Five months. Five months of packing up the hockey gear, going to the arena, getting the equipment on and encouraging him to get out on the ice and do his best.
Five months of him feeling he wasn’t good enough.
It was my youngest son’s first year of hockey, his first year of skating, period. I had been down the hockey road with my older son so I knew the drill. I’m an expert at tying laces and giving pep talks, at trying to make my boys feel good about giving it their all and having fun. Those first five months my little guy spent more time sliding across the ice than standing upright on it.
Each game he came off the ice feeling defeated, he hardly ever got the puck and it was hard for him to keep up. “Everyone is laughing at me, mom.” I assured him they weren’t but my words fell on deaf ears.
This is what they don’t tell you about being a hockey mom, especially when your player is young and still learning. You see every move your own child makes but not really what the other kids are doing. You have an overall view of the game but for the most part your eyes are glued on that little head you’ve kissed a thousand times.
So I watched. And every time he fell, I silently encouraged him to get up. This is an important lesson in life. It’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you get back up. But he didn’t care about life lessons, he wanted the puck. He wanted to score a goal. Unless you’re the goalie, it’s the ultimate goal in hockey, is it not? Of course he wanted to.
I didn’t think it was going to happen. There were other players who were faster and could maneuver the puck better, players who had played hockey before, players who had skated before. Each week, he would come off the ice feeling sad he still hadn’t scored a goal. “I’m the only one on the team who hasn’t.”
In actuality this wasn’t true but I know in his mind it was.
Then one Sunday he was at the centre of the ice and the puck came sliding towards him, the other players still at the far end. He grabbed that rubber disk with his stick and started skating, staying ahead of the other team. He made it to the front of the net and shot. The puck went in.
He jumped up and down with his hands in the air — without falling — and his teammates swarmed him. When I caught his eye I gave him two thumbs up. His returning smile is forever etched on my brain.
For five months I felt he was a star for going out there every week and doing his best.
That day it was time for him to finally feel like one too.
What is your favourite sports-related memory?