Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Hockey Life: Tying skates

For the past five-plus years, ever since moving down here to Hockey Bay, I've played an integral role in Colin's ice time. No, it's not packing his hockey bag. Nor is it taking him to a rink, be it in Clearwater, Brandon, Oldsmar or Ellenton. Those duties, as every hockey parent knows, are a given.

My key role has been to tie Colin's skates. Not too loose nor too tight. Just right, so he has enough ankle support without cutting off circulation. Tight enough to keep his foot in place, not swimming around in each boot. A well-tied skate, I believe, maximizes the power of each stride.

Along the way, I've also helped him with his equipment. At first, it was making sure the shin guards and elbow pads went on the correct appendages. That's why most gear for young kids come with an "L" or "R," a useful guide for those in a hurry. In the past few seasons, though, he's taken over that responsibility, as he should have, though jerseys, sometimes, require a little assistance navigating his shoulder pads.

Tying his skates, however, has been a constant. It didn't matter the place, either. I'd tie them before Wednesday afternoon skating sessions at the rink inside a Clearwater mall. Same, too, for practices. My favorite time, though, came before games. It meant that I'd be able to watch him play.

Understand, too, that I never, ever complained about the callouses on my pinkies or index fingers. I wore them as signs of honor.

As much as I knew he needed to learn to do it for himself, it was my last pregame duty as a hockey dad. He has been tying his shoes for years now, so it wasn't for not knowing how. A lack of upper body strength to tighten the laces, perhaps, but that's why they make lace tighteners. 

Honestly, I just didn't want to give it up. It provided one more opportunity to talk before the game, to remind him to play hard, not back down and do his best to put his team in the best position possible for a win. A last-minute pep talk, so to speak, even if it meant getting in his grill a little bit.

This season, his first full with a travel team, marks a change. With a new rule of no parents in the locker room on game day, it has meant that someone else -- namely the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning Squirts A coaches -- would be responsible for tying his skates. I knew, too, that Colin wouldn't be alone in needing help.

Last night, in learning about all of the drama of a thrilling, last-second 3-2 victory in the Labor Day Challenge tournament, Colin dropped a bombshell on his old man. He told me he'd tied his own skates -- for the first time ever. By hand, too, without using a lace tightener. He also owned up that he batted. 500 in doing so. While his right skate felt just fine, he asked one of his coaches to tighten the left skate.

You know, the kid just might be a hockey player someday.

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  1. Great post!

    You've turned something as simple as tying up a skate into something so much more.

    Loved the read.

  2. It's always the little things that make the biggest impact. Part of a father's job is preparing his children for the real world. Tying your own skates is part of the drill, I suppose.

    If he's lucky, he'll get to do it for his kids. If I'm lucky, he'll let me do it a couple times, too.