I’m a Hockey Mom — Lord, Help Me

Her son learned responsibility, toughness, commitment, while she had her own discoveries to make

Team USA won a thrilling 5-4 victory against Canada in the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Junior Championship gold medal match Thursday night. It was a white-knuckle game for fans on both sides as the game went into overtime with a 4-4 tie, with Canada losing on home ice at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

It is not unusual to have a hockey practice at 5 a.m., and if the kid has to be there — the parent has to drive there.

I cheered this news — because I am a hockey mom, Lord help me. Sarah Palin made hockey moms famous — remember the “pit bulls with lipstick” joke at the Republican National Convention back in 2008?

Although I have seen hockey moms who resemble pit bulls in attitude and enthusiasm, I’m not a pit bull. I’m more of a terrier — lots of nervous excitement, lots of jumping up and down.

I never wanted my son, James, to play hockey. We were a soccer family with my first two boys. I loved standing on the sidelines on a beautiful day watching junior varsity and varsity games. It’s a relatively low-cost sport, which we appreciated. The uniforms were pretty simple: shorts, shin pads, a shirt — and how much does one soccer ball cost?

Hockey is a completely different story. The boys wear pounds of pads, and sticks cost hundreds of dollars — and they often break like matchsticks during games. Helmets need to be replaced as young heads grow — and don’t get me started on the skates. Let’s just say we could own a small vacation condo with the money we’ve spent on hockey skates over the years.

The author’s son taking a shot on net

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Hockey has crazy hours. A 5 a.m. practice is not unusual, and if the kid has to be there — well, the parent has to drive there. Dunkin’ Donuts loves hockey players. I don’t know about keeping America going, but Dunkin’ definitely keeps hockey parents going.

The commitment for a family with hockey kids is mind-boggling, too. My son has a T-shirt that says, “I Can’t, I Have Hockey.” That says it all: We can’t, we have hockey. Every holiday there is a tournament (hockey loves a nice three-day tournament), and several games a week, plus practices. I have seen grown men weep when their hockey player finally gets his driver’s license.

Related: When College Athletes Sign On the Dotted Line

I am loath to mention this, but hockey has a certain smell to it. There is no worse smell than a hockey player’s bag or locker room. If you ever need to scare a burglar — open a player’s bag right in front of him. He will collapse, and it will be extremely easy for authorities to cuff him.

Then there’s the fear factor. There is a lot of crashing against the boards in hockey. When my son first started hockey (I was against it; I kept throwing soccer balls at his little feet), I said, “OK, but no checking.” He and my husband stifled a giggle, looking away.

“Well, we’re not allowed to, Mom,” my then-six-year-old said. He added, “But I’m going to wreck some kids when I get older!”

Hockey players are tough — they learn to take life’s hits, both physical and mental.

And he has. I have seen my son crawl off the ice after a big hit — and I have winced as he has given out the big hits, too, slamming another player against the boards. I would start a petition for “check-free hockey” — but I wouldn’t get many takers.

So what have we gained from this expensive, time-consuming, often scary sport?

A wonderful young man.

Hockey players are disciplined. If you can’t get yourself up at 5 a.m., you can’t play hockey.

Hockey players are caring — they are always playing in tournaments to raise money, and my son participates in “Special Skates,” helping special-needs kids to learn to skate.

Hockey players are tough — they learn to take life’s hits, both physical and mental. They practice and ride the bus whether they sit the bench or skate the ice, learning that life doesn’t hand out anything.

Related: What One Tired, Impatient Mom Learned About Herself

My son is a senior this year. At the end of this, his last season, he will skate over to me carrying a rose as a part of Senior Night, and I’ll be standing on the ice, wearing his jersey as a tribute to his years with the sport. I’ll try not to cry, and he will roll his eyes, grinning. That six-year-old practicing at dusk on our street, shooting pucks into a net on the asphalt, has had a great career spanning 12 years.

Thanks, hockey, for developing that little kid into Number 21 on the Reading Memorial High School roster. Every hour in the car, and party or trip missed, was worth it to see him skate down the ice, purposeful and happy, the athlete — and person — God meant him to be.

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