Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Let's do this

One of my favorite things about Colin playing in the Pinellas P.A.L. Stars organization is that, like no other program we've been with, it's a family. It doesn't matter how long you play; once you're in the family, you're there to stay. It's all about loyalty and looking out for one another.

Each October, and this year's won't be any different, the Stars do their bit to raise awareness for breast cancer research. Throughout the month, players on all Stars teams will use pink stick tape or, like Colin, also wear pink skate laces to raise this awareness.

Because breast cancer has touched our family and friends, we like to take it a step further. That's why, for the second straight year, we'll be auctioning off the game-used tape from Colin's sticks during October, with all proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, where 91 cents of every dollar goes to research and awareness efforts.

Last year, he raised $107.50. This year's effort carries more meaning. Jen Boston Baker, one of Colin's hockey friends in Canada, lost her battle to breast cancer earlier this year. And one of my friends back home was diagnosed with it. That's why we're hoping to raise at least $125.

Beginning Monday, Oct. 6, the auctions will take place on eBay. We'll have weekly updates steering folks to these auctions. Starting bids this year will be $5 and the Buy It Now price will be $20. We'll even pay the shipping, no matter the address. Now, if you'd like to avoid eBay, and are willing pay the $20, we can make arrangements for you to reserve your stick tape and help Colin's cause.

As always, we thank you for your time and consideration.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Hockey Life: Another growth $purt

Over the past few years, a source of concern within the household has been the apparent lack of a growth spurt by the youngest member of the family. Given the disparity in height between his parents, there has been hope that he'd trend more toward the high side.

Thankfully, over the past year, a growth spurt set in, with Colin adding 4 inches in height. He now stands taller than one of us, a point he makes with great delight. It's good, too, as in playing at the bantam level this year, the competition is bigger, too.

Last Sunday, we experienced another growth spurt. Rather than height, though, this one affected his skate size. For the past 10-plus months, Colin's wheels, so to speak, were a size 3.5. Lately, though, his toes were feeling a little cramped. I was a bit surprised, too, when he measured in at a size 6.

Once he turned 13, I told Colin that Christmases and birthdays would likely bring a big-ticket hockey purchase rather than toys or video games. I was hoping we could hold off for another couple of months before buying him new skates, getting a full year out of his most recent pair. Well, that didn't happen.

All told, we spent about an hour looking at skates before settling on a pair. Of course, he wanted a pair, more advanced than his level of play, that tickled $300, before tax. I spied a pair, more fitting to my wallet than his skill level, for $150. In the end, we chose a pair of CCM Tacks, at a little less than $250, tax included. He'll play in them today.

A wise hockey dad, one who has been at it a lot longer than me, told me to never skimp on two things: helmets and skates. Those items, he said, are the most important pieces of equipment. You have to protect the melon and skates form a solid foundation. It was, and remains, great advice.

Merry Christmas, buddy boy, Santa came early this year.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Hockey Life: Doing its job

Before every one of his games, I say a prayer for Colin, as well as his teammates and opponents, that the powers above and our family's angels watch over and keep him safe. Even though we do our best to protect him, from head to toes, in upper-level gear, it never hurts to ask for a little extra help.

Last Sunday, in the Central Florida Hockey League opener, those prayers were answered. Don't believe me, take a look at Colin's helmet. The two colors and the scuff marks, I'll say, were not planned.

Though Colin has a newer Bauer black helmet, one he wears while playing for the Pinellas P.A.L. Stars, he tells me that it bothers his head after a while. That time, it always seems, comes about halfway through a third period. Rather than thinking about the game, he's often fussing with the helmet.

That's why, a few days before the season opener, I bought some matte black paint for his older, but still functional, Cascade M11 helmet. He finds that bucket, if you will, much more comfortable and, as a result, doesn't get distracted. So, I painted the helmet and let it cure for five days, hoping the time would help the paint bond to the plastic.

Sure, I know that painting a helmet nullifies the warranty, among other things. The helmet, though, was three seasons old. Plus, given that he switched to an organization that wears black, red and white, the decision to paint it was one I was willing to live with. I must admit, too, we thought it looked pretty good.

Near the end of Sunday's second game, Colin, skating without the puck, took a hard hit along the boards. The contact, which drew an interference call, sent him crashing into the boards, his right hip hitting first, followed by his upper body and, ultimately, his head.

He got up and headed straight for the bench, a sign I knew hasn't particularly good. I flashed him the OK sign. He replied with the so-so gesture. His coach spoke to him, asking him questions to test for a possible concussion. Colin's answers eliminated the coach's initial concerns, and allowed him to return to the game.

After the game, Colin told me we'd have to repaint the helmet. I asked why. He showed me the side. That blue patch? That's where the paint came off from the hit. Even though he answered my questions, which required him to use mathematics and sequencing to answer, I couldn't help but think he was pretty lucky. That was a hard hit to the head.

Thankfully, the helmet did its job. And, after hearing from a family friend who supervises referees here in the Southeast, we determined it was best to retire that helmet. No need to ask that helmet to do its job twice.

A few days later, I readjusted Colin's black Bauer helmet. He has worn it a couple of times now, in practices only, without any complaint. In a few hours, he'll play his first game of the season for the P.A.L. Stars. We'll see how he and the helmet feels.

And, yes, I'll say another prayer.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Hockey Life: Catching up

Yes, I know it has been a long time since filing a post. Three months and six days, to be exact. The hiatus, which, surprisingly, I failed to announce, simply took over. I'll blame summer vacation, a 4,308-mile road trip and, quite honestly, my own laziness. Know what? It felt good.

The blog, too, wasn't alone. There are still signed pucks, cards and photos sitting on the dining room table. I'd walk past them, take a quick look and say, to myself, some other day. Well, here we are. It's time, I suppose, to bring the handful of you up to speed.

It has been an interesting spring and summer. Two unbeaten Pinellas PAL Stars rec league seasons. A lackluster tryout. A summer showcase. A pretty significant email. A fellow hockey dad helping out. And, now, we're a week away from the 2014-15 Central Florida Hockey League season, where Colin, now playing at the bantam A level, will suit up for the Tampa Bay Scorpions.

Actually, the "season" started last week, when the Scorpions, with only a single practice under their belts, posted a respectable 2-2 record in the Labor Day tournament. That photo above? Probably Colin's finest moment of the weekend. Playing on a penalty-kill unit, he beat a defender to the puck, sidestepped him, tried a wraparound, drew considerable interest and, finally, got sat upon to draw a whistle.

Over the summer, though, there were two big highlights.

Colin represented Team North Florida in the Hockey Night in Boston Summer Showcase tournament. Though he's not the most skilled player, the coach saw enough to add him to the roster. And while there were some folks and teammates who questioned his presence on the roster, he learned to take a check (getting rocked more than once), overcome the resulting and understandable timidity and, ultimately, earned a spot, as well as heightened expectations, on next year's squad.

The other highlight, which I'll remain very vague about until it becomes a reality, came in that email. Within it was an opportunity that carries with it a very important decision. Life-changing, if you ask me. All I can say now is that, should this happen, the reward of the investment of time, money and his efforts could be very, very handsome. We'll see what happens.

As for hounding, I'll do my best in the weeks ahead to close the books on the 2013-14 campaign. Looking ahead to the upcoming NHL season, we'll make morning-skate trips, as time allows, for a number of NHL teams. To this day, hounding remains a hobby, one that we're not ready just yet to give up.

As always, folks, I appreciate those of you who stop by to read my ramblings and accommodate my penchant for showing off autographs. Hopefully, we'll have some good stories to share in the months ahead.

I'll be in touch.

By the way, we're now on Instagram: cms37 and flahockeydad.  Feel free to check them out.