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Last year my son Rain said the unthinkable. “Mom, I want to play hockey.” I tried bribing him with drum lessons instead.

I’ve heard horror stories of minor league hockey taking over people’s lives. Winter weekends suddenly spent watching their breath in freezing arenas rather than curled in front of a fireplace. Family vacations morphed into tournaments. Family dinners scheduled around game times and consisting of nothing more than hotdogs and takeout. Determined to stop this from happening, I started looking for a low-key hockey league — preferably one ice-time per week at a convenient, consistent time. This does not exist. It’s either a full-on school year of erratically scheduled practices, games and tournaments or nothing.

When I called the local league to get the dreaded details, the woman on the phone tried to reassure me. “Don’t worry. You’ll love hockey! Before you know it, the hockey team will become your whole life. You’ll do everything together and they will soon be your new best friends.”

Please. Stop.

I like my life. I like my friends.

The registration deadline was fast approaching and my son was patiently awaiting the referee’s decision. I decided to let him try it for a year. Of course, I secretly hoped he would hate it.

He didn’t hate it. And then he was elected team goalie and he liked it even more. Being a goalie meant more expensive equipment, more practices and the necessity of being at every game. (People tend to notice an empty net.) But his enthusiasm was obvious and hey, being a goalie is almost the same as being a drummer.

After the first couple of practices I discovered I was horrible at sitting still. I started power walking the neighbourhoods during practices and I took up knitting during the games. I knit lopsided scarves while keeping one eye on the game. I never quite knew why the whistle was being blown, but I always held my breath when the other teams took shots on my son.

His sister Moxie was just as natural in her newfound designation of rink-rat. She learned her way around every arena in the city. We passed the time trying to solve the mystery of why Rink One smells like 100-year-old sweat but Rink Two just smells like plain air. We drew hearts in the phone books by our address and she would often search for them. Does anyone use phone books anymore?

The season ended with our team making a giant comeback from last to second place. Rain won a trophy and I was incredibly proud of his dedication. I was also incredibly happy to switch to watching him play soccer in the sunshine.

This September another hockey season began. It was at least familiar territory. I felt prepared and knew I could manage it just as well as Dave Nonis (okay, I Googled that).

painting of a kid playing goalie

PAINTING: ALISON CLARKE

But suddenly I was crosschecked with the announcement of Saturday morning 6:30 a.m. practices. What? The only reason anyone should ever wake up at 5:15 a.m. in the morning on a Saturday is to catch a flight, preferably to somewhere warm.

And so Rain, Moxie and I now play the ‘Where do you wish you were flying to?’ game on our way to the practice Saturday mornings. The kids choose China almost without fail. I choose scuba diving trips in Bali and the Italian countryside.

We have made a family tradition of going for breakfast after practice. This helps numb the pain, since coffee can solve almost anything. I still grumbled about the unthinkable early mornings until I had a moment of realization: “I wouldn’t be as bothered about driving him to rock band practice on Saturday mornings.” I hung my head sheepishly at my own selfishness.

My colleague overheard and smiled in reassurance, “Rock bands would never practice at 6:30 in the morning.”

And so through wins, losses, hotdogs and a lot of coffee, hockey is here to stay — and I’m trying to be a good sport. But just when I think might deserve a Hockey Mom coffee mug, I spend an hour at Rain’s goalie clinic cheering on the wrong goalie. I wasn’t even close.

Erica Richmond is a single parent. She loves words and adventures.

 

* title inspired by Grant Lawrence’s fabulous book The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie

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