Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Hockey Life: Being honest

When it comes to your kids, it's easy to brag. Be it academics, athletics or whatever, praising your child's accomplishments is one of the rights that parents have earned. At least, that's what I tell myself every time I sing Colin's praises.

Between this blog, Facebook and my Twitter feed, I'd dare say that 80 percent of my posts, updates and tweets are about Colin. Of those, nearly all portray him in positive light. And, honestly, that's to be expected. It makes me feel good about myself when sharing good news.

I like to think, though, it's also part of my responsibility, as a parent, to add balance. Call it reality, if you will, but to always share the successes, without balancing the books with setbacks and losses, is the purest form of self-centered spin control. And, honestly, it's pretty easy to get into the habit.

Really, it could be the journalist in me, making an attempt, albeit a weak one, to maintain objectivity. While I love to share his successes, I know that this isn't a perfect world. Like anyone else, all children, and not just Colin, have good days and, yes, bad days. Who doesn't? I know I do.

Take this morning, for example.

Today marked the start of a new Tampa Bay Metro League recreational hockey season, with Colin rejoining the Pinellas Police Athletic League Stars team. Though we considered taking off the two spring seasons, as Colin had played some form of hockey for more than two years straight, he talked me into letting him play.

While he appreciated the skills gained in practices and opportunities provided in scrimmages, he missed the thrill of playing in games that count. There's a big difference, he told me, between winning, losing and simply having ice time.

As a hockey dad, that was music to my ears.

We signed him up, on the condition that he would take this season, even if it was in a recreational league, as serious as any travel-team league. And, given his time off, he clearly understood his responsibility to play each game like he was shot out of a cannon, going as hard as he could for each and every shift.

Sure, playing hockey is all about having fun. It's just that winning and scoring, and getting better with every game, makes it much more so.

In this dose of reality, let's just say with crystal-clear honesty, that there remains plenty of room for improvement in Colin's game. In the first period, he played as though he was shot out of a squirt gun. Sure, he skated, but he seldom engaged. In hockey, that's not a good thing. You twirl around at public skates, not in games.

To his credit, after a bit of encouragement, he picked up his effort through the rest of the game. He skated smarter, not just harder, and became more engaged. He even scored a goal, burying a wrist shot through the goalie's five-hole from 25 feet out. Still, it wasn't enough, as the Stars lost, 7-3.

After the game, as he was taking off his gear in the locker room, he expected getting an earful on the ride home. He knew he should have crashed more hands, rather than biting on a dangled puck. His passes, one in particular, could have been sharper.

That cannon? well, I didn't even have to bring it up.

I surprised him, though, when I told him he wouldn't be getting the "lecture." I could tell, just by the tone by his voice and his long, puppy-dog face, he knew it wasn't his strongest effort. Even though I ride him hard, the last thing I wanted to do was pile on. After all, it was his first game in two months.

Instead, I told him on the ride home that he likely played himself out of an important tryout coming up in a couple of weeks. It was nice that he scored, but if that was his best effort, there's no way I'd send him out onto that ice. I didn't, however, close the door. He has two more games to show me that he's ready to see if he can hang with the best 2001 birth-year players in the Tampa Bay area.

If he picks up his game, and I'm hoping he will, he'll earn that chance. After all, it's up to him, no matter how much I try to spin it.


  1. Effort. That's the key word.

    You don't need skill, talent or be "blessed with a rocket for a slapshot" to have it.

    Going out and doing the very best you can. That in its simplest form is what it's all about (for me at least).

    1. That's what I told him. He knew he didn't play his best today, even if it was his first game in some time. I was heartened to see him improve through the game. He impressed me, too, with his self-analysis.

      We have talked about this upcoming tryout for a AAA team. It's not that I/we expect him to make this team, but it should serve as a barometer of where he stands. I believe there are aspects of his game that serve him well, but I also know he has plenty to work on.

      We've taken the approach that we're not simply raising a goal scorer. We're raising a hockey player, someone who can and will play both ends of the ice, makes good decisions, is a pest to play against and goes hard each and very shift.

      If Colin does that, there's not too many teams he won't make.