Hand sanitizer (lots of it), taped-up arrows, and quizzical looks as masked parents tried to recognize each other. Our first day back at hockey practice this season wasn’t the same as in past years.
It was, well, weird. As is just about everything right now.
There were no hugs or handshakes, and no lingering around the arena lobby, exclaiming how each other’s kids “grew so much over the summer!”
Despite all the new guidelines, it was energizing being back at one of our regular activities. Life felt almost normal for that hour while the kids were on the ice.
Being a hockey parent is about so much more than hockey
As I sat in the stands watching the players go through their drills, I was struck by how much I’d missed our local sports community, as well as hockey and its rituals.
After seven years of driving to and from early morning practices, travelling through blizzards to reach far-off tournaments, and tense hours squished into hard seats, you’d think I might be over the, um, glamour of being a hockey parent. But actually, I’ve found myself more involved in the sport and wondering lately how many more years we have left at the rink.
I watched my not-so-little 12-year-old, and felt rather misty-eyed.
“He’ll be big enough to drive himself here soon!” someone called out from across the cordoned-off stands.
I agreed, and laughed a bit too heartily. Wait, what?
Yup, one day he won’t need his parents for a ride, and will be off on his own. And I’ll miss the dark morning drives when we talk about nothing and everything. Or the head-thumping, heart-pounding music we wail along with on the way to games.
I’ll miss the little rituals that are all my own: savouring a jarringly strong arena coffee early in the morning and trying out all the variations of canteen poutine. Wearing my threadbare Hockey Mom socks at away tournaments, and the nervous pacing I do as the team manager while waiting for the game buzzer to go off.
The cold arenas and too-small seats might make my back sore, but I thrill at watching his confidence, resilience, and skills improve each season. All driven by my son’s love of hockey.
I’ll take being a sports parent, for as long as I can
When hockey was cancelled in March due to COVID-19, I tried to support my kids through their loss of school and sports by staying active with driveway hockey, inline skating, and online hockey resources.
But what we all missed the most were the traditions and in-person connections.
For the players, it’s the handshakes and fist bumps, locker room chants, AC/DC blasting in the dressing room. And for us parents, the watching, cheering, and commiserating.
For families, it’s the familiar songs and chants in the stands, special treats when the fun is done, a familiar phrase, or those good-luck tokens that need to be tucked somewhere safe.
These small customs repeated countless times unify players and families through hours of practice and help build close connections that can last long after the Zamboni has passed.
Four years after her son “graduated” from his Grade 12 team, Active for Life contributor Susan Scandiffio still gets together with the moms from his team for a monthly brunch. They recently participated in the Terry Fox Run together for their eighth straight year.
Related read: Could I become a hockey mom?
Being a sports parent is time-consuming, tiring, and not always fun. But I wouldn’t change one minute of it.
I’ll be waking up at 6 a.m. to be in those stands, mouthing along to their chants, and doling out snacks for as long as I can.