Two moments within 24 hours drove home a point that hard work, no matter who does it, is often rewarded. Some times, those rewards can be great, measured far beyond anything financial. Rewards, too, can reinforce a message.
One lesson came yesterday, as Colin and I sat outside the St. Pete Times Forum, waiting on one particular New York Rangers player to head back to the team's hotel after a morning skate.We had him sign a photo, but the signature, written with a silver Sharpie, didn't turn out too good. So I erased it, hoping the player would resign it, this time using a blue Sharpie.
By this time, most all of the other hounds, collectors and dealers had left the area, a shaded park across the street from the Forum. Circular benches surround trees, offering plenty of seating. That's where Colin and I took up our watch.
It didn't take long for Colin to start leaning against me. Next thing I know, he's lifting my right arm and wrapping it around him, snuggling in closer. He then rests his head against my chest. Yes, he's comfortable.
It was, for both of us, the best moment of the day. It had nothing to do with hockey. It had nothing to do with autographs. No, it was something more simple. It was just a father and son, both living busy lives, sharing a rare quiet moment.
It was one of those moments, I realized, that parents live for. I know I'll remember it. I'm hoping he does, too.
About 18 hours earlier, in a hockey rink in Clearwater, Colin was playing in a scrimmage between Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning teams. Rather than having a practice, two Squirt squads -- AA and A -- were squaring off, with Colin wearing the blue with his Squirt A teammates. It was a test for one team, it seems, and, perhaps, a cakewalk for another.
Though we've been approached recently about joining another program and moving up to AA, where the kids are supposed to be "twice as good" as A players, we're quite comfortable with the level that Colin's playing. Though his skating and tenacity, when he's focused, could be viewed as his being ready to move up, we also know there's plenty of room for improvement in other aspects of the game.
Simply put, with Colin being only 10, there's no need for us to rush things.
Another aspect of his game, and one that has brought him attention from inside and outside the Jr. Lightning program, has been his work ethic. It may have taken us some time to reach an understanding, but he fully embraces the need to play as hard as he can -- on every shift -- if he's going to make a difference and, ultimately, have any success in hockey.
The result of his hard work are opportunities, as in scoring chances for himself or, just as importantly, passes to an open teammate. Some times, these prove successful. Other times, well, they're not. But that doesn't keep him from trying.
In Friday's scrimmage, Colin was presented with one such opportunity. After looking to pass but unable to find an open teammate, he simply saucered the puck toward the net, hoping for the best. As it approached the net, the puck hit an opponent's stick and went in.
It proved to be his team's only goal in a 6-1 loss, a reward for his hard work.