After the last puck is fired into the net, the final post-game handshake exchanged, one closing locker room speech given by the coach, the game jerseys washed and returned to the association, the hockey equipment sent out for deep-cleaning, and those hockey socks incinerated, there is but one remaining action item on a team’s game plan: the year-end party.
I’ve grown accustomed to the predictable phases of a hockey season and can mark its progression much like many mark the passing of the seasons. The predictability is a comfort to me now.
Last September, players met in house league sort-outs or competitive try-outs, marking the unofficial debut of another hockey season. This hockey homecoming is as exciting for these hockey players as back-to-school is for hockey moms.
Soon our teams are set, introductory emails sent by coaches and managers, and the great icebreaker party is organized. I might have to learn a few new names and but that goes with making some new, lifelong friends. Puck drops at the first league game and the season has officially begun!
Soon thereafter is the first away hockey tournament where the team truly bonds as they run around hotel lobbies and unfamiliar hockey arenas. While the players settle into their positions, the parents settle into their favourite spot in the stands and accept their various stereotypes.
Oh look! Now it’s Christmas time and there’s the happy hockey team Secret Santa gift exchange and the coach accepts more fruitcake and scotch than he knows what to do with (maybe he does know what to do with the scotch part).
Before you know it, the March Breakaway is upon us and if we’re really lucky, we get to exchange the hockey skates for flip flops, if only for a few short days. Then it’s back to the arena.
In seemingly no time, we’re into playoffs and everyone is on edge again. Superstitions, nail-biting, the ‘flow’ or the buzz cut dyed hair take over our household. It’s short and sweet (the playoffs, that is, not the playoff hairstyles).
And finally, we find ourselves gathered again for the year-end hockey party. Can it already be the end of the season? Where has the time (and all my disposable income) gone? The year-end party hits all the bases – the treasurer takes care of any last minute team fee refunds, volunteers are thanked, and the coach will say a few witty but always kind words about each and every player on his or her team, and the players make sure their group chat is still functioning. We call it a night. Actually, we call it a season.
I’ve complained about hockey season being long and cold but then suddenly it’s not. Suddenly, it’s over. I can now happily go home now and stare at the walls for four months until the hockey season kicks into overdrive once again.
Can you tell I miss it already?
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