I'm not sure when my dad started playing hockey, but I imagine it was sometime around 1950. He tells us he used to stuff catalogues into his pants as leg protection. One photo we love shows this gorgeous, fit young man grinning cockily, completely oblivious to his missing front teeth (there might actually be a bit of pride there). He was always good: tough and fast. But he wasn't a goon. My dad took training to be a coach, and is well-respected in hockey circles for his skill and knowledge.
Throughout our childhoods, dad coached teams, instructed other coaches, evaluated exams, and ran hockey schools in Canada, the US, and Scotland. Walking into our local arena is like strolling into my childhood: the smell of rubber mats, French fries, and that instant hot-chocolate triggers so many memories. I hear the echoes of the cheers we used to shout for dad's team (Get back! Get back! Get back into the woods! 'Cause you haven't! You haven't! You haven't got the goods!) I would never have been described as a puck bunny; being the coach's daughter gave me special status. Needless to say, I never dated a hockey player. I sometimes wonder if dad didn't warn them all away. I heard a rumour once that he'd announced to his players, "If I ever hear any of you talking about my daughters the way you talk about ________, you're off the team". The warning was well-heeded.
When I was 4, my brother was born. When he was 5, my dad got him all outfitted for hockey. It was clear after one ice session that...well, let's just say, hockey wasn't in my brother's blood. He wanted to lie on the ice and roll the puck around like a wheel. His feet hurt and it was too loud and cold out there. I giggle about it now. Dad never pressured my brother the way a lot of parents seem to. When my brother got older and showed an interest in basketball, dad took him to see the Chicago Bulls play, and fostered this interest instead. When he became interested in music, dad got him a guitar.
Well, the next generation has arrived.
A few weeks ago, Dad took Jude into "town" and got him all geared up for hockey. While I don't hold many fantasies about spending my weekends in hockey arenas, Jude is just so darn cute in hockey equipment. That little jock strap! Oh my goodness.
7:00 a.m. Saturday mornings sees Daddy and Papa getting Jude ready to go.
My dad's familiar hands assisting with socks.
Young Warrior in training. I can't believe that's my skinny boy in there.
Up before the sun to play this national sport.
This picture makes me happy in so many unspeakable ways.
While I don't love the increasing competitiveness and body contact in children's hockey, or how it's becoming exclusive because of the expense, there is so much I love about this sport. Every time I hear Jane Siberry's "Hockey", I think of my dad and all those pure memories of hockey at its simplest:
Winter time and the frozen river, Sunday afternoonThey're playing hockey on the river
He'll have that scar on his chin forever; someday his girlfriend will say hey where...
And he might look out the window...or not
You skate as fast as you can 'til you hit the snowbank (that's how you stop)
and you get your sweater from the catalogue
You use your rubber boots for goal posts, ah...walkin' home
Don't let those Sunday afternoons
get away get away get away get away
breakaway breakaway breakaway breakaway.
This stick was signed by Jean Belliveau so don't f**king tell me where
to f**king go...
On sunday afternoon
Someone's dog just took the puck-he buried it it's in the snowbank...your turn
They rioted in the streets of Montreal when they benched Rocket Richard
Don't let those Sunday afternoons
Get away get away get away get away
breakaway breakaway breakaway breakaway
The sun is fading on the frozen river, the wind is dying down
Someone else just got called for dinner