Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Hockey Life: It was his call

Not too long ago, I wrote that Colin would be taking an extended break from playing league hockey. He had been playing, pretty much nonstop, some form of it for the past two-plus years. It was time, we thought, for him to step up, chill out and rest up.

In its place, with an eye of only playing with a purpose, would be a spring of once-a-week practice/scrimmage sessions with the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning peewee teams as well as his weekly skating sessions on Wednesdays at Countryside Mall. He'd still get his ice time, but wouldn't face the pressure of games.

It's funny, I suppose, how things change.

Starting next week, Colin will return to the Tampa Bay Metro League, putting in a recreational season with the Pinellas Police Athletic League Stars, his first-ever organized team. It was at his own request, too, not mine. He told me, on several occasions, that he missed playing in games. "I want as much ice time as I can get," he would tell me.

Deep down inside, I knew that he would eventually start bugging me to start playing again. Part of our reasoning for taking a break was to let his hunger to play start to bubble over. Our fear was that, after more than 30 months of practices, scrimmages and games, everything was starting to blur.

It wasn't so much his compete level, as he's finally wrapped his head around the need to go hard all the time. No, it was more than the games had become part of the process, rather than something of a reward.

Looking back, I didn't think it would be so soon. I figured he'd like to stay away from the rink, opting instead to go swimming (like he has), fishing (we need to go soon) and flying kites (same here, too), and just being a kid (he has no problems doing that).

Playing for the PAL Stars was a major part of the decision. Not only does he have loyalty to the team, as it was his first, but we've always felt like part of the PAL family, even after he stopped playing for them. Plus, he still has his jersey (even if it, as an adult small, is too big).

Last fall, Colin played for another team during the Metro League's inaugural campaign, helping provide leadership on a roster that was stocked with many first-time or younger players. Looking back, that wasn't a smart move on our part. Trust me, he wasn't the only one frustrated by that decision.

It's our belief, and part of our mantra that his hockey needs to have a purpose, that Colin fits better as a role player -- as in making a good team get a little better -- rather than being the "go-to" guy. Playing with a team of players closer to, and in some cases better than, his skill level will only help him elevate his game.

Come summer, though, it will be time to take a step back, only maintaining his skating sessions and, scheduling and finances permitting, attending a hockey camp and the occasional clinic. And, of course, he'll get to be a kid who goes swimming, fishing and flying kites on windy summer days.

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