Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Our drying racks

After a four-game tournament this past weekend and a 90-minute practice Tuesday, it was time to give Colin's gear a good airing out. That's when these rocking chairs came in handy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A lesson on life ...

... brought to you by kids playing hockey. Think about it.

It's not all about the hockey

A little downtime, at the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning's team hotel, after last weekend's tournament. Just ask one of Colin's teammates.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Show your support

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Clang! Dang!

Just one of Colin's many shifts during the Florida Panthers Early Bird Tournament in Coral Springs this past weekend. It shows his best scoring chance -- a wrist shot off the post -- in his third game of the day.

His Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning Squirts A squad went 2-1-1, playing four games in 24 hours. This weekend, there's another tournament closer to home. Who knows? I might even get to watch a game or two.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Hockey Life: Missing out

Last week was one of the toughest in years. After a summer of hanging out, Colin went back to school. Dueling car repairs (A broken timing belt in mine and a reoccurring cooling issue in The Missus') and the juggling of schedules. Heat indexes topping 100 degrees most every day. A noticeable slowdown at my freelance gig. And, just yesterday, coming home to partially digested lizard remains in four disgusting piles around the house.

Yeah, it wasn't pretty.

The hardest part, however, was being unable to attend Colin's tournament down in Coral Springs, over on Florida's east coast. Though I asked three weeks ago to have the weekend off, a combination of factors at work went against me, meaning I couldn't watch the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning Squirts A squad earn a 2-1-1 finish in the Florida Panthers' Early Bird Invitational.

After a summer of skating, stickhandling and shooting, I wanted to see -- firsthand -- how Colin's efforts would stack up against other travel hockey teams. Instead, I had to rely on Facebook posts (Thanks, CJ) and telephone updates from The Missus. Plus, the tournament was our first, so I wanted to share that experience as a family.

Unfortunately, at least from where I sat, that didn't happen.

I wish I could vow that this won't ever happen again. I can't. Like most everyone else, I have to work for a living. Given my industry, which produces an updated product on a daily basis, there are very few Monday-to-Friday 9-to-5 jobs. Though they exist, only a few, select reporters and the tallest of the tall dogs, have them.

My schedule? I'm in the trenches, Fridays through Tuesdays, working until 11 p.m. to midnight most shifts. It's my job to help get the newspaper, sans any glaring errors, out the door five nights a week. Given my blue-collar upbringing, I don't mind getting my hands dirty. There's some consolation, I suppose, in knowing that I'm not alone.

As any hockey parent will tell you, it's all about making sacrifices. Buying, driving and fixing used cars. Shopping at Aldi, rather than Publix. Mowing lawns in 90-plus degrees vs. hiring a landscaper. You do what it takes to pay the bills while providing the best opportunities possible for your kid.

Having said that, it's time to look to the future. Beyond pushing harder to get a book deal, the wheels are in motion to gain greater control over my schedule. That way, if it happens, I won't have to work any more weekends.

Follow us on Twitter: @FlaHockeyDad and #hockeyinflorida

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't need this, do we?

Driving home from Colin's midweek skating session today, with only a stop at Walmart between us and a home-cooked dinner, we had what every car owner fears and loathes -- a breakdown on a busy highway at the height of rush hour. I had just crested a rise on U.S. 19, heading southbound, when I felt the car's power go away. No warning light. No bang. No cloud of smoke. Nothing.

Thankfully, I had enough speed built up that I was able to shift the car into neutral, navigate across three lanes, muscle it down an exit and coast it to a stop in a side road parking lot. With two cell phone calls, The Missus was on her way, as was a tow truck from AAA. A $25 tow later, the car is at our mechanic's garage, its diagnosis (and prognosis) unknown.

Wish us luck. I'm hoping the issue is relatively minor. As I wrote earlier, we're looking at two out-of-state trips sometime this season.

Update 8/25: The mechanic tells me it's the timing belt. A valve job might be necessary, too. This isn't the best news I've had in awhile. Repairs like this are neither easy nor cheap.

Putting the travel in travel hockey

There was a parents' meeting after last night's Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning Squirts A practice, focusing on basic subjects like team rules, uniform requirements and tournaments in South Florida and Ellenton over the next two weekends. The subject then turned to other tournaments.

I must admit, I was a bit stunned when The Missus called to tell me the news. Locations bandied about included Denver, Nashville, Huntsville, Ala., Michigan and Canada. I'd figured Orlando or Jacksonville, maybe back down in South Florida. Outside of Florida, though? Yikes!

We'll see what happens in the weeks ahead. All I know is that we better start saving every dime we can or hoping that a generous entity steps in and subsidizes the costs. Either that or we need to win Powerball or get one of Colin's NHL buddies to sponsor him.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Choice in music

With the start of a new hockey season, it was time to add to the playlist on Colin's mp3 player. Like most hockey players, Colin listens to music on his way to the rink as a way of getting amped up.

As you can see, the boy has gone (mostly) country:

Honky Tonk Badonkadonk by Trace Adkins
Crazy Town by Jason Aldean
Who Let the Dogs Out by Baha Men
Am I the Only One by Dierks Bentley
What Was I Thinkin' by Dierks Bentley
Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi
Who Says You Can't Go Home by Bon Jovi
Country Girl (Shake it for Me) by Luke Bryan
Dream Police by Cheap Trick
Theme from Pirates of the Caribbean by L'orchestra Cinematique
Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson
Felt Good on My Lips by Tim McGraw
Rain on the Scarecrow by John Mellencamp
Rumbleseat by John Mellencamp
Small Town by John Mellencamp
We Will Rock You by Queen
We Are The Champions by Queen
Hillbilly Bone by Blake Shelton
Shake It Up by The Cars
Mysterious Ways by U2

Yes, it's safe to say I had an influence on the 1980s music he chose. We checked with The Missus, too, on some of his country choices. Some of the lyrics, but not all, are changed to G-rated when we sing them in the car.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shameless self-promotion

If you have a Twitter account, please follow us @FlaHockeyDad. We're also populating the #hockeyinflorida hashtag.

Starting a blog from scratch, as I've done with the Hound Central lineup, takes commitment. Maximizing social media efforts is now part of the drill.

As always, folks, thanks for stopping by.

Getting the one he wanted

Here it is, the last day of Colin's summer vacation. And while he's all ready and packed for the first day of school, we made a special trip out to our local Target to pick up a few more things.

At the top of the list was a birthday present for one of Colin's new buddies, Christopher, whom he "taught" how to skate over the summer. We also picked out a new Lego Star Wars set, a reward for Colin's very good behavior over the summer.

The last thing we picked up, which officially marks the beginning of our hockey-hounding season, were four fat packs of the 2011-12 Victory hockey cards. A low-end product, it's become a staple of our efforts to trim the hounding budget.

One card out of the 144, though, drew the biggest smile of the day. Midway through the last pack, Colin got the card he wanted: Boston's Patrice Bergeron.

"That's going on top of the stack," he told me. "Right where it belongs."

Bragging Daddy Alert #1

In the months ahead, any loyal readers will notice a distinct change in the approach to my blogging efforts. While The Hockey Life will still chronicle our scaled-back hockey-hounding adventures, this blog will be more about living the hockey lifestyle.

Beyond the reduced number of adventures (really, folks, after the past five years, I need the NHL to reload, so to speak), I'll be writing more about the day-to-day life of a hockey family as it makes its way through a travel hockey season.

If case you haven't heard, Colin made the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning Squirt A squad for the 2011-12 fall-winter season. Over the past few weeks, we've been getting him ready, as evidenced by these photo galleries I've posted on my Facebook page:

08.20.11: Lee Gilner hockey clinic
08.18-19.11: Skating technique sessions
08.13.11: Hockey doubleheader