Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Hockey Life: Hockey in New Hampshire

Of the many things we had on our road-trip agenda -- from Niagara Falls to family reunions to historical detours -- the sport of hockey, in some fashion, held a number of spots on the to-do list. Just because we were tourists, I reasoned, didn't mean hockey wasn't an attraction.

Early on, it was taking Colin to the street hockey rink where I played as a teen in western New York. There was also attending the Buffalo Sabres' Blue & Gold development camp scrimmage. A pair of street hockey balls, picked at a Dick's Sporting Goods in Buffalo, were even among the souvenirs.

The biggest hockey adventures, though, came a few days later, after arriving in New Hampshire.

Because Colin learned to skate and play hockey down here in Florida, I wanted to afford him the opportunities to do the same in an area more closely associated with the game. Let's face it, Florida, for the time being, isn't known as being a hockey hotbed. New England, on the other hand, carries that distinction.

Beyond a trip to Beantown, where Colin "met" a Bruins legend, most of these activities would take place in New Hampshire. The majority, too, happened at a rink just up the road from his grandparents' home. The most fun one, though, captured above, took place right in his Nana and Babop's driveway.

To further prove a point that you don't need ice to play, Colin and one of his new buddies, Cam, as well as a slow-footed 50-year-old, kept themselves busy for nearly an hour playing a pickup game of shinny. No Zambonis, bluelines or boards. Just hockey sticks and one of the street hockey balls from Dick's. Two solar-powered lights along the driveway served as the goal.

To save myself from further embarrassment, let's just say the kids won.

I must admit, though, that the two trips we made to The Rinks at Exeter before that impromptu game served a definite purpose. Though he's not among the so-called "elite" here in Hockey Bay, I believe he's becoming a solid, all-around player. That's why I wanted to see how Colin stacked up against youth hockey players in New England.

From an objective point of view, Colin held his own out on the ice. He wasn't the best, nor was he the worst, in a pair of sessions devoted to power skating and skills. He was well within the top five out of 30 in skating and, maybe, the top eight within the skills session. Bottom line: he acquitted himself well.

Granted, most of the others appeared to be within their first year or so of hockey. His efforts, however, certainly cast a positive light on the state of youth hockey players here in Florida. By the end of the second session, most everyone at the rink, from the players to the coaches, knew about the "kid from Florida."

I must say, too, that I was impressed by the coaches at the sessions. Each skater received individual attention, suited specifically to their abilities. That's the way it should be. Colin also said he learned more in those combined 100 minutes of ice time than he did in his past season of travel hockey.

An exaggeration or not, it was money and time better spent.

After leaving the second session, I wondered to myself how much would be different if Colin had spent the past six-plus years playing hockey in New Hampshire, rather than here in Florida. I'm thinking he'd be a bit further along the way. It's best, I guess, to leave the past in the past.

All we can do, though, is look ahead, apply lessons learned and continue the journey.

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