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.

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