Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Hockey Life: Simplest of gifts

When I was a kid, my favorite holiday wasn't Christmas or Halloween. Instead, it was Thanksgiving. And while it was nice to gather with family and stuff myself silly, the day always meant a little more. It meant that my birthday was only days away.

Over the years, my priorities changed. In my 20s, it was simply another reason to have another cold one ... or two ... or three. In time, though, especially with each milestone birthday, I realized there was more to life than partying, with or without birthday cake.

Now that I'm older, inching along on my second half-century, birthdays are becoming just another day among the 365 or 366, depending upon the year. Sure, I like getting presents, though most have become, at my own request, far more practical in nature. My need for toys, or another shot of tequila, has long since passed.

These days, I appreciate more of the simpler things. To take the time to slow down and look around. To soak up the surroundings. To savor the moments. To understand -- finally, after more than 50 years of roaming this planet -- what's important.

That's why, without a doubt, it was one of my best birthdays ever this past Saturday. Even though I had to use a personal day to get the time off from the paper, it was time well spent. It was more than watching St. Petersburg's Santa with The Missus and Colin. Same, too, with the mind-clearing walk home from downtown.

What made my day was as simple as this: watching Colin play hockey.

While we've circle specific games on the schedule this season, Dec. 1 had the biggest red one around it. Colin had two games with his Jr. Bulls Peewee A squad that day and, because of my shrewd planning with vacation time, I was able to watch both. That, alone, was my present to myself.

Knowing that friends would be joining us added to the enjoyment. I've been fortunate enough to renew a friendship from my college days, so it was pretty neat when he and his daughter came out to watch Colin play. It's always a hoot, too, when one of my hounding buddies shows up, sharing stories of his adventures from the road.

Colin did his part, scoring his team's first goal -- the eventual game-winner -- and adding a pair of assists in the first game of the evening. Later, in the second game, he showed poise and that lessons have been learned in making two solid plays while killing off a penalty. It's a shame the kids, who all skated hard, didn't sweep the day.

But, really, no complaints. None whatsoever, not even in the least bit. Thankfully, it was a day to stand back and watch my son play my favorite game. It was appreciating that he's 10 times the skater I ever was. It was seeing again, in his ever-increasing flashes of recognition, that it's worth all we do to have him play. And it was knowing that we're headed down the right path with him.

I couldn't have asked for a better gift.


  1. Happy Birthday! Sounds like the day was a great one.

    Better than anything that could've been wrapped up and handed over.

    Take care.

  2. Thanks, sir. It was a great day. For the record, I also received two new belts and some basics of life.