In the very near future, all our arenas will be flooded with minor hockey players and their parents. Among those thousands will be the little ones taking to the ice in organized hockey for the very first time. Be they called Initiation, FUNdamental or TimBits players, they are all bigtime balls of fire ready to explode.
My very first experience with hockey for my two boys came at 0600 one Saturday morning many, many seasons ago. (Yes, my two boys DID start hockey the same year even though one is a year older than the other. It’s a long story usually told in our family with me coming out looking like the worst mom ever.) My husband was not yet home from a business trip and I had a one-year old daughter at home too. Let’s just say, horror movies don’t scare me half as much as they used to anymore.
I was relatively new in town and did not have many hockey moms around to help me through my own initiation. Here’s some advice I wish I been given that first year:
1. The first and most important thing to do is to make sure they actually want to play hockey. Don’t make them if they don’t want to. Just because you did, or your husband is dying for them to play hockey, make sure it’s your child who’s dying to play hockey.
2. Fully dress them at home before heading out to the rink at least the first year of hockey anyway. If you wait until you get the area, there’s a good chance that your child will finally be ready to hit the ice in the last five minutes of their ice time. I admit I arrived at the arena with my kids still in their pyjamas and it was only thanks to a few sympathetic hockey dads that my boys were on the ice (sort of) on time. Dressing them at home also helps to make sure you don’t get all the way to the arena and realize a piece of equipment is missing.
3. Make friends. I know that’s hard to do at 6AM on a Saturday or Sunday morning but you’re up anyway. Smile. Introduce yourself. Make some small talk and share your breakfast popcorn if you have to.
4. Make them carry their equipment. This is not as harsh as it sounds because they’re mostly dressed for hockey before getting to the arena anyway so the only things left in their hockey bag are their skates and helmet.
5. Leave the house early. Oh sure, you were patting yourself on the back for getting out to the house in ten minutes with your four-year old yesterday. But that was yesterday! Today you’ll be strapping them into their booster seat with hockey equipment on! There are plenty of other very good reasons to plan to leave early (weather, need gas, unexpected potty visit, etc.) but the real reason you want to leave early is so you can get that spot on the bleachers under the only functioning heater in the arena!
6. Don’t let them play hurt. Don’t tell them to ‘take it like a man’ or to ‘suck it up, buttercup.’ Just don’t, don’t, don’t. Make sure you also have a good understanding of concussions.
7. It’s ok if you never learn how to tie skates. There will always, always, always be someone around who does! And don’t be sucked into that age-old tradition of the kids sitting down and you holding their skate between your legs while tying the laces. Your back will give out long before they learn how to tie skates themselves. Sit on the bench beside them and have them hoist their one leg then the other to your lap for their skates to be tied. Oh, and the same goes for taping a stick.
8. It’s ok if they miss a practice or two. No, really. It’s ok. Just don’t miss all of them when you’re scheduled to be the carpool hockey mom.
9. Don’t belittle your child’s emotions. This is their passion right now. They look adorable and sometimes the videos you take will make you literally laugh out loud. I know for a fact, that kids don’t like being laughed at when they’re learning something new. I was recently reminded by my daughter that I laughed at her tears following elimination from a Novice hockey tournament because I thought it was so cute. She did not. She’s sixteen and still remembers this (did you read that part earlier about being the worst mom ever? Yeah, that.)
10. Label your equipment. Label absolutely everything because, even labelled, it’s going to end up in at least one other teammates hockey bag during the season, or worse - the lost and found (important note: you do not want to go through an arena lost and found box!)
11. Go ahead and take pictures. The time will come soon enough when your little hockey players won’t let you take pictures of them, certainly won’t pose for pictures and definitely won’t smile for pictures. Enjoy the paparazzi moment while you can
12. Don’t be the grandstand coach. Let the coach do the coaching. The chances of your child making it to the NHL are pointfollowedbyatonofzeros percent. The only thing your child needs to hear from the stands (or in the car to and from the arena, for that matter) is your words of encouragement. Cheer them on and let them have fun!
There you have it, rookie hockey moms. Know that it gets easier as the season rolls on. And guess what? When the season is over? You’re probably even going to miss it!
Three cheers for the new hockey season – and all the new hockey moms joining our club!
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5) The Modern Age of Minor Hockey