Monday, January 17, 2011

Pride in the name of love

Enjoy this long post. It makes up for my not posting in a while.

It has nothing to do with the U2 song of the same name but when I was trying to think of a title it felt perfect.

I know what you're thinking. The picture above shows a celebration of victory. Everyone is proud of those who win.
But it's more than that. Read on.

Those who know me and my family already know of the series of events in our family's sporting activities of late. You people can skip down the page a bit.

For the rest of you here's a brief (I'll try) summary of our hockey stuff.

T and B started playing hockey four seasons ago in the first year of the Atom level. They did quite well and had a ton of fun. Each boy scored a goal that season.
The following season made a huge difference when they were in the older age group of the Atom level.
T didn't score a lot of goals but played his position as a defenseman like a star. I always like to say that he's like a policeman guarding the blue line. He kept the puck in the other team's end and shut down most breakaways before they became dangerous.

That was also the year that B became a scoring machine.
If you never saw this post of mine you should have a look. It describes that second season quite well.

Last year was the boys' first season in the Pee Wee level.
Again, they did quite well but it was clear to me that being in the younger age group in a level makes a difference.

Again, T scored one goal as in prior seasons. His defensive skills were right on the mark. Nobody can do a poke check like our T can.

B scored a few goals but not as many as the previous season.
He had fun though. Not being the top scorer on the team was okay with him. I could see that he had all of his good sportsmanship in place and he was enjoying the game.
Maybe the decreased pressure of not being the top scorer on the team makes it easier on him?

Anyway, last summer (2010) before this hockey season began the boys played in a little summer league at Base Gagetown in Oromocto.
I wish every league was designed like this one. The kids are from everywhere and every skill level. Triple A, Double A, Rec players and several first timers are all thrown in together on the teams.

The two important rules are 1) have fun and 2) no player is to get more than 3 goals in a game. If they score 4, they get a penalty.
Whoever thought this up is brilliant. This ensures that the puck gets passed around and everyone has an equal chance to participate in the play.

I coach that team for the simple reason that I really don't need to coach at all. The kids play the positions they want and I'm just a door opener.

At the end of the summer the lads took part in the St. Thomas University hockey school. It's a few hours a day for a week. Coach Mike Eagles and the team do a great job giving the kids tips and exercises to help them play their best.
The summer before the boys did the University of New Brunswick camp as well but we were too busy this summer for both.

I think you'd agree that our guys were prepared for the upcoming hockey season when it rolled around.
The league had team selections and T and B were picked. (They are always on the same team. We insist.)
The league ran a couple of ice times called "skills and drills" to get the kids on the ice again and to shake the cobwebs out.
The boys went to these and things were going very well.
It was clear to me that both boys were ready to rock and roll and have a great season.
I could tell that B was ready to score some goals.

Then disaster struck.

I was at a Recreation Committee meeting at the time.
The boys were taking part in the last skills and drills session.
They were goofing around as they waited in line for their turn in a drill.
B slipped and took a fall landing the wrong way breaking his ankle.

It wasn't a bad break but enough to have him in a cast for a while and off skates until at least sometime in December.
The doctor told us that he would likely miss the season up to January.

The hockey season began without B on the ice. You could tell how awful it was for him. We felt so bad and tried our best to cheer him up.
He was a great little trooper through it all as he hobbled around everywhere on his crutches. Several times he took falls when the stupid rubber end of the crutch slipped on a wet spot on a floor but he took it in stride.

I have to say that he took it all better than I could have.
He sat with us and cheered for his brother and the team when they played and went into the changeroom as a genuine member of the team before and after the games.

Finally the cast came off. The doctor said that B would need to continue with the crutches for a couple of weeks until he could go to 1 crutch for a week or so and then no crutch if he was ready.

Sure. He was less than a week with 2 crutches and a few days with 1 before losing the crutches altogether.

The doctor commented that B's drumming has been a great help with the flexibility and muscle tone. Score another point for drumming. :)

A couple of weeks ago B suited up to skate around with the team during warm-up. That went well.
The next game it was decided that he could try playing for a shift or two and see how that went.

I was working on an inspection team for the New Brunswick floods that day and didn't think I would make it back from St. Stephen in time to see the game.
I admit that I drove at speeds a little higher than my usual to get back. A stupid snow storm slowed me down.

I made it back to see the third period.
I was very happy to find out that T had scored his first goal of the season that night but sad that I had missed it.

I try to get the boys' goals on video and that was the second time that I missed T's goal. Dang.
However, I was right on time to see B's first goal of the season! He ended up playing the entire game that night.
He was slower than before and not really agile. It was evident that he was being very cautious and favouring his ankle for fear of re-injuring it.
His goal wasn't a wild one with fancy skating and deking anyone out but it was a goal regardless. And on his first game back too. :)

I should mention that the top scorer in the level is also on the boys' team. This boy and B were the top scorers two years ago. I think that having him with us instead of against us will take the pressure off of B allowing him to enjoy himself more.

I have been wondering if B would get back up to the level he seemed to be before he hurt himself.
He's been playing very well and has scored a few goals but it just didn't look like he was feeling really comfortable on the ice.
Until this past weekend.

The team was in a tournament in St. Stephen, New Brunswick and played one game on Friday evening and two games on Saturday. The winner of the division would play for the gold medal against the top team of the other division.

As soon as we entered the arena it appeared to me that the rink was the large international size rather than the more common smaller NHL sized surface.
In my opinion it makes for a much better game. I love watching games on the larger rink.

This could have gone two ways for our team.
The larger faster surface could be a bit overwhelming and shake the kids up or they would be able to open up and go crazy with so much more space.

Happily, my second thought was right. They opened right up.
You should have seen it. In the first game B scored three goals! His first hat-trick of the season! They won the game 10-0.
I have learned since then that the ice is in fact NHL size so I suppose that theory is out the window.
The next day T broke his record and scored his second goal in a single season. What a guy.
He beat my record. In ten years that I played I think that I only ever scored two goals in total. :)
B scored another goal. His 4th in 3 games.
They won the second game 3-0 and the third 8-1.

The gold medal game yesterday was against the same team that they beat 8-1 on Saturday but nothing was to be taken for granted.
Boy, did they ever see the truth in that.

They led 3-0 going into the third period. B had scored one of the goals.
Then it went wacky.
They gave up three quick goals and the score was tied with only a few minutes left in the game.
The top scoring boy put us ahead again and made it 4-3.
B then sealed the deal and popped in another to make it 5-3 which was the final score. What an amazing roller coaster ride.

A couple of weeks ago the team was in a Christmas tournament in Fredericton and was fourth place. They weren't to happy about that.
This victory has put the kids back up in the clouds.

The most amazing thing was that B scored 6 goals over the weekend.
I don't want to jinx anything but it looks like B has found his groove again. It was amazing to watch him skate from one end to the other just like the old days.
More importantly we were thrilled to see that the boys played stellar games and showed the highest level of sportmanship at all times.

I know I wasn't the only parent that noticed this but the team really came together and played as a team.
The passing went well to kids in the open. When a player from defense skated up with the puck one of the forwards dropped back to cover their spot.

Every kid played their heart out and did their best.

Which leads me to the real topic of this post.

We are very fortunate and proud that our sons do quite well at sports that they take on. That's fortunate but not critical.

Whenever I'm watching a game I always try to watch every kid on the team for at least a little while.
In baseball there are the kids that may not catch, throw or hit a ball as well as some of the others.
In hockey there are kids who are not as fast as some of the others or can't blast a shot off their stick like some of the others do.

I guess there may be some who feel that these kids get in the way of the better players and slow down the game.
I disagree.
A team is made up of all types of boys and girls of all skill levels and when that team celebrates or feels sad every kid feels it as much as the next.

You bet your buns that when every one of them hits the ice or goes onto a field they get their wheels spinning as fast as they can and charge up just as much as every other kid out there.
Some wheels may go farther and faster than others but they're all spinning regardless.

How could someone not be proud of these kids? Who cares if that child goes and scores 3, 4 or 5 goals in a game?
The important thing is that they are there and part of the team machine. That's what makes me proud.

Pride in the name of love.

A little while ago I read something that supported encouraging kids to become more involved in individual activities to develop more independence.
To me that's a load of crap.

I encourage the exact opposite. Kids should be more involved in team sports.
Not only does it aid in developing social skills (which is sadly lacking these days) but it helps develop a sense of looking out for others.

As I've said repeatedly, Bobby Orr was and always will be the best hockey player of all time. Not only because he controlled the game with ease but because he kept his eye out for his teammates.
If something went down he was right there to defend them.

Is there an "I" in team? No there isn't.
But every member of a team should always have an "eye" on their teammates.

Stay well,

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