Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Hockey Life: Taking a gamble

Deep down inside, Colin didn't want to walk away from travel hockey without a fight. Politics aside, he believes, as do we, that he's good enough to play. Though it's late in the tryout season, with three of the four teams in the area already picking their players, he knew he had one last opportunity.

The tryout, held for the Jr. Bulls Peewee squads out of Brandon, was last Tuesday. Like most others around Hockey Bay, it drew a crowd, with upwards of 40 kids hitting the ice. Colin, wearing a blue #32 penny, was one of them.

As we signed up, one line on the form asked for the position(s) he was seeking. I wrote "Forward." Seeing that he has played up front in nearly all of his games, I thought it was no-brainer. But when we turned in the slip, Colin asked the lady, as she confirmed what position, if he could change it to "anything."

His motivation, I believe, wasn't of desperation, but of increasing his chances of making the cut.

Before the tryout, as he sat outside the locker room showing a calm, focused demeanor, my advice was to play his game. Be a pest. Win his battles. Make a difference. Stand out.

The tryout, which the kids did amid some bouts of ice-hugging fog, was standard hockey fare. Skating. Passing. Shooting. As usual, he did better in some than others. The big deal -- the one that captured every parent's attention -- was the scrimmage.

For as long as I can remember, from Colin's first days in any organized hockey competition, he has played either center or on a wing. We've also placed more emphasis, perhaps to a fault even, on having him focus on the defensive aspects of the positions -- forechecking, backchecking, playing his position and, when necessary, covering for a pinching defenseman. I've preached that these are the things -- once again, politics aside -- that would help him make any team.

In his first shift during the scrimmage, when he was the fourth player off the bench, he hung back and played defense. That caught my attention. He did the same thing for his second and third shifts, too. I began to wonder if he had forgotten what we talked about. I was less than pleased, too, when he played defense on his final two shifts.

To me, a tryout is all about standing out in a positive way. Yes, you have to take some chances, but you also have to show the coaches what you can do. By being back on defense, a position that he has played at in fewer than five games, he wasn't doing that.

At best, he did OK, taking away a puck and, for the most part, making safe plays and solid decisions. He jumped up into the play once, trying to steal the puck from a kid with his head down, but missed and tripped. Thankfully, his squad's goalie bailed him out.

On the way home, I let him know, in no uncertain terms, of my displeasure. Really, I couldn't believe that he'd take that big of  a gamble to try out for a different position. To me, it didn't make a lick of sense and, I told him, it would likely cost him any chance to play travel hockey later this year.

Finally, he explained his reasoning, telling me that he hung back and played defense because he saw three other kids skate around and chase the puck. Had he joined the fray, he said, his squad would've been down a defender.

"That's what you've told me to do," Colin said. "If a defenseman goes in, I circle back and cover the point."

You know, I couldn't argue with him. He showed he has listened and remembered. He also showed some hockey sense. Most importantly, I'd say, is that he showed a willingness to put his team, even if it was a tryout squad, above himself.

So, will his gamble pay off? We've heard that he, as well as 20 other kids, survived the first cut for the Peewee A squad. Two more practices/tryouts await before the final cuts. Hopefully, he'll be able to make both sessions, as we're heading north here in a couple of weeks.

If he can't, there's little we can do. If he can, though, he has promised me that he'll play his game.

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