(Flickr photo by Ludovic Bertron)
Most minor hockey coaches also serve as minor hockey trainers.
Slip-sliding on the ice, for example, to tend to a fallen little fella who has collapsed in the corner. Usually, thank goodness, the injury isn't serious; which is a good thing since most volunteer coaches aren't exactly beacons of medical science. With that said, our knowledge of injury prevention and treatment has come a long way since the early age of minor hockey.
The universal answer for most minor hockey hurts back in the 'good old days'?
The coach arriving on the scene, usually with a cigarette dangling from his lips, and declaring "He's just got the wind knocked out of him." That diagnosis was then usually followed by the coach grabbing the injured players ankles and pumping them furiously up to the young lad's mid-section – a procedure that did little to comfort the patient if he had actually suffered an affliction such as a broken collarbone.
But while being responsible for your players' health is always a precarious position for a coach to find themselves in, it's actually a lot of fun to provide some tender, loving care for the hockey equipment the kids strap on.
My eight-year old son happens to be a goalie and one of my favorite pre-game activities is to check his gear and pack his bag before we head to the rink. It's actually a ritual that goes back to my own upbringing as a young netminder.
Like lots of "goalie wannabe's", I was attracted to the position because I fell in love with the tools of the trade. It was a blast grabbing the old Eaton's catalog, flipping to the sporting goods section and staring at the latest models of Cooper pads, blockers and trappers.
My all-time favorite Christmas present?
Receiving a pair of Cooper goalie gloves when I was 12-years old. The scent of fresh, brown leather is still entrenched in my mind and I was so enthralled by the gift that I spent the next few weeks wearing my marvelous new hockey mitts while I slept in bed.
Today, Cooper is long gone from the goalie equipment business. Instead, brand names such as "Reebok", "Warrior" and "Stomp" rule the market place. But modern athletes are still drawn to the magic and mystique of goalie gear. Last week, the goaltender for the 10-year old Atom team I coach was forced to miss a practice.
But not to worry.
I brought out a pair of goalie gloves along with a bunch of orange hockey balls, and everyone's hands shot up in the air when I asked for volunteers to go between the pipes. Everybody, after all, loves the look and feel of pulling on the blocker and trapper and imagining, even if it's just for a short while, that they're the second coming of Carey Price.
Of course, my own minor hockey days of donning the pads are long gone.
But I can still dream.
Taking the time to check my son's pads for a damaged buckle or his mask for a loose screw takes me back to my own days of wearing the armor that makes being a goalie so special.
You know what they say: "If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter."
And when you've done the repairs and your little athlete's athletic supporter is in solid working condition, it can fill you with a sense of pride and accomplishment. And yes, it can also cut down on a few of those unpleasant injuries as well.
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