There are very few times in life when I choose to simply sit back and stay quiet. Maybe that's the reason why I got into journalism -- to have a voice, as well as a platform when the situation dictated, to make myself heard.
Simply, it's who I am. One of the father figures in my life, for good or bad, taught me to stick up for my beliefs and not be afraid to speak up or out. If you believe in something, he told me, you have every right to tell the world. It's up to others, though, to listen.
People are finding out, too, that my vocal nature extends beyond a newsroom. I tend to get a little loud at Colin's Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning games, hopefully for all of the right reasons.
Most of the time, it's being supportive of the kids, congratulating them on a goal, great hustle or a particularly strong shift. Sometimes, the old player in me comes out, giving a head's up to one of our defensemen if a forward is getting closer and how fast he's approaching. "One hard," if he's close and fast, or "One soft," if the kid is merely taking a twirl. Seldom do I give the refs a hard time. That's what the coaches are supposed to do.
When the third period comes around, though, my voice grows even louder. I'm a big fan of reminding our team, through urging our kids to skate hard, that their hard work wins game. I'll admit to getting in subtle digs at certain programs, one in particular (I still can't fathom why any parent would take their child across the Skyway Bridge to play in that program), that clean, hard hockey, not taking cheap penalties when the game's outcome is no longer in doubt, is the way to go.
From where I sit or stand in a chilly rink, there's nothing wrong with that.
Last weekend's games, a pair of 3-2 victories, were particularly enjoyable and vocal. Both wins came against teams that spanked Colin's teams during the spring season.
The first carried even more satisfaction after that team's parents exulted a bit too much about a month ago when their Squirt A squad lit up a combined Mites-Squirt A squad in a scrimmage. It's funny, I didn't hear them say much after the game this time. I didn't say anything in return, though I was tempted. No, all I did was look at a couple "familiar" faces and smile.
The second game, against one of the self-appointed premier programs, was my best vocal effort of the season, so far. Though their kids were trailing in the third period, I must applaud the parents' efforts to get the team back in the game. And while some of it was comical (one Mom telling everyone else to pass to her kid so he could score all of the goals his team needed), I certainly wasn't about to let it go unchecked.
I answered each and every encouragement with one of my own, drawing upon, once again, telling the Jr. Lightning to work hard so the other team hard to work that much harder. "Make 'em work!" I'd yell. "Make 'em skate!" As the game wound down, though, I think I came up with my best line, even it if might been have perceived as one of two ways: 1.) a bit demoralizing to the other team; and 2.) a bit of sideline coaching.
Holding a 3-1 lead and maintaining possession of the puck in the opponent's end, I waited until the other side's screeching stopped and offered my two cents, simply urging the kids to "Play catch with the puck. There you go, back and forth. Just like baseball, kids, just play catch. We don't need to score again, but they do."
I didn't hear a peep from the other side until the buzzer sounded.
If I'm hard on anyone, yes, it's Colin. Just ask him. He'll tell you. I'll tell him when he has played well, but I'm not too shy about letting him know when he needs to work or skate harder and appreciate the opportunities before him. He's spent too much time working on his skating, shooting and growing hockey sense to take more than the occasional step back.
After getting beat on a center ice faceoff in a rec league game last Sunday and watching the kid pull away from him and score an unassisted goal, I asked Colin, as he skated sheepishly back up ice, very loudly if he enjoyed that goal, as he had the best seat in the house. His response? He won the next faceoff, skated down the ice and nearly scored, clanging one off of the post.
I like when he talks back to me like that.