After taking a 17-day vacation earlier this summer, I knew I'd have a few remaining paid days off to take in most, if not all, of Colin's travel hockey games this season. With a pair of games yesterday in Oldsmar, I put one of those days to good use.
Thankfully, he didn't have that early of a game, starting at 12:45 p.m. So, rather than getting up at the crack of dawn and wolfing down a travel mug of coffee and one of Lisa's breakfast sandwiches, we all benefited from a rather leisurely morning -- waking up around 8 a.m., having some breakfast, reading the Tampa Bay Times and, in Colin's case, watching some cartoons. Around our house, that doesn't happen too often.
Going in, we knew the day would be long. After his two games, we planned to hook up with some friends, a fellow hockey family playing in another organization, before their second game of the day at another rink. After that, we'd watch that game and, most likely, call it a day. With that in mind, and facing a 45-minute ride to Oldsmar, we left the house around 11 a.m.
It's funny how quickly plans can change.
Once we zeroed in on the logistics and timing, we realized that trying to squeeze in dinner, for a party that could reach at least a dozen people, might be pushing the envelope. Coaches like to have their players at the rink about an hour before game time. Rather than risk them being late, we decided to meet the family at the rink.
Of course, Colin was hungry after playing his games (the team won 4-2 and lost 4-1, and he had an assist in the win). So, rather than dine on processed rink food, we simply stopped for a sit-down meal at one of our favorite chain restaurants, Cody's Roadhouse. With minutes to spare, we arrived early enough for the early bird specials. For the record, my top round steak was pretty tasty.
We caught up with our friends a short time later at the rink. We had seen them earlier in September, at a Labor Day tournament, but really didn't have enough time to sit and visit then. Last night, though, we did, catching up on lives, school and, of course, hockey. During our visit, more friends from last season's organization stopped by to say hello.
In a way, it was like Old Home Days.
We watched our friends' son play and, honestly, shared in the disappointment of watching his team surrender a late-game goal to settle for a 2-2 tie. Even though Colin is with a new organization, and will play against this team in less than two weeks, it's still easy to root for certain kids on the team. And, yes, I'll admit we were doing a little scouting.
Like most youth hockey games, family members and friends of the players gather in the rink's lobby at game's end. It's a time to offer compliments, commiserate over lost chances and, more than likely, catch up until you meet again. Last night was no different, though it was pushing 10 p.m. by the time the kids started to straggle out.
Rather than head home, though, we accepted an invitation to join our friends for a late dinner. Sure, we had eaten about five hours earlier, but, even in my recent health kick of watching my diet and walking for miles, I could always find room for something else. Especially when it meant chicken wings.
After a circuitous trip the the restaurant, arriving about a half hour before closing time, we placed our orders, struck up conversations, watched college football games being shown on a dozen TVs and grew louder, without the benefit of alcohol, by the minute. The next thing we knew, we were the last party in the restaurant.
It was 12:15 a.m.
Understand, please, that I'm not complaining. I live for days like Saturday, when I can sit back, watch Colin play hockey and enjoy the company of good friends. Really, it's one of the most enjoyable aspects of youth hockey.