yell and scream at their children from the other side of the glass during a game. Watching these fine folks is a sport in itself.}.

In the last two years I have come a long ways in my hockey knowledge. I understand way more than I think and surprise myself when I can explain the game to new hockey moms. {By the way I love newbies*. I love to just sit back and watch their expressions during the first locker room parent meeting that gets out of hand as other moms and dads piss and moan about where they think the team should go to play a tournament or are whining and crying about why their kid should be team captain. And cussing is always a plus**.}  In every team parents fall into rolls. As I stated before, there is the snack-mom,  the fundraising-mom, the cheerleader.  What category do I fall in? Hmmm…I suppose that depends on who you ask. And please go ahead. Ask them. To some I am the teacher where I am relied upon for my awareness of the game. To others I am the rink-rat…always there. Sometimes five days a week.  I am the voice of reason to some. The voice of insanity to others.  I stand up for the kids and coaches every chance I get.  For that same reason, some see me as a threat. I just love that one. I find it quite funny that those out there with huge egos are only fueling mine. This once passive mama has become quite….ummmm….out-spoken.

*Newbies- New hockey parents who have yet to be exposed hockey rink crap and chaos.  So, so innocent these mothers and fathers are. So innocent.

**Warning: Hockey causes excessive swearing. Even in sweet, mild-mannered red-heads. {Hey! I can be sweet sometimes but I admit, I’m not mild-mannered.} But, its true! I rarely cussed before hockey entered my life.

As I was saying, I have come a long ways from that girl who used to bring a novel to read during a hockey game.  I not only follow and comprehend whats going on out there in my sons’ games, I follow other hockey…like the NHL, Olympic, and junior hockey. I watch it on television and the internet even when no one else is home.  I find myself talking about it outside of the rink.  I can’t get enough of it.

Just when did I fall in love with this game? That’s something I have been asking myself a lot lately. And recently I think I figured it out.  My family is just starting our third season of housing, also known as “billeting”,  players from the local junior hockey program. Guys aged 16-20 from all over the country come to live with us for seven to nine months while they play hockey with hopes of being scouted by colleges and the pros. Earlier I said how I used to send my sons to the semi-pro games without me for a few quiet hours alone. But once we got involved in this whole housing business, it became personal. My household eats and breathes hockey during the season….When I go to games and watch our hockey boys I feel a part of it. I know them. I’m the one making sure they are getting {semi} home cooked meals and plenty of rest….actually, they are really good at resting…I’m the one washing their socks and, yes, their stinky hockey gear.  I get to know them off the ice as individuals and cheer for them when they are on it. I remind them to call their own hockey mamas back home and  I support them when they are having a rough day. This is the first time they have lived away from their childhood homes and have to adjust to a whole bunch of things; living with a strange…I mean new…family in a new city.  Our town is warm eight months out of the year, a climate that takes some adjusting to if you’re from the Mid-West or the East Coast.  I bring my hockey mom-isms into this junior hockey thing too.  And I must admit, I am guilty of pushing them out of their comfort zones constantly. I thoroughly enjoy this part more than I should…its pure torture for them.  My house is filled with knee hockey games in the living room, hockey gear all over the garage and always, hockey friends showing up for dinner.  Oh, and lots of chocolate milk. To my kids these guys are like big brothers. To me, they are my buds. {I once recieved a text from one that said I was “the best hockey mom” he knew. That made my day.} Having a favorite team or player is one thing, but this is different. Ask any other “billet” mom, I’m sure she would agree. The relationships formed are like no other.  And this is why I love it.

A few weeks ago I was visiting a home that was thinking about becoming a housing family like us. I have known them from the rink for a couple of years , but have never been to their place.  When I walked in the front door their youngest, a bright-eyed eight year old girl, looked up at me with a big grin on her face.  She smiled and shouted, “Hey! You’re THAT hockey mom!”.

Yep. THAT I am.

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3 responses »

  1. Love it Janelle!
    Still trying to figure out which kind of hockey mom I am – hummnnnn…..
    I already totally agree about the great experience of being a billet mom – I’m as excited for their season to start as I am for my own sons!!

  2. Former Little League Mom to Terrific Hockey Mom: I’m thinking you may have made the better choice. I was always sitting in the stiffling heat after delivering a station wagon full of noisy, rowdy kids up that windy road to Sierra. [We crammed them all in the back – with no seatbelts back then. Now that horrifies me.] You, however, sit comfortably, bundled up in the cool ice rink, drinking coffee. Right? Did I miss something? Nevermind. I get it. I loved reading this and I admire parents who get involved with their kids interests. Your boys are going to be wonderful grownups. Your love practically guarantees it.

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