Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Hockey Life: Family reunion

Later this week, we'll be heading north for another hockey tournament. Last time, just two weeks ago, we traveled to Atlanta. This week, though, we're headed to the Carolinas. And I couldn't be more excited.

My enthusiasm isn't all about the hockey, mind you. No, there's much more to it than that. The bigger draw, if you will, is getting a chance to reconnect with family and knowing that some for the first time will get to watch Colin play. That alone, to me, is worth the price of admission.

Actually, the tournament is in Indian Trail, N.C., a little southeast of Charlotte. Three-game round-robin next Saturday and Sunday with a fourth game, either the championship or a consolation, later Sunday. The tournament, which features games against three tough teams from Atlanta, Charlotte and Frederick, Md., should be a good tuneup for the state playoffs in early March.

As always, I hope Colin and the kids do well and, more importantly, have fun.

But, like I said before, hooking up with family members is the whole point of the trip. At least for me, that is. We'll have a mini family reunion south of Columbia, S.C., on Friday evening, reacquainting ourselves with relatives, some of whom we haven't seen in more than five to 10 years.

The following morning, some of my relatives will make the two-ride ride north to the Charlotte suburb. Though they've seen countless photos and videos of Colin playing, on Facebook and included with Christmas cards, they've yet to see him play live. I'll take special pride in watching them watching him.

I'm also expecting my godfather, Fenton, to make the ride down from the Durham, N.C., area. Seeing him for the first time in, I don't know, 30-plus years at the McGonnell Family Reunion last July was my highlight of our summer road trip. It'll be good to see him again, knowing that he, too, will be watching Colin play.

It's no secret that Colin has gone further in youth hockey than his old man. From the moment he was born, playing hockey was in his future. Where I played on more swamps and ponds than rinks, Colin has skated only on rinks. I put in the extra hours, building my freelance business, so he can have every opportunity.

For the most part, the ride, and each game, has been enjoyable. Sure, there have been moments of frustration, mainly related to effort. Just like life, there are highs and lows. But, then, I remember that his journey has, really, just started. And I want as many relatives as possible to share it with him.

For the past three years, it's been mostly The Missus and myself who've watched him play. Colin's grandparents, Nana and Babop, have seen him play. My cousin, Noelle, has been to a couple of games, too. Knowing that more of our family will watch him play, and take another step in his journey, is special.

In the years ahead, we hope that the journey takes him farther north, so more family members can share Colin's experience. His godparents live in northern Michigan, near Traverse City. The Missus' family lives in northern New England. More of my family, as well as childhood friends, are back home, in western New York. Each represent a destination we intend to reach and a rink for him to play hockey.

The same holds true, too, for friends in Canada. We're planning a trip to Toronto in the summer of 2014 to catch up with two families we're awfully fond of. And, yes, trips to the Hockey Hall of Fame and Gretzky's restaurant, perhaps even in a limo, are on the agenda. After that, likely a few years later, we'd like to travel to Alberta, visiting Calgary and Edmonton, and, if time allows, a little town in Saskatchewan.

For right now, though, we're looking forward to this weekend. And it's hockey, the sport we hold so dear, that will bring us back to family. For me, it's the best of both worlds.

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