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Are you raising a hockey brat?

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Once in a while there is a kid in the dressing room that really deserves a good slap. I only kind of kidding, but you know what I mean, right? Sometimes that kid is even my kid.

Is your kid being benched and you don’t know why?

Maybe your kid teases kids for not playing a good game, for missing the pass, for letting the goal in,

Maybe your kid is the one who’s an attention hog in the dressing room.

Maybe your kid thinks it’s really funny to squirt Gatorade and water all over the floor, walls, equipment and people.

Read more about my take on why coaches might be short-shifting your kid in hockey in my latest HockeyNow.ca post by clicking here.

In the shape of an L on my forehead…

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It’s Friday night and I’m at the hockey arena. It’s no big deal. Since becoming a hockey mom fourteen years ago, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to a hockey arena on a Friday night! What can I say? I have an impressive social life.

Only this time, I’m not here with one of my three kids; I’m here with one of my friend’s kids. Again, because of my impressive social life, I need to be at a hockey arena on a Friday evening.

This boy’s parents, our friends and neighbours, are off to a family wedding at an adults-only resort in the Dominican Republic and being fourteen, he’s too young to join them. I think he could have passed for an eighteen year old, but whatever. I don’t even think there was a wedding, but whatever.

Thursday evening, my friend drops off her son for his 10-day retreat Chez Astra with $50 and a list of his weekly activities. I tell her “Hey, not to be rude or anything, but I don’t think this is going to cover my weekly LCBO purchases” and she doesn’t think this is funny.*

At first it looks like I might get out of the Friday night hockey carpool gig because I have company coming to visit . Then my guests decline and I mention this at dinner Thursday evening.

“Oh! So you can take me to hockey then?”

Quick. Think of something.

Only nothing comes to mind, and I concede: looks like I’m spending Friday night at the hockey arena.

After a 30-minute drive during which any question I asked was responded by him pulling his ear plug out and asking, “Excuse me?” I should know better; I drop all efforts to converse. I leave him at the front door of the arena and tell him, “I have a few errands to run (like running to the LCBO) but I’ll be here to watch the last twenty minutes” and off he goes.

This hockey arena has four ice pads and I forgot to ask him which surface he was playing on. I quickly size up the place: Pad 1 has girls on it  – moving on. Pad 2 has little tykes on I,t so I move on again. Pads 3 and 4 both look like they’re hosting groups of 14 year olds. I spend a few minutes checking out the teams on Pad 3 but I don’t see our underage, unemployed free loader. I move over to Pad 4 and see him chasing the puck down the ice.

I flash my best fake yeah-thumbs-up in his general direction, mostly because I sure as hell don’t want to have spent a Friday night at the hockey arena without him noticing my efforts! The game appears to end in a 2-2 tie, and I retreat to the foyer to await his return from the dressing room. I then run into another hockey mom I know from my daughter’s hockey team last season. After some chit-chat, she asks what team Emily is playing on tonight – because it would be normal for me to be here with my own child. I tell her that I’m here with a friend’s son and am just waiting for him to change, gesturing in the direction of Pad 4.

All of a sudden, my friend’s son comes up behind me and says, “Hey, I’m ready to go!” I wheel around and ask, “Where did you come from?” “My game. Over there” gesturing to Pad 3.

“You weren’t playing on Pad 4?”

“Nope”

“Oh. I see. So. You were not the one I gave a thumbs up to?”

Thank God I didn’t bang on the glass.

 “Did you even watch my game?”

 “No. I was watching the game on pad 4.”

“Who was playing on Pad 4” he asks, and it’s not a bad question.

“I thought you were.”

So, not only did I take a child not my own to a hockey game, I watch almost an entire game of complete strangers. Loserdom has my name on it.

“Let’s keep this between the two of us, okay?” I implore to him.

“Sure” he says. “Just like you’re going to keep the two chocolate bars before dinner between the two of us too, right?”

It’s a deal.

~~~

*Truth be told, she also dropped off all his lunches, and two or three meals for our entire family (which had just grown to six people) but whatever – it’s my story.

Hockey implants

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My daughter and I were hockey implants this past weekend.

It’s not what you think.

Technically, she was the implant, I was the transplant.

She was invited by another team to a hockey tournament in Jay Peak, Vermont (uh huh, so skiing was also involved too!) as a pick-up player. Several players from a team in her association were unable to attend this tournament so they get to pick up players from another team, hence their invitation to us – I mean, my daughter. It was her job to play hockey for this team; it was my job to get her there (well, my husband’s. Given there was skiing involved, we made this a ski-hockey-waterpark weekend).

It seems a lot of parents of recreational hockey won’t travel to out-of-town tournaments. Cost, time, winter roads, whatever. But out-of-town hockey tournaments is what I love about being a hockey mom (in fact, they may even be why I tolerate minor hockey).

And I’m not the only one. When our hockey years are behind us, I can guarantee you that all three of my kids will look back on their minor hockey careers and the out-of-town tournaments as being the bomb dot com. (I learned that phrase from my daughter and I can’t stop using it.)

Out-of-town hockey tournaments offer an opportunity to play teams from other cities (heck, from other countries, as was the case this past weekend!) and is like a mini-vacation (despite a typically busy game schedule particularly if your team advances beyond round robin play). It offers a brief but reliable antidote to the ho-hum doldrums of the cold, Canadian winter. It offers families the chance to dispense with normal routine of school and work – and to travel and sleep in close quarters (the only form of winter camping I’ll agree to).  It offers the potential of a new town or city or food or folklore to explore and who can deny the enriched learning experience kids derive from hotel swimming pools, mini stick hockey in the lobby and terrorizing hotel security guards after quiet hour (despite me having signed numerous waivers over the years promising precisely not to do so!)??

Some of the teams my kids have been on have had six tournaments a season (when playing competitive hockey) and some of our teams have only been to two. Regardless of the number or the timing (except for maybe The Great Hockey Weekend of 2012, which we do not speak of in our household), I will never vote down a hockey tournament weekend.

I like hockey tournaments. I know my kids love hockey tournaments.

I liked being a hockey implant and I’m certain my daughter enjoyed being a hockey implant too.

And I think we make the perkiest of hockey implants out there!

ice haus

Heaven – that place where the hockey player has a valid driver’s license

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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.

Playoff Hockey – It’s the reason for the season.

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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 snowstorm game…

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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 …

Slow-Cooker Orange Chicken – A Hockey Family Food Favourite

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Work-life balance. It’s not easy to put food on the table and hockey skates on kids’ feet without spilling my wine, but I’ve think I’ve got it down now – not the days the wine store is closed mind you, but most days. There are so many evenings in this hockey mom’s life when I have to serve dinner at the speed of light which is generally not a problem for my full time cook. Except I don’t have a full time cook so am always on the look out for dinner recipes that are fast, easy and edible and do not involve an easily memorized phone number.

My slow-cooker is one of my BFFs, but she does occasionally let me down. I quickly realized that the idea of crock-pot cooking is far more tantalizing than the food it renders. But I am about to share a hockey family slow-cooker favourite. I’m not sure who to credit for this one except that I know I got it from my mom about ten years ago – about two years into my hockey momdom. I love this recipe for two reasons: 1. It does not require the meat to be browned first which apparently is a big slow-cooker no-no; and 2. It’s one of the few slow-cooker experiments I’ve undertaken that my family likes (and therefore will actually consume it). I have a standard rule in my house that if a new recipe gets a thumbs-up from 3/5 of my family (dogs, fish and hamster are not eligible voters), it’s worth repeating. If it gets a 5/5, it’s a keeper. This one’s a keeper!

Slow-Cooker Orange Chicken

8-10 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, cut into chunks.

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder

1/3 cup orange marmalade

1/3 cup barbeque sauce (try not to use a smoky kind)

2 tablespoons low-sodium soya sauce

1/2 teaspoon Asian chili paste

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon minced gingerroot

1 clove garlic, minced

Green onions, chopped for garnish

Sesame seeds, toasted (optional) for garnish

IMG_2003

Mix the chicken with the flour and 5-spice right in your slow cooker. Combine the marmalade, barbeque sauce, soya sauce, chili paste, sesame oil, ginger and garlic and pour over the chicken. Stir it up, little darlin’, stir it up until all the chicken is covered. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. But here is my secret slow-cooker showstopper timesaver: I put the flour-and-spice-covered chicken in the removable cooking pot and prep the sauce in a measuring cup the night before. I mix it up in the morning and pop it back in the frig. Then I ask one of my kids to put it in the slow cooker when they get home from school. This may involve a reminder note on the front door, a text at 3:00pm, a phone call home at 3:00PM or all three, depending on the teenager. Luckily my oldest ones are home from high school around 3:00PM and areIMG_2006 accepting of this massive responsibility thereby making dinner servable anytime between 6:00-7:00PM. If your kids are unreliable and you consider cooking this on low for 6-8 hours like some slow-cooker recipes suggest (or 10 hours because you leave at 730AM and are not home before 5:00PM), this recipe will be overcooked and dry and not fit for human consumption (but the dogs will still love it).

IMG_2007Serve the chicken over rice with a side of steamed broccoli or green beans (I have a microwave steamer so I can prep this in advance too). This meal is on my table at least twice a month during hockey season. My son even takes the leftovers to school for lunch. Yes, he does. And he’s a teenager.

If you have any hockey family friendly recipes, I’d love to try them out 🙂

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