Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Hockey Life: Boys' night out

In our house, the hockey mom has two kids to deal with. One of us is 10. The other is pushing 50. She's tolerant of our hockey lessons, his stinky hockey gear strewn about a futon and, seemingly, the never ending pile of hockey laundry.

Most moms I know, especially those who haven't an inkling about offsides or disposition for the pursuit of puck dreams, wouldn't allow such things. That's what makes her a good hockey mom. In return, we do her a big favor. At least twice a week, Colin and I hit the road for boys' nights out.

Mostly, it's to give her some peace and quiet around the house. How she uses the time is up to her. She can use it to chill our and relax, hang out with our cats, Bella and the aptly named Taz or shop at Aldi for 10 days worth of groceries. Bottom line, it's a couple nights where she doesn't have to put up with us for a few hours.

On Tuesdays, thanks to a recent change in my work schedule, I get to take Colin to one of two practices he attends with his travel team, the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning Squirt A squad. On Wednesdays, my Sunday of my workweek, we again head north to an indoor rink at a shopping mall in Clearwater, where Colin does his ice work and I drink coffee. Each day, too, holds it own adventures.

Given that Tuesday's practices are held in a rink about 30-plus miles north of where we live, and the starting time falls shortly after the height of rush hour in car-happy Pinellas County, we often leave early to avoid the daily bumper-to-bumper grind. I'd rather kill time standing in a rink, watching youngsters develop their ice legs, than wondering how many cycles I'll have to sit before clearing the light at 49th Street and Ulmerton Road.

Over the past few weeks, we've fallen into a routine. I pick him up from school and head home. I do a final check on his gear bag, making sure he has his mouthguard and neck protection, while he finishes up his homework for the day. Once we're finished, we load up the car and hit the road.

If we're lucky, meaning we're out of the house before 4 p.m., it takes us 40 minutes to get past the two biggest traffic headaches. As our rewards, we stop at a McDonald's (I know, I know, I know) for some pre-practice grub.Colin gets his Happy Meal of McNuggets. I opt for mushroom-and-swiss Angus third-pounder burger or two $1 chicken sandwiches. After eating, it's only a 10- to 12-minute ride to the rink.

Wednesdays, however, are different. Though hockey is part of the drill, there's always time for something else. After he puts in his ice time, skating between 100 to 120 sprints, logging 30 to 40 laps of skating backward and reinforcing muscle memory with Coach Dons and Coach Gilners drills, we head out for some other adventure.

This past Wednesday was one such adventure. Rather than getting a head start on Christmas shopping or, on occasion, adding to a hockey card collection, we headed over to Tampa for another of the Tampa Bay Lightning's radio shows. This show, held at a McDonald's (yes, I know, I know, I know), had Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron as a guest.

Seeing that my newfound obligations to a freelance client have seriously cut into my hounding, we use opportunities like these to add, even if it's in piecemeal fashion, to the puck collection. Anytime we can add a pair of pucks, those these signed by Bergeron, we'll do it.

Best of all, though, it keeps us out of Mama's hair.

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