This Quiet Evening Was Brought to You By … Hockey

So, things have been pretty hectic around here.  (And every single time I say or think that, I know that this is just a drop in the bucket, and things are going to get a whole lot busier.)  Eldest plays Single A hockey, Middlest plays Select hockey but because the coach wants to take this team up to Single A next year, he actually has as much or more ice time a week as his older brother.  That’s 3-5 trips to the rink a week.  Each.  Middlest also had two weekend tournaments in November.  So, yeah, things have been pretty hectic around here, and I miss my family unity.

One glorious night last week, we found ourselves all at home and I had one of the most wonderful evenings with my boys that I’ve had in a long while.  Eldest played chess with Youngest while Middlest practiced his science presentation and played piano.  I made a mediocre dinner of chicken strips and steamed veggies that the kids devoured.  I love it when that happens.  Then Middlest and I made rhubarb bread because he was doing a science presentation on rhubarb the next day, and he was all excited to make something with rhubarb to take to class.  It was an epic fail as far as sharable baking goes (did not come out of the tin in one piece), but still delicious.

No, we cannot take that to school to share tomorrow.

No, we cannot take that to school to share tomorrow.


But the rhubarb bread will still get eaten.

But the rhubarb bread will still get eaten.

And while it baked, he and Youngest spontaneously decided to draw.  This NEVER happens.  As happy as it makes me to see my kids make art, I had no hand in it.  All intrinsic motivation.  It was beautiful.  And with them occupied, I had time to actually sit with Eldest and chat about school.  Again, this hardly ever happens because he’s independent and I’m usually needed elsewhere.  Now, the kids did go to bed an hour late waiting for the baking to be done, but it was all so blissful, I didn’t want it to end.

making art

making art

At first, my thinking went along the lines of, “See, this is the universe telling me that we have too much hockey going on.”  Then, I started thinking that this was a rather ordinary night at home, and what had actually happened is that the crazy hockey schedule had actually made me savour it all the more.  I savoured it not in spite of hockey, but because of it.


Hyundai Hockey Helpers and Kidsport

It’s August!  It’s the height of summer!  Let’s talk hockey!

All three of my boys are off to hockey camp this week, and we have done the Great Hockey Gear Excavation followed by the Great Equipment Shuffle.  The boys have grown, the skates have, mysteriously, multiplied, and after this round of trying things on, we only need a few bits of new equipment this year.

The costs of hockey add up quickly, and that can make hockey difficult for many families.  That’s why I’m always happy to help and help promote organizations that make it easier for families to get their kids on the ice.

Hyundai Hockey Helpers and its not-for-profit partner, KidSport, recently sent us this information to share.  They have teamed up with Norris Trophy winner and Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban, his father Karl, and his family. The Subban family knows first-hand what it’s like to make financial sacrifices with five children and three boys playing hockey (younger brothers Malcolm and Jordan were recently drafted to NHL teams). They are also shining examples of the immeasurable benefits sports can provide socially and for the community.

P.K. Subban has a special place in my heart, because my eldest was moved to write a poem about him in his rookie year for an assignment at school.  Subban is still his favourite player, and he follows his career closely.  I love that he has added this charity to his public profile.  A great role model on so many levels.

Father and former principal Karl Subban has provided Hyundai Hockey Helpers with a list of tips for other parents to help their kids develop into the best player they can be.  I love all of these tips, and endorse them wholeheartedly.  Balance, fun, giving back.  All essential to the child athlete.


Karl’s Tips

1.     Kids need balance. While long drives to tournaments and early morning practices can be overwhelming, it’s important to include family and play time. A child overwhelmed with a demanding schedule may soon lose his or her passion for the game.

2.     Kids need direction. Let your kids know why they are participating in an activity. Not only are they gaining skills to be a better player, but they are gaining the skills to be a better person, including confidence, teamwork, and communication. And most of all, they are playing to have fun.

3.     Motivate by rewarding effort, not wins. It’s easy to take your child out for an ice cream if they win a game, but it means more to celebrate milestones achieved through hard work and perseverance.

4.     Remind children that they get better over time, not over night. Kids can get frustrated when they don’t feel they are making progress. Maintaining current skills is an accomplishment, and those tiny, incremental improvements are leaps and bounds for children.

5.     Keep them fueled. Aim for balanced meals, but don’t obsess over nutrition. Kids can be picky. Try feeding them like a professional athlete and you will fight a losing battle. Remember, even pancakes (our family favourite) have protein-rich milk and eggs.

6.     Be an active listener. You want to influence young people, but more importantly you want to inspire them. Listen to your child’s subtle cues.

7.     Teach kids the importance of giving back from a young age. Regardless of socio-economic status, all kids can give back.  Whether it’s giving up a seat on public transit to someone in need or holding a door, small acts of kindness can go a long way to instill the values that ultimately make a great hockey player.

8.     It truly does take a village to raise a child, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Organize a car pooling schedule for your team. If finances are an issue, there are organizations that can help for almost every sport. Hockey parents in need can visit to confidentially apply for grants for equipment and registration fees.

Struggling Under the Weight of Schedules

This year, by which I mean the variety of year that begins in September, we are a much busier family.  My eldest has tried out for every sport offered at his school, which has meant more early mornings and after-school practices.  We’ve added select hockey to the slotted obligations of the week, and this has played havoc with my beloved routine of reading aloud to all the boys every night.  When we don’t manage it, the missed time weighs heavily on me.  There are the fixed times for swimming and chess and the moving pieces of playdates and parties.  The big boys are both in after-school math enrichment, which means not only the week night it takes up, but the homework that must be done on other nights of the week.  I’ve tried to keep that homework out of our weekends, but sometimes it does just end up there, and on Sunday we must face the week’s undigested lump of things to do. 

We live by charts and schedules, and I’m tottering under the weight of those shaded blocks of time, the weight of what they add up to and what we might have lost by committing to all of them.

As busy as I feel, I always manage to think that other people are more busy and manage it with more grace and efficiency.  It seems to me that other people make it look so much more weightless, this thing called life.  And I am under no illusions; I know that it will only get busier.  One of us is still only three.  My mother-in-law told me today that when her twin boys were born, the youngest of five brothers, the three older boys had a combined total of between 15 and 21 hockey games or practices in a week.  She looked forward to the weeks with only 15.  My husband already lives at the rink, and that’s with only two.

What is so difficult to keep in mind as we make our way through each solid, shaded block of time is how fragile and impermanent these days really are.  This great, solid mass of the family calendar actually rests on nothing so firm that it can be called a block or a chunk or a lump.  What heavy words we use, what weight we feel, for something so light and fleeting. 


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Remember last week, when I asked when hockey season would ever end? 

It did, but not in a nice way.  Griffin got a concussion on the first day of camp, so camp was over.  Also over for the next month: riding a bike, rollerblading, taking power skating lessons, horsing around with his brothers–pretty much all the things that make a boy’s summer.   If you have been following discussions in the news about concussions in the NHL, you will know that one of the most dangerous aspects of concussion is exposing the player to injury again.  A second injury can increase the damage exponentially.

At the end of day one of camp, Griffin slipped while chasing the puck during a scrimmage.  No other players were involved.  He was wearing a helmet.  There are no marks on his helmet, no bruises or lumps on his head.  He said he felt a bit dizzy after falling, but his shift ended right then, and he just went to the bench.  Neither of his coaches remember the fall; it did not hit their radars.  I picked him up an hour later, as scheduled, and we all walked home.  Nothing unusual.  He had a drink, a snack and watched t.v.  A full three hours after falling, he suddenly had a serious headache, then threw up.  He threw up again 30 minutes later.  I suspected food poisoning.  Thank goodness, my husband’s first question when I told him was, “Was he hit on the ice at hockey camp today?” 

I called the Telehealth Ontario nurse (thank you, Canada!!) and she recommended we take him to the emergency room.

Diagnosis: mild concussion.

Griffin has been fine since.  No other signs of symptoms, though we are still watching out for them.

What is most frightening about concussion is that the symptoms are so delayed.  I spoke to another mother whose son did not have symptoms until 24 hours after an accident, and because it was such a delayed response, the diagnosis of concussion was also delayed.

This has, of course, led to much hand-wringing on my part about exposing my son to harm, about questioning our choices for sport, about the culture of suck it up and keep playing.  Detailing my angst about hockey culture, I think, will have to wait for another day, because it suddenly looms as an enormous topic, much too big to scale.

In the mean time, please take something from our brush with concussion.  Put helmets on your skaters, bladers and bike-riders.  When headache and nausea appear together, with or without a loss of consciousness, no matter how slight the bump to the head may have appeared, and no matter how long after the fall, take it as a serious possibility of concussion and call a medical professional.

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Game On

The sound coming from outside  is just unusual enough to make me worry, so I poke my head out the front door:

Chip, chip, chip.


Chip. Chip, chip.


Last week, the sidewalk in front of my house was covered in ice. By the middle of last week, it was covered in ice with two inches of rain- and melt water on top. By the weekend, the ice was again so thick that we could have held an Ice Capades reunion show on the paved area that spans the front of our neighbours’ and our houses.

Today, the sun is shining. The sidewalk is still splattered with great patches of wet, but there’s still a dark, decaying pile of snow and ice, three inches high in the middle, covering our lawn and part of the front of the neighbour’s house.

My boys are out front with the neighbour boys. Snow shovels and hockey sticks in hand, they’re hacking away at that block of ice, trying to free the neighbour boys’ ball hockey net, which has been entombed by ice since December.

Thump. Thump. A piece, maybe four inches long by six inches wide, skitters away from the net. A wrist shot, and the ice goes flying toward the street.

Chip chip chip. Shards of ice get swept away. Another piece of ice breaks free and gets passed, hockey stick to hockey stick, until it rests in the gutter.

There’s still so much ice that they could be out here for the rest of the afternoon, and still wouldn’t get the net free, but no matter.  In August, when the umpteenth ball hockey game of the summer is played, when their tired-eyed Moms and Dads grow weary of squinting to follow the ball in twilight and call them in for bed, the boys probably won’t remember the afternoon in March when they systematically chipped away at what was left of winter and threw it to the curb.

But I will.