Category Archives: Hockey musings

Keeping Your Head Up

So, the preseason is over for my son’s PeeWee team. Thankfully.

It hasn’t been the easiest month, with an 0-8 record (which included 4 tournament games and 4 preseason games). We won’t even mention the regular season game that was stuck in there, just for good measure. Suffice to say, the first number of our regular season record is also a 0.

There are a lot of reasons why things haven’t started off well – organizational expansion to a third team meant pulling players from the lower ranks, players with no prior travel experience, not knowing each other, still figuring out how to play as a team. The list goes on and on. Regardless, it is still painful to watch. And, based upon what I hear from the parents on the bench, it is a pain I share with many others.

I was really getting stressed about this, particularly since my son, as one of the goalies, has been taking a beating out there on the ice. Both he and the other goalie have been doing a tremendous job, but there are limits to what the goalie can do to help the team win. My son has stayed incredibly positive but when I consider that our season is not likely to turn around anytime soon, I fretted a bit about what long-term effect a losing season might have on his psyche.

Now, I am certainly not one of those parents who thinks that the team must win all the time. In fact, I am a fan of losing. I think it teaches the kids some great lessons about hard work, humility, sportsmanship, and more. I have come by this perspective honestly – I have lost quite a lot in my athletic history. And I learned a lot about myself and others through those losses.

So, my issue is not with losing. I am more concerned that the organization’s attempt to expand the pool of potential players at the PeeWee level and beyond may backfire and drive some players away from the game, instead of getting them the experience and confidence to continue on into the older age brackets.

I had a great conversation with my son’s goalie coach last week, however, that changed my perspective a bit, at least when it comes to the goalies. He told me that, provided the boys can keep their heads up and stay positive, a losing season like this can be the best thing that happens to them. They will face a ton of shots and have to defend the net from all angles. This will make them better goalies in the long run, with much more mental toughness than they had prior to the season.

I absolutely see his point and I have to admit that I have felt better the past few days about the upcoming season. Thus far in his limited career, my son has shown incredible maturity when in goal and has rarely been more than a tad bit frustrated after a tough game. He lets the games roll off his back and, once they are over, is on to the next thing (mainly, does he still have time to play with his friends when we get home). He does not blame his teammates and always points out some ways that he could have improved his game, but is not negative and has NEVER indicated that he does not want to play. I would fall over in shock if he ever did say something like that, I think. That boy LOVES to be on the ice, in the net, having that small black puck flying at his face.

Thus, I am going to do my best to sit back and relax and let the season unfold as it will. I will monitor my son’s attitude and behavior and keep the lines of communication open with both him and his coaches, in the event that he starts to falter. And I will be there for every game, cheering him and his teammates on with all my might. Because they will win some games – I am sure of that. And they will all come out of this better athletes and better young men.

There is, however, still the issue of how to keep the parents from falling apart.

Beer pong, anyone?

Red Solo Cups

Maybe some parents would be willing to dress up like this for games?

A Visit to Hockey Mecca

Last week we took a vacation and headed out on a week-long road trip. It took us through a few hotspots, like State College, PA (We Are…), Punxsutawney, PA (off-season, but Phil is still available for photo-ops), and, ultimately, Toronto.

What else could welcome you to the groundhog capital of the world?

What else could welcome you to the groundhog capital of the world?

If you are not aware, Toronto is the home of that place of all hockey places, the Hockey Hall of Fame. And this was our first destination upon our arrival in town. Yes, we are a hockey-obsessed family.

I have to say that the place is pretty cool. The display outside the entrance was perfect for us as it was all about goalies. There were helmets from various goalies throughout the years and it was interesting to see how they have changed over time. Considering that early goalies wore no mask at all, even the early attempts at facial protection seemed like a good idea (although I could not shake the image of Jason inĀ Friday the 13th).

Inside, there were jerseys galore and more hockey paraphernalia than I hope to ever have stashed in my basement. I did detect a Canada-heavy bias, but, of course, we were in Canada so I suppose it is to be expected. There were some fun interactive activities where my son could take shots from Gretzky and Lemieux or shoot on a virtual goalie. And, of course, there was THE CUP. It was housed in a separate part of the building and was on full display, as THE CUP should be. I almost heard angels singing when we entered the room (no, not really, but it’s a good image, no?).

I have to say, there is something about that trophy that makes it seem to shine brighter or stand taller than I expected. What was really cool was that we found the name of our friend’s father engraved on both the Cup and the Vezina Trophy (Denis DeJordy, Blackhawks ’61 – look him up if you ever head up there). It is really something to see all the names on there and on all of the other trophies on display in the room.

It was a worthwhile trip, even if it took up only a few hours of our vacation. What was even more fun, however, was seeing how hockey is such a part of the culture north of the border. We saw hockey players on buses, on lollipops, and on ice cream. Living in the southern part of the US, hockey can be very hard to find, so seeing it all over the place made quite an impression on my son and further cemented his love of the game.

Check! Now that destination can be taken off the list! Next up? Well, we really want to go on safari in Africa…

I wasn't kidding about hockey ice cream.

I wasn’t kidding about hockey ice cream.

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Working Hard…

“…is fun.”

So said my son after a conversation we had recently about his goaltending lessons.

He is doing some private lessons this summer to keep from getting too rusty and really likes his coach. He thinks this coach is fun and he responds well to him. The result? He works his butt off for this guy.

We’ve been talking about working hard and how that is more fun than “phoning it in.” How when you work hard, you start to notice how you are getting better and you have some success, which is much more fun than half-heartedly doing what you are told and not really seeing any benefit. He seems to be getting it.

The other day he was practicing cello (so far removed from hockey but hopefully contributing to a well-rounded child) and we were breaking down a song that he was having some trouble with. We singled out the section that was most troublesome and he practiced the first line, then the second line, then the two combined, finishing with the whole song from the beginning. As he worked on it and heard how he was improving, he exclaimed “This is fun!”

I agree and I am so glad the he is starting to understand that hard work moves you forward and is how you succeed in life.

Now our challenge is to teach him to balance hard work with reasonable expectations and healthy habits. As he approaches puberty and, in the case of our genetics, the “chunkiness” that accompanies it, we are trying to talk more about healthy eating without addressing weight in any way. He is 11 so there is no need, in my mind, to start down that path. But when he suddenly and randomly jumps on the treadmill to run a little, as he did tonight, I have to admit I freak out a bit.

Deep breaths – this whole raising-an-athlete thing is a learning process. There is so much more information out there now then there was when I was growing up and navigating this myself, but that is not a reason to panic! My husband and I both work out regularly so we are already modeling a fairly healthy lifestyle. Some gentle conversations here and there, with some nudging towards less TV/video game time on the couch is reasonable. But our pizza addiction and fairly regular trips to the frozen yogurt place down the street hopefully also teach him that moderation is key.

Balance… isn’t that what we all seek? I’ve just never tried to teach it to anyone before. Perhaps if I had more of if myself, I’d be better at it.

A work in progress, that is what we all are. And always will be.

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Size Matters

Or does it? I have been reading and thinking a lot lately about the size of the goalie and how much it matters. This started when

They Might Be Giants...

They Might Be Giants… (Photo credit: themarkpike)

I was told that one of my son’s “negatives” during tryouts recently was his smaller size. It took me by surprise because he was a pretty big goalie as a Squirt and suddenly, a mere 6 weeks after that season ended, he tried out for Pee Wee and he somehow shrank.

And he’s not a little kid – just shy of 5 feet and around 90 lbs at 11 years old. According to charts I’ve seen, he is well above average and he is right in there with all of his friends (minus a couple of really short guys and a couple of guys who are on their way to NBA size in the 5th grade).

A friend shared an article with me that talks a bit about how goalie size is not as important as many coaches believe. There are drawbacks to both being really small and really big and there are other factors that play a larger role in the success of any goalie.

I started doing some more research on this size issue and found articles that discuss how NHL goalies have gotten bigger in recent years. But even then, being bigger alone is not the reason most credit these goalies with success. They are larger, yes. But they are larger guys who are quite athletic and can move much more than really big guys years ago. Back then, a big guy took up space but pretty much couldn’t move too fast or really make any other moves. They were good walls. Now, these large guys are quick and agile and flexible. Even at 6’5″.

My search led me to another size issue – that of goalie gear and the net itself. Both are being blamed for the decrease in scoring and, ultimately, to the the demise of any excitement in the game today.

Now, I understand that if your goalie is bigger and they are wearing bigger gear, then the area available to shoot and score may be diminished. However, it can be argued that players are also bigger and much stronger, with shots that can reach speeds over 100 mph. So while bigger pads may fill up more space, they also provide protection for the person who is inside of those pads.

Not having ever stood in the goal nor worn the gear, I cannot speak to what it feels like. I do know, however, how my son described being hit recently by a coach who fired the puck pretty hard during practice. The puck hit his arm pad and he said that his arm went numb for a few seconds and, when he got undressed later, he had a red mark on his arm where he had been hit. Amplify the power of the shot by a ton (and, to be fair, up the amount of padding on the arm, too) and you can imagine that less padding could be a bad thing.

As far as the net size issue – I think that is just stupid. Beyond the secondary issues of asterisks on record books (a scoring record held BNI (before net increase) or ANI (after net increase) would have to somehow be differentiated), there is the bigger issue of where will it stop? So you make nets larger, then the rink itself needs to be tweaked to allow for more room to shoot at the larger target (I’m making this up but whatever), then players get larger still, then nets should increase. And so it goes.

And let’s not forget that a bigger net size impacts more than just the pros. In case you are not aware, there are not smaller nets for younger kids, as you will find in sports like soccer. The 8 year-old goalie in his little pads and barely scraping 4 feet tall is standing in a net the same size as the 6′ plus goalie in the super large pads.

So maybe that is the ultimate argument – that any goalie who has come up through the ranks has served time in a net way larger than they are. And once they get to the “big leagues” they are awarded not only with more money and nicer gear, but finally a net that they have grown into.

Maybe I am the only one, but I have not noticed that the game has become less exciting, even if fewer goals are scored. That sounds to me more like a spectator issue, similar to the complaint I have heard regarding soccer – that there aren’t enough goals to keep folks interested. I find all the quick moves and hits and “almost goals” quite thrilling and I don’t see that things need to change. Of course, I have come to view the position of goalie from a new perspective – that of a mom.

And I don’t want my “kids” (I’ve unofficially adopted any goalie as my own when he or she is being shot upon) messed with! Just like any good goalie mom.

 

 

 

Yes, You Can!

Ok, so this is a short post but I just watched this video and it is amazing. I admit that I cried almost from the beginning. From what I read, this is a video from a youth game that included kids with special needs. Watch and be inspired!

yesIcan2

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