"I don't want to play hockey!"
That screeching voice coming from the back seat of the family car belonged to my eight-year-old son, Max.
Hockey practice, of course, as we set out for the first skate of the season. I'd already volunteered to coach Max's Atom house league team, having coached him in Novice last season, and it was a little late to back out now.
"Why don't you want to play hockey, bud?," I asked with the most patient parent voice I could muster.
"I don't win any awards at the end of the year because you're always coaching and the coach's kid never wins any individual trophies."
That's true, as most coaches are sensitive to being accused of favouring their own kids. But, I thought, I hate to break it to you buddy, even if I wasn't the coach we wouldn't have to worry about building an extra room to store all your hockey hardware.
Max, you see, is a true house league athlete. A young guy who likes sports, but doesn't love them. It's okay to shoot a puck or smack a baseball around the homestead for a few minutes, but soon he's off enjoying other pursuits such as devouring "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books or yukking it up while watching "The Haunted Hathaways" on YTV.
With that said, however, there is one sport that has caught Max's fancy.
"Dad," he said from the back seat. "I'd really like to give basketball a try."
So as I drove on, stressed about having a son who'd apparently decided he wasn't a hockey nut, I thought about his hoops request.
It actually made a lot of sense.
The only sporting activity he'll take part in without having to be talked into it?
Shooting baskets in the front yard.
The only sports cards he's interested in collecting?
Basketball cards, with a heavy leaning towards LeBron.
The only live sporting event he pays attention at?
You got it. Basketball. Every Friday we take in a hockey game at the old barn at St. Michael's College, featuring the Junior 'A' Buzzers. We always sit right against the glass at one end of the rink but despite the banging and crashing bodies right in front of him, Max usually has his nose stuck in one of those "Wimpy Kid" books he always brings along.
I've taken him to a few Toronto Raptors and Ryerson University Rams games, and his eyes never leave the court.
And suddenly it dawned on me that I'd been doing a lousy job keeping my eye on the ball.
"Tell you what, Max," I said. "It's too late for us to back out of hockey. Besides, we had a lot of fun together last year, didn't we?"
"So how about this? All your hockey games are on Saturdays, so what about registering you in a Sunday basketball league?"
"That sounds good, dad."
I breathed a huge sigh of relief because, as much as I love coaching hockey, it wouldn't be the same if the little guy I love wasn't on the team.
The world is definitely changing. Hockey isn't the only sport on a Canadian kid's radar anymore. Basketball, baseball and soccer are becoming bigger and bigger every year, with more and more Canadians shining on the world stage of those activities. In other words, hockey must continue to rise up to the challenge to make sure kids still want to pick up a stick.
As parents, meanwhile, we have to face another fact.
Our eight-year-old kids aren't babies anymore. They're developing their own personalities and their own tastes.
So while I'm glad Max is staying on the ice, it looks like there's going to be some dribbling mixed in with all the stick handling this year.
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