Tuesday, August 27, 2013

American Hockey Gothic 2013

Just for the record, and because I like this photo, we're proud to announce that Goalie Dude, our arts and crafts project for the Hockey Laboratory of Hockey Bay, was completed earlier this week and has been put into service.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Hockey Life: Arts and crafts

Earlier this year, about the time the grass in the front yard needed mowing, I went out and bought a lawn mower. The one we'd brought down from New Hampshire seven years ago had conked out. This purchase of necessity, though, came with an added benefit -- a big cardboard box.

After assembling the lawn mower, my attention turned to the box. I didn't want to throw it away. It didn't take long, thankfully, for a fitting use to dawn on me. Why not, I reasoned, use it as an obstacle in front of the regulation-size net out back in our Hockey Laboratory of Hockey Bay.

For a couple of months, the box, its front covered in cheap duct tape as a form of protection against pucks and the elements, worked just fine. Goalie Box, as we called it, taught Colin, to some extent, to shoot around, rather than hit, an obstacle. Learning to pick corners, like all good scorers can do, was the primary purpose. And, to some degree, it fulfilled that obligation.

Anyone who lives in Florida, or has visited during the Sunshine State's brutally hot and wickedly humid summers, is familiar with the afternoon ritual of watching towering clouds blossom into full-blown thunderstorms and then release their fury with buckets and buckets of rain. Honestly, it's how we pass time down here in Hockey Bay. If we hear thunder, see lightning and reach for an umbrella, it's usually between 4 and 5 p.m.

Unfortunately, Goalie Box got caught in one too many storms. Its top and sides sagged. That cheap duct tape, living up to its reputation, bubbled and curled. It leaned to the east, the direction from which most storms arrive, rather than standing tall and resolute. Yes, it had seen far better days.

It was a sad day in the Hockey Laboratory's history when the Goalie Box had to be retired.

For the next few weeks, an open net yawned at Colin. Sure, he'd work on his shots, but I saw him return to shooting more at the middle of the net. His work of weeks spent aiming for the corners was quickly eroding. I knew something had to be done. Quickly, too, as the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning travel season approached us.

It didn't take long to come up with an idea. Rather than buy a plastic or canvas goalie screen -- one that doesn't seem like it would last more than a week -- the process of making one, using a more durable material, held far greater appeal. A plan, so to speak, was hatched.

A quick conversation with our next-door neighbor, who is systematically building a rental property empire, secured a scrap, but large enough for our purposes, quarter-inch sheet of commercial-grade plywood. Our neighbor, being as helpful as he could, even offered to let me borrow his jigsaw. A trip to a home improvement store, after picking up Colin from school one afternoon, soon followed. After that, it didn't take long to get started.

Since Wednesday, we've been working, in bits and pieces, on Goalie Dude. This wasn't going to be some hurried project, knocked out in a hurried fashion within the confines of a single afternoon. No, we would take our time and, once again, let hockey reinforce a bond between father and son. The purpose of our project, you see, was far from singular.

If we're lucky and the weather holds, we might complete our project this afternoon. Colin has to paint the details and designs on Goalie Dude's gear. After that, all that remains is adding some paddle targets, but, really, that can wait. Once the paint is dry, there will be two kids, including one at the ripe old age of 51, who will be eager to try it out.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Hockey Life: Dawn of a new season

For the past three years, mid to late August is a time of renewal. For one, it's back-to-school time, which means the end of summer vacation, staying up late and looking for the best milkshake here in Hockey Bay. As a hockey family, though, this time of the year means something else. It's time to ramp up for another hockey season.

Beginning this week, Colin's 2012-13 campaign begins with two practices: the Pinellas P.A.L. Stars on Monday and the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning on Tuesday. Next week, he'll add another TBJL practice on Thursday and, most likely, a power-skating session of Wednesday. It'll be that way, too, until next February or March.

After another summer of workouts -- a hockey camp, clinics, skating sessions and many hours out back in the Hockey Laboratory -- the months ahead are an the opportunity to see his efforts pay off. The first tournament of the season is less than two weeks away. His first TBJL games are in less than a month.

Really, he wishes he had games today. It's pretty easy to see that he has something to prove.

With the Jr. Lightning, it's to show that he can play and have fun. Given the unfortunate nonsense that came with the Brandon Jr. Bulls last season, he's looking forward to playing in an organization that values teamwork and camaraderie. Even better, he'll be a part of a new team that has plenty of room to grow.

Win or lose, having fun is our biggest goal this travel-hockey season. It's looking forward to practices. It's wanting to hang out with all of your teammates. It's waking up excited on game days. For him, that's what it's all about. I'll remember, too, that a relaxed state of mind can go a long, long way.

Beyond that, the opportunity with the P.A.L. Stars means he can continue working on his leadership skills. To me, development goes beyond skating and hockey abilities. It's leading by example. It's playing smart. And, like he experienced when he started playing, it's taking a younger player under his wing to show how the game is played.

Here we go.