The State of Hockey

I had hardly keep my eyes open this morning. For the last 5 days 20 Prospect Jr. has had hockey practice. So for the last 5 days I have spent an hour a night trying to be an assistant coach for his team of Squirts. This is more physical exertion than I have had in the last 2 months combined. (Yeah, I’ve put on a little weight, but I don’t think of myself as “fat”. I prefer “Rubenesque”)

Did I mention that most of the 9 year olds can skate better than me?

I say most, because there’s one chubby kid that I can totally skate circles around. Yeah, I own that little porker.

I’m Kidding! Relax! I kid! I’m a kidder!

Even the little pork pie skates better than me.

Youth Hockey is a Minnesota rite of passage for fathers and sons. Each winter at dusty old ice rinks across the great State of Hockey, the hockey Dad’s will gather in the meat locker cold bleachers and speak in monosyllables, each dreaming of the day that junior signs that pro contract. Each winter another generation of Minnesota boys (and girls!) will throw their rubbery bodies around, sweating and smashing into things, as they chase the puck. By season’s end the Dad’s may have actually learned each other’s names, and the kid’s hockey gear will smell like a butchered hog on a July afternoon.

As I have said before, Hockey in Minnesota is not a sport, it’s a cult. The hockey parents that I have encountered have that intense stare, you usually only find among cultists and serial killers. These people take the sport seriously. Their kids are skating by age 3, and playing organized hockey by age 5. This is only 20 Prospect Jr.’s second year in hockey, so he’s got a lot of catching up to do. I am already amazed at how good of a skater he has become. Now he just needs to learn the sport, and develop some aggression. I’m sick of the little mamby-pamby whining when I make him work the speed bags for an hour after practice. But how else is he going to learn how to throw a devastating left right, combo while on skates? And don’t get me started on his crying after I belt him. The little whiner needs to learn how to take a punch.

Just another day at the rink

Hah! Hah! There I go kidding again!

As far as you know.

So the long hockey season has begun. For the next 4 months 20 Prospect Jr. and I will spend countless hours driving to and from rinks, at all hours of the day and night. Talking, and listening to tunes in the car. I can’t tell you how much I treasure this time with him. All too soon, he will be all grown up, off playing professional hockey in some far away Canadian city, as me and Mrs. 20 Prospect buy a home in the Caribbean with his earnings.

Seriously though, I have no earthly idea what I am doing out there on the ice. It’s amazing what parental guilt can convince you to do. Mostly I just hope I don’t embarrass myself, or hurt the children. So far, so good. Thankfully, there’s a real coach that actually knows how to skate and play hockey, so I do whatever he tells me, and try to stay out of the way. Who knows? If all goes well, I might actually learn how to skate, and lose a few pounds. As 20 Prospect Jr. can tell you, I already know how to throw a punch.


I’m kidding! Sheesh! Relax.

11 thoughts on “The State of Hockey

  1. Peter Paul Rubens painted curvy women, not men. We are “fat”.

    We used to live cross the street from a city park with a rink. When it got colder than 20 below the city locked the warming house and turned off the lights. We could hear the puck banging on the boards as they played in the dark. They used our living room as a warming house.

    Minnesota: Hockey and choral music.

  2. Oh screw Gunnar. You go on with your Rubenesque self, you. I’m sure both you and Gunnar have lovely ankles.

    For the record, I don’t understand any sport that involves ice. Especially indoor ice. Why would you make it that cold inside? Ever?

  3. We too have been on the ice for three years now and I can at least say that DC/MD teams put super heaters on the metal bleachers for the parents so we don’t suffer.
    I made the decision to hire a fantastic woman to coach him when he was little so he was never been subjected to the aggressive handling that some of his friends got.
    Now he skates well, and his puck handling skills are much better than they used to be.
    He’s at a loss when someone tries to punch him in the face but he can do an amazing triple lutz to distract them.
    I grew up skating EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND in NY. That was basically my entertainment from age 4 thru 12. Then I got into music and the rest of my bad girl history is all too common.

    • Heaters. Hah! We hardy Minnesotan’s laugh at your heaters. 80 Proof Schnapps is all we need to keep warm in the winter. Hah! Heaters…such weaklings you have down South… Why we skate outdoors in -20F! There’s nothing like the burning sensation of frostbite on your cheeks to keep you warm.

      so… um… where can we get some of those heaters?

      Like Gunnar mentions, one of the great things about living in Minnesota is all the outdoor rinks that they put up in the local parks. We never had such things back in WNY. Heck, the local ice rink wasn’t even built until I was in the 6th grade. I pretty much learned how to skate after I moved here just by going out on the local rink.

      Even though this is only Jr.’s 2nd year of organized hockey, he’s been skating on the outdoor rinks with me since he was 5, as I blabbed about in my usual melancholy, sepia toned way here:

  4. what elly said! i did my time in upstate ny on ice rinks, snowmobiles and sleds in the freezing cold. now, i don’t even want free tix to eagles games if they are at night or on cold days. i’m a cold wus. but i bet ya i could still skate circles around pork pie, too.

    • Honey, after 4 winters in Oswego you deserve a lifetime of warm weather. As butt cold as it can get in Minnesota (me and some co-workers once walked to McDonalds in -40F to buy an ice cream cone, just to say we did) it is NEVER as cold as 20F with a 40 mph wind coming in off of Ontario. Cripes, my bones ache just thinking about it.

  5. I can barely walk with my feet, and you are talking about walking on knives or wheels. If god wants to us to do so, we would have been born with knives as feet. Just sayin.

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