Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Hockey Life: Positive messages

It's not that I want to throw my support behind the National Hockey League and team owners during this extended lockout, but I have to give props to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and its owner Jeff Vinik, for their continued support of youth hockey here in Hockey Bay.

For the past few years now, the team has held its Lightning Made Clinics for players 12 years old and under at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. In these sessions, the kids run through skills-based drills and, if time allows, participate in scrimmages. Colin, shown above at Friday night's clinic, has been fortunate enough to participate in quite a few, including one earlier this year.

The clinics, utilizing methods promoted by USA Hockey's American Development Model, are led by Brian Bradley, a former Lighting player. It's not uncommon, though, to see other ex-players, such Dave Andreychuk, Chris Dingman and Jassen Cullimore, among others, helping out.

For the kids, it must be a hoot, skating on an NHL rink. Colin tells me that it's some of the most fun he has ever had playing hockey. I can imagine. To be out there dreaming that, one day, the seats could be full and it isn't a clinic, but a real NHL game.

To me, that's what it's all about. And, really, it doesn't get any better than that.

*  *  *

Before heading into work Saturday, The Missus told me that Miracle, the movie about Team USA's gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics, would be airing later that night on AMC. After making a mental note to turn it on at the office, I also suggested that the young American hockey player in our house watch it.

Honestly, I knew he would watch it without my asking. We've watched it together a couple of times before. I've told him stories about what it meant for the nation and USA Hockey. I've even shared how I still get goosebumps watching certain scenes, especially the ending.

Basically, my line of thinking is that if any American-born hockey player (or a fan, for that matter) doesn't get pumped up watching Miracle, there's something wrong. We'll see today, when Colin suits up for the Pinellas P.A.L. Stars, how much of an impact the movie makes on him.

*  *  *

I must say, and I'm happy to do so, that life within our Brandon Jr. Bulls travel-team season has become far more enjoyable. It seems the message was sent -- loud and clear -- that teammates deserve respect and rules must be followed. It's nice going to games and practices these days, when all we're thinking about is how well the team will play.

Really, that's all we wanted. I bet, too, that's all anybody involved with this wanted. Well, we have that now and we're looking forward to the weeks ahead to see just how good this team can be.

We'll be busy over the next 10 week or so, with tournaments in Estero, Fla., Atlanta, and Charlotte, N.C., on the agenda, as well as the team's remaining six games of the Central Florida Hockey League regular season.

Addendum 12/14/12: Colin was concerned that there may have been another incident after Monday's practice, but I told him, as I have before, it's best to ignore what this kid, as well as most others, have to say to him. Some day, they'll all grow up.

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