For the past four years, Colin's hockey games, from rec to travel, have been played in rinks throughout Tampa Bay, Orlando, Estero and South Florida. Later this week, though, that changes when Colin and his Jr. Bulls teammates take part in a tournament in Atlanta.
We're heading out Friday, joining his buddy, Nick, and his dad for the seven-hour ride straight up Interstate 75. Thankfully, Colin has a long weekend from school for the Martin Luther King holiday. Me and The Missus are even taking the time off so we can both make the trip.
This past week, I could sense Colin's growing excitement about the trip. Sure, he had two Central Florida Hockey League games yesterday, splitting that pair. Still, though, it's the thought of a road trip, especially one lasting more than two hours, that has him pumped up.
I'll admit, too, that I'm pretty excited. Given the team's success at the Holiday Invitational in Estero just after Christmas, it'll be interesting to see how they stack up against kids from other hockey programs throughout the Southeast. In three of the four games, the kids will play teams (at this writing, we're on our third schedule) from Atlanta, Greensboro, N.C. and Huntsville, Ala.
At first, we thought this tournament would present the closest opportunity for relatives in the Carolinas to travel and for the first time watch him play. But when we heard the team would also participate in a tournament near Charlotte, N.C., in February, we knew the thought of a day trip, rather than an overnight trip, would be much more appealing to them. So, in another five weeks, we'll be hitting the road again.
I must say, too, the offer to ride along with his teammate really helped seal the deal for us. Like I wrote before, these tournaments can cost a good chunk of change. So, the idea of saving some money, by not having to rent a vehicle, was appreciated and will be rewarded. Plus, Nick is Colin's best friend on the team. That alone should make the trip fun as the boys get to hang out together.
The trip, however, won't be the first time that Colin will skate outside of Florida. This past summer, he held his own during a pair of clinics up in New Hampshire, showing that Florida kids do, indeed, play hockey. Really, it's a shame there wasn't a camp he could've attended when we were up there. In time, though, we hope that changes.
Until then, this week's trip becomes the biggest step -- so far -- in his journey.