I can remember, not that long ago, rushing to the rink in my parents van, fully dressed in hockey gear, which my mother insisted I put on. My father was flustered as he had rushed home from work and was running behind, hence the reason my mother insisted I put on my gear before getting to the rink. As fast as those days went by, they still consume a great deal of my memory bank and the smell of damp hockey gloves still invokes an adrenaline rush within my aging body.
I couldn't really remember my first years of hockey. It took an enjoyable phone call with my Mom to remind me about those first important years on skates. Through mine and my brother's first years of hockey it was my Mom who shuttled us to the rink and tied our skates. It must have been tough for her because if I was anything like my son is now it would have been a struggle simply to get me to sit down to get my gear on. For that I thank you Mom. Hockey played a big part in my family's life as I grew up and early indications seem to show that that trend will continue with the next generation, and it excites me, I am Canadian after all.
After a short time of consideration I decided to become the hockey coach for my son's Initiation team, and I have realized I owe my parents another huge thanks. It is hard work getting my son out the door and to the rink, getting him into his gear, getting my skates on, and getting the practice organized but well worth the effort. The young kids all have fun and their parents all look on with pride and it makes the early morning and rushed afternoons worth the effort.
It is astounding how quickly the kids learn. They are learning to play hockey much faster than I am learning how to coach it. I still scurry around before practice in a disorganized blur, while the kids now step onto the ice comfortably. Where once most fell in a heap shortly after stepping on the ice, they now can't wait to get going and glide off with only a slight hesitation. We spend less time picking them up off the ice now than we do trying to get them to stop and pay attention to the next drill.
No doubt my son will only have vague memories of this part of his life when he is older, but I hope to share with him the stories of my past and his past so that we can remember together. I don't simply remember the game, I remember the little life lessons it provided and the lasting friendships it forged. Like in all sports, youth hockey coaches, I'm starting to realize are not just coaching a player, they are coaching the future leaders of their community.