One of the greatest experiences I have had in hockey just happened to me this year. Specifically this past weekend.
Early this hockey season, I was approached by some people to help coach my son Caden’s mite hockey team. Initially I really did not want to do it. I am a believer in players being coached by qualified coaches, not necessarily their parents, but that is a whole other blog topic for another time.
The team was created in a new program called The Bucks County Thunder, a suburb of Philadelphia. A little ironic that I spent a season playing for the Las Vegas Thunder……Anyway, the program had trouble getting going and we started the season with only three players. I was shocked to get emailed a master schedule that had a tab for practices, which I understood, but also a tab for games!!!! I sat back for a while and thought how we could manage to play some games and compete with only three players. Oh and by the way none of the three were a goalie….I had flashbacks to playing the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s and my time spent in Ottawa with the Senators as an expansion team. Not a fun time!!!!
So we set out to recruit some new little players and quickly approached some families who were around the rink and involved in some of the learn to play programs. We managed to find 7 young brave souls and ventured off to play our first game.
Once again in this early season I was shocked to find out that not only were we going to play a game at this point, it was a full ice game!!!!! I am sure that our kids, especially the first year mites, couldn’t see from one end of the ice to the other…..(again, the full ice thing versus the cross ice thing is for another blog)
Needless to say, the other team, equipped with 18 players beat us by a conservative total of 15 goals. Most of our early games the scorekeeper stopped keeping track of the other teams goals.
But here is where the magic of our great game starts to shine through.
Week by week our young players showed up to practice, games and additional three on three work. I was amazed to see how much fun they had. We made sure to keep the focus off of the games but I was really concerned the kids would eventually get down, frustrated and may lose the love for the game. They never did!!!!! Friendships started to form and new players started to join our team. I am sure this happened because of the positive attitude or our players and parents. I think we are up to about 15 players and a whole bunch that want to join us next season!!!
Our kids are mostly first year mites and they just love being out there doing drills and playing fun on ice games.
This past weekend they got to play a team of other first year kids instead of teams with mainly older kids. Their hard work and persistence paid off and they managed to win a close 3 on 3 game 8-7! The first and only official win of the season. The team then played a second game later in the afternoon against a team that beat them 14-1 early in the season. We lost a real good game only 3-1. The greatest part of this day was that the reaction wasn’t that different between the win and the close loss. The kids are now just more proud of how they played and not the win or loss.
Took me back to when I was a kid and all the great memories I had with the kids I played with. And it is funny, those memories are not tied to whether I was winning or losing at the time…..
This is why I feel strongly that the new ADM program that USA Hockey is promoting will be a great thing for hockey in the future. It is about the process of developing, not winning and losing games at this age……
A big thank you to our players, parents and especially coach John for reminding me how fun and rewarding the game of hockey can be!!!!!
(p.s. we are going to kick major butt next season…….lol)
My son, and now daughter, both play Ice. I have learned a ton, but most of it has been from observing my kids and their teammates. I like to believe I understand the game pretty well, but that actually came BETWEEN my son and I when he first started. I knew everything, and just how it should be. My son – now 11 – had to endure my 'hockey parent learning curve', but we are cool now.
I'm sure their are lots of inspirational, technical, knowledgeable, super-qualified coaches out there who are able to teach the game. But there is no substitute for the ability to call a 6yo over to one side of the bench, talk a little bit about what he or she just did on the ice (knowing they only listened to half), share a laugh or two, and make a suggestion – all done with the compassion of a parent.
I'm lucky enough to get on the bench now and then, and the reward is huge.