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.
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.