If you’re wondering what the hell a Yeti is, you’re not alone. I found myself googling it during my son’s hockey game as I heard the parent next to me shout it out as our boys came onto the ice. I was already having trouble keeping up with understanding the game … icing, offsides, cross-checking … I never could figure out why the referee was blowing the whistle. (I called him an umpire till my son scoffingly corrected me on a drive home one evening.)
I’m assuming you’re already getting the impression I am not the world’s best hockey mom. And, if you had asked me what sport I would be managing my life around—that is if I actually had to choose one—hockey would not have been it. For starters, I hate the cold. I already live in Minnesota, so why would I add on the torture of standing inside a cold arena? There’s not even a chance to warm up from the below-zero walk from the car. Plus, I was not so ignorant about the sport to not know that the costs and time dedicated to it were much higher than for those of many other activities my son could choose to participate in. But, in tandem with how the rest of this parenting gig has seemed to go, nothing turns out as I would plan it. He fell in love with hockey.
With three practices a week and at least one game, hockey has become the center of family activities. We plan around it. The schedule hanging on the fridge at home is synched with my Outlook at work. There have been times we have been dragging kids out of bed for a 7:30 a.m. game and others starting a long drive home from an outlying rink an hour past normal bedtimes on a school night. My daughter’s most whined phrase has become, “Do we have to go to hockey again?”
And let’s not forget the mandatory volunteer duty. As my son moves up the hockey ranks, so do the hours as parents we are committed to serve. Twelve hours this year that my husband and I had to work off at the concession stand. Looking on the bright side, it saved me a lot of snack money and calories once I actually had a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations.
It was looking to be a long season. Never having been an active sports participant or fan, I just didn’t get it. Well, then I started to.
Something happened as I watched these boys play together as a team. It was something I had never before seen in my overly competitive and fairly self-centered son. Everything was bigger than him when it came to this group of boys. It was all about The Team. If one of them had a bad game, there was no finger-pointing or griping as I witnessed too many times in even a casual game of kickball in our front yard with friends. These boys rallied around each other. Every scored goal was an exciting win for all. I would hear detailed recaps of all the parts played by each team member in getting that puck to just the right position. I would watch the team hurry back to protect their goalie when the other team grabbed the puck. Never was a goal blocked or scored without everyone on the ice patting our goalie in congratulations or “good try” before lining back up for the next face off. And they weren’t the best team. In fact, the season started with a 12-1 loss to a farm team who towered over ours and skated rings around all our players. But these boys grew together as a team. Soon I found myself cheering and yelling for each of the boys by name right along with the others. I took pride in watching each of their huge strides in development as individual players and as a team: Proving their growth as they lost only 5-4 in overtime to the same team two months later.
And it wasn’t just on the ice they were a unified team. These boys bonded as friends. It was very different than their relationships with school friends. There were no pretenses. They didn’t have to act cool, dress a certain way or have a pecking order. They were just the crew. At an out-of-town tournament, I would watch my son wake up in the morning grab a hotel key and throw on a hat to meet the other boys at breakfast. This was the same boy who normally would want me to find out where the other kids were, determine whether or not they were they in their pajamas and wouldn’t join others till invited in the group. I heard other parents on the team saying the same thing. There were no insecurities. They could fully just be themselves and fit right in.
I met some great parents, too. None of us were too intense about the standings, but we all would be jumping up and down on a good play and nervously pacing as we watched our kids in a final shoot out to end the game after two overtimes had past. (I did learn some of how the game worked!) We knew each other’s kids and cheered for them as loudly as our own. We knew how each boy would react to a win or a loss.
Well, the season is now coming to an end. At our last game, the kids were begging the coach to get them all on the same team again next year. They didn’t want to play with anyone else. Well, that isn’t how it works, and the coach promised them they all had a lot of hockey ahead of them including other great teams to be part of. I found myself feeling sad, and I can’t believe I am saying this, but I’m already looking forward to starting it again next year. It was fun to be part of something. Working (or cheering) together and sharing in both the wins and the losses. I also now understand why you hear so much about the importance of girls also playing team sports, especially during high school years. A feeling of being part of something beyond yourself is so important, plus feeling like you belong somewhere. That team dynamic I had never experienced. (It was pretty amazing just witnessing it.) But, I will make sure my daughter does, and I am happy to tag along on my son’s journey for now.
One thing I won’t mind is a small break from the dictating ice-time schedule. This week, as I invited friends over for dinner, I had to add the caveat, “…that is, if we aren’t placed in the evening bracket.” Though my friend’s response was, “We’d love to. But, I can’t say for sure till I know how my son’s basketball tournament pans out.” With the end of the season, I can take back control of my schedule. That is until baseball starts.
And, if you haven’t googled it yet, a yeti is another name for the “abominable snowman” who is pictured on our Storm team’s jerseys. “Fear the Yeti” became our team chant. It may also make for a good vision board slogan next year, I find it seems to help me as a meditative chant in my mind that both makes me smile and feel some power. Much better then that “ohm” stuff that has never worked for me.