Opinion

Tips for watching playoff hockey when you have a family

In the midst of playoff hockey, Ian Mendes searches for a balance between being a sports fan and a good parent.

1iStock_000022656555Small

Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia.

I will never forget the date: April 24, 1997.

I was in third-year university and dating this girl for about a year. My favourite hockey team—the Montreal Canadiens—were in the playoffs, but trailing their series 3-0 against the New Jersey Devils.

With the odds stacked against them, I agreed to rent a movie with my girlfriend on the night of Game 4. I had essentially given up on my team and didn’t expect anything from them.

At her apartment, I had the game on TV before she popped in Trainspotting. At the end of regulation time, however, the game was tied 3-3. So I sort of suggested that we keep watching the game—since overtime hockey in the playoffs is always so much fun to watch. She suggested that it was time to start watching the movie about a lovable heroin addict from Edinburgh.

The game ended up going to triple-overtime and I stubbornly refused to stop watching until Patrice Brisebois scored the winning goal for my beloved team. My girlfriend was steaming mad at the time and she still brings it up from time to time—considering we are now married.

Read more: Check out our Hockey archives! > 

I learned a lot on that fateful April day in 1997; watching playoff hockey and balancing a relationship is a very tricky thing. And when you add kids into the equation, it only becomes more complicated. So using my experience, here are some important tips for trying to watch playoff hockey when you have a family around:

1. Memorize your team’s playoff schedule

Be prepared for this scenario: Your spouse says, “The Thompsons want to have us over for dinner on Friday night, do we have any plans?”

Right away, you should know if your team is scheduled to play that night. Don’t leave it to chance. Don’t assume that your playoff series will fall into a comfortable Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday pattern. Know the schedule like the back of your hand and then you won’t have to commit to boring things like dinner at the Thompsons or attending some kid’s cello recital.

I made the mistake in 1997 of double-booking myself on the night of a playoff game—and I haven’t done it again since.

2. Use the off-days to build up credit

On nights when your team isn’t playing, you should try and do the following:

* Mow the lawn
* Cook dinner
* Take the kids to their activities
* Let your partner go out for dinner with friends
* Install hardwood flooring
* Agree to watch a rom-com

By doing anything on this list, you will have built up some credit with your spouse. So when the playoff game is happening the next night, you will not be made to feel guilty. And if your partner does try and make you feel bad for spending time watching the game, you can easily reply, “Hey, we watched Bridget Jones’ Diary last night. Just back the hell off.”

3. Use the intermissions wisely

You don’t have to be an absentee parent on a playoff game night. This is actually why they created intermissions. It’s a beautiful 17-minute window where you can execute the perfect bedtime routine.

Here’s how you do it: During the final TV timeout of the first period (which occurs with less than six minutes left), tell the kids to brush their teeth. As every parent knows, this actually never happens the first time you ask them to do it. So by telling them during the final TV timeout, you are actually not wasting any time once the intermission starts.

Then, when the period wraps up, they will brush their teeth right away—because most kids do it on the second reminder. After that, you probably have about 12-14 minutes to play with. Choose a short book—Sandra Boynton is a godsend in these situations—and start reading right away. (Warning: You might have an eight-year-old child who says, “Dad, I’m too old for Hippos Go Beserk.)

Read more: Kids’ books we love >

When you are finished reading, you should still have about five-six minutes to sing them a song, assure them there are no monsters under the bed and get back downstairs for the start of the second period.

4. The PVR is your friend

Living in 2014 is amazing, because many of us are equipped with a PVR on our cable system. I firmly believe the PVR was created by a person who was sick of being interrupted while trying to watch live sporting events inside their home. The PVR allows you to pause live television when someone is throwing a tantrum inside your house. If you need to attend to a situation, just hit the pause button, solve the problem inside your home, and then re-start the action with the play button.

However, I think we can all agree that the true magic of technology will only arrive once they invent a PVR that allows you to freeze a toddler in the middle of a tantrum.

5. The end of the game is more important than the start

If you don’t own a PVR and don’t have the luxury of pausing live television, just remember that the end of the game is more important than the beginning. So if you need to miss 30 minutes of a game to attend to family issues, just make sure it happens at 7 p.m. and not closer to 9 p.m.

For you folks who live on the west coast and have important games ending around 7 p.m. local time, I highly suggest moving to the eastern part of the country.

6. Fake an illness (if you have to)

Desperate times call for desperate measures and if you can’t catch a break you can simply fake an illness. If you’re a real master, you will start laying the groundwork for this a day or two in advance. The day before the playoff game you should complain about waking up with a dry and scratchy throat.

Then on the day of the game, you need to constantly complain about feeling run down. Ninety minutes before puck-drop, dip your hands in ice water for five minutes and then tell your partner you are feeling chilled. This should be your ticket to watching the game uninterrupted while curled up with a blanket. I also suggest discreetly pouring a beer into a mug and cupping it with two hands—claiming it’s NeoCitron.

7. Don’t scream in overtime

There is nothing better than overtime in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The drama, the tension and excitement build up to an amazing crescendo that makes each moment captivating.

Problem is, these moments often happen while everybody else in the house is sleeping. Make sure you don’t yell out after your team’s goalie makes an amazing save in overtime—otherwise you risk waking up the kids in your house.

And if you are the one who woke up the baby by screaming, there is no way that your partner is going to be the one who goes in to settle the infant—no matter how many rom-coms you may have watched over the past week.

Don’t miss a single playoff game—you can watch them all on Sportsnet.