Are you a hockey mom without a mom or dad yourself? My father passed away several years ago after a very long illness. During my parents’ visits to Ottawa in healthier times, he would occasionally accompany me to my boys’ 6:00AM practices, because who else but a grandparent would go to a 6:00AM practice? He poured the coffee into two travel mugs as I wrestled with the equipment of a sleepyhead four-year-old and an impatient five-year-old.
I sat in a cold arena watching boring hockey drill after boring hockey drill, internally regretting that last glass of wine last night with a festering jealousy of my sleeping husband and wondering how I was going to get my father down the cement stands of these bleachers. My father sat in a cold arena paying no attention to me or his cold coffee and ice cold bleacher seat but instead 100% obsessed with the extraordinary athletic proficiency of his two grandsons celebrating every pint-sized accomplishment and counting the coins in his pocket to make sure there was enough for two hot chocolates afterwards.
I have two hockey-loving uncles who are gravely ill at the moment. One uncle in particular, Papa George, was a fixture at his grandkids’ hockey games in Clarington so I find myself doing some reminiscing and thinking of all the hockey angels I’ve known – and relied on – over my hockey years. When the hockey players outnumber the parents in a family, it’s impossible not to rely on your hockey angels, the unsung hockey heroes. There have been many friends, neighbours, siblings, aunts, uncles, and ex’s, who’ve helped the minor hockey careers along, but the hockey-grandparents are the most beloved.
Every hockey mom has a few grandhockeyparent stories. While many are snowbirds in Florida, my own mother and my in-laws have travelled to many of my kids’ hockey tournaments calling them their ‘winter getaways” instead. Some grandhockeyparents are even behind the bench, in the timekeeper’s box or officiating the game, but the majority are most comfortable cheering from the stands. I recall one grandhockeymom sharing with me details of her grandkid’s hockey weekend via excel spreadsheet (they’re pretty tech-savvy these days, these grandhockeyparents!). One was our team photographer. Another was the postgame treat baker. One season, one hockeygrandma took on the job of sewing all the name bars onto all the game jerseys. There is no end to their pride – or their bias (as well there shouldn’t be!).
I think I can say without any exaggeration that there has been at least one grandparent at every single hockey game in my seventeen years as a hockey mom. When they are not there in person, they are there in spirit. I can’t even count how many times in the last few years I’ve caught myself thinking, “Oh, I wish Dad were still around to see this!” I think he has been all along.
Three cheers for all the hockey angels watching from above – might just be the best seats in the house.
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