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Cornered Coach: Taking it to the max

A flock of East York Novice Penguins in Toronto, each with their own distinct ways of waddling through life.


Lots of positive news on the Penguins front.

For one thing, the Toronto Novice house league team I coach has reeled off 4 straight wins and now sits with a 6-3 record. Secondly, my 8-year old, Max, finally scored his first goal as a proud member of the Penguins; and while Max doesn't score many, he definitely knows how to celebrate when he puts the ol' biscuit in the basket. A bunch of our Select-level players, who also suit up in house league, average 3 or 4 goals per game and tend to take a "been there, done that" attitude about scoring. 

But Max?

He celebrated his first goal by dropping to one knee and pumping his fist. It was a little over-the-top, but what the heck. Our official Penguins motto is "Fun, Hustle and Improve" and Max definitely knows how to have fun.

Unlike the other coaches in our loop who also have a son on their team, Max is a true house league player with no illusions, either in his own mind or his parents, of playing rep hockey. Who knows what the future holds, but for now Max is very content playing a modest schedule that includes a weekly game, Wednesday power skating lessons and a practice every other week. As mentioned in last week's blog, power skating, public skating or shinny hockey is the subject of some tough parent-child negotiations, as Max would much prefer staying home playing video games with his buddies. (Sound familiar, fellow-mom and dads?)

Of course, it's amazing how two kids from the same family can be so different. My 6-year old, Theo, is a competitive little sucker who's always up for any activity that includes a puck or ball. As a result, he's displaying real signs of improvement and is starting to show some interest in trying out for the Select program next season.

However, while Max doesn't share Theo's passion for hockey, he's still a real pleasure to have around the Penguins. He's got a great sense of humor and has really bonded with another hilarious kid on our squad, Jacob Wong. The two of them spend a lot of time chattering together in the dressing room and on the bench and, in fact, I mentioned to them during our last game that they actually sound like a couple of screeching Penguins, which delighted them to no end.

But that's what hockey, especially at the house league level, is all about. Like Max, Jacob isn't a top-end player but he's hustling and improving and two weeks ago he came very close to tying Max in the goal scoring column. Jacob will get one before too long and, when he does, I can hardly wait to watch his celebration to see if he can match Max in the enthusiasm department.

By the way, underlining the fact that different kids have different talents, Jacob is a top-notch musician who blew everybody away playing piano at a recent school concert. Max attends the same school and is a proud member of the "Reading Buddies" program, which matches kids from his grade three class with grade one students who are just learning to read. Max has a huge appetite for reading and devours "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books; which probably explains his zany humor. 

I, on the other hand, was never much of a student and was completely nuts about sports. Dad often served as my coach in hockey and baseball and I can still remember one of his favorite expressions.

"If hockey interferes with school, quit school."

He was just kidding...I think.

Seriously though, it's great to have such a diverse group of kids to work with on the Penguins. Our Select guys are nuts about hockey, and their passion and ability is a big reason why we're enjoying some success.

But the Max's and Jacob's on a squad keep the mood light and help all of us remember that hockey, and life, are supposed to be fun.

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