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Cornered Coach: How I Became A Hockey Dad

Mike Toth, a broken down old goalie, with 8-year old "King George". George is a first-year goalie who's a real keener and Toth's really looking forward to working with him this year.

Hockey helped create my two sons.

No, my wife and I didn't engage in any hanky-panky inside a hockey rink or anything kinky like that. But the game did play a huge role in getting the chance to raise my two little lads.

Ten years ago, I was the TV play-by-play guy for both the NHL Calgary Flames and Major Junior hockey on Sportsnet. With all the travel involved I didn't think kids were a good fit, although my wife certainly didn't agree with that idea. One hot August afternoon I found myself (where else?) at an OHL exhibition game inside tiny St. Michael's Arena in Toronto watching the old Majors take on the Guelph Storm. On that particular day, by the way, the Storm line-up happened to include a talented 15-year old defenseman who turned out to be a future Olympic champion and Stanley Cup blue-liner named Drew Doughty.

But while I was dazzled by the incredible skill and hockey sense of Doughty, I was also thinking about something else. Because it was a pre-season game in the middle of summer, there weren't many fans in the stands and I noticed that a lot of people who were there seemed to be close to my age.

"What's going on?," I thought. "Don't these people have anything better to do on a gorgeous summer Sunday?"

Then it hit me. A lot of my fellow-40 something crowd actually had kids playing in the game we were watching. It also dawned on me that, while watching a game by myself was okay, having someone to share it with would be even better and if I didn't get going in the baby-making department it might be too late. So, after the game I rushed back home to tell Kathy about my change of heart and I'm pleased to report I now have two little lads who tag along at all those hockey games and it's an absolute blast being a dad.

Of course, every parent will tell you how fast time passes. My guys are now 6 and 8 and taking their first few strides on the ice as minor hockey players. The next step for a hockey dad, meanwhile, can sometimes involve taking on a coaching role with your kid's team and I recently signed up to help coach my 8-year old's squad this winter.

To be honest, it's not the first time I've been behind a minor hockey bench. The last time, however, was 30 years ago and ended in complete disaster, as I became the only coach with a 13-1 record to get fired at mid-season by a group of players and parents who wanted no part of my coaching philosophy.

I'll relate that sordid tale next week, as I begin to share a bunch of stories from a season of coaching Max and his buddies.

Unless, that is, I get fired by my own son.

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