Sometimes, in our crazy sports driven lives, we forget why we play the game of hockey. I say "we" because even though it's our children out there skating on the ice, "we" are shuttling our kids to practice, purchasing endless gear and then continuously fumigating it, hosting teammates, driving to Insta Cares, watching games, sitting at endless practices, traveling to tournaments and of course, paying those hefty fees.
Griffin protecting Landon at the net
I didn't necessarily choose hockey, hockey somehow, inadvertently entered our lives and once it did, it never left. We love it but we are not from Minnesota or Canada where hockey is everything. Our kids are not destined for the NHL nor likely even the collegiate level. I wish that I could say that I have super athletes but my boys are regular kids with a lot of opportunities, in life, to excel where others may not have that chance.
We play at a level that is perfect for us and where our kids can grow and thrive and develop their sport. We travel. Sometimes, we go and get our you-know-whats handed to us, sometimes, we hang on and stay in the games and sometimes, we win. We aren't the teams (I have a U12 and a U14) who dominate or who are crushed into oblivion, well, except that one time....
This particular post actually starts back, two weekends ago, in Littleton, Colorado. Somehow, our team ended up facing one of the best teams in the nation. Our opponents are currently Colorado State Champs and nationally ranked. I am not throwing their skills under the bus, they were amazing! They were so good that our boys couldn't stop talking about their plays, their speed and their stick handling. These are kids who have been fed "hockey is life" since they could stand. We are talking an elite group of players in JUST about every way. Our final score ended up something like 1-12 but I am sure that gap could have been markedly widened if their players decided to not pull out the complete jerk card mid-game. Rather than just playing their game, which remember, was amazing and inspiring, they decided to switch out their sticks and started to taunt our boys on the ice.
Our kids knew that they were outmatched and out-skilled but they were playing hard, they were watching these boys and learning from them. While, of course, they would liked to have had more points on the scoreboard, they were not devastated, they were doing something that was exceptionally hard and that meant something, it meant a lot. Our boys were on the ice with a stellar team and they were stepping up their game in so many ways.
Unfortunately, when the stick change happened and the boys realized that they were being ridiculed, the respect was gone. It was all out war. If our kids couldn't outplay this Colorado team, then they could surely get a few bruiser checks in and so it played out until the brutal end and everyone left the ice unhappy. BTW, we still loved playing in Colorado and we had a blast, as a team, regardless. We weren't going to let the whooping get to us and leave downtrodden because we had a lot to be proud of.
And then Cedar City happened. We just returned from another hockey weekend in Southern Utah. We wondered if there would even be ice down there? It had been warm and the rink was outside. We had no idea what was in store other than the fact that there would be kids playing from the Squirt level up to Bantams. Some of us decided to bring along our younger players as we figured if there were littles on the ice, then why not add a few to match. "The more the merrier" coach said.
Tyler with a bunch of Squirts and PeeWee's. Hilarious.
Folks, Cedar City is cold! Who knew? As we rolled into town for our evening game, our breath filled the air with steam and our faces froze. There would be ice. Our kids dressed and stepped onto the smooth surface to warm up under fluorescent Friday night lights. We knew, looking over at Cedar City's team, that this would not be an evenly matched game. It wasn't and without much effort, our boys crushed CC 14-0. We passed a ton and worked on skills and really tried to not be complete schmucks during the game. It really wasn't much fun for the kids to play or for any of the parents watching. The next morning was a repeat but at least our kids knew to keep things light and pass, pass, pass.
Tyler and Eli getting goofy
So there we were, basically holding the same cards that our Colorado team had the weekend previous. While a tournament title was not on the line, our egos most definitely could have been. But we aren't those players. We know we aren't likely going to be drafted by the LA Kings and even if we were, why be a bully about it? We play because we love the game, we love our hockey family and we love every second that our skates hit the ice. Our third game was an hour out and rather than get off the ice, the kids started goofing around and practicing. Before long, some of the Cedar City kids were back on the ice and skating around with our players. During this time, it was decided that rather than play out another mismatched sweep, the teams would switch out some jerseys. Everyone was excited. Our kids would play harder because they were versing their own and the Cedar City kids would have the chance to play up, alongside players who were at a different level of play.
Ian and Christian getting amped to face off on the ice.
The jerseys started flying and there were squeals, yes squeals from some of the CC kids. "Mom, look, I have a REAL Grizzlies jersey on!" "This is going to be SO much fun!" etc. etc. What happened next was enough to melt any parent or coach's heart. Three periods of sheer joy and then another hour of gloves off tumbles, rumbles and dog piles with a group of kids who love hockey just as much as anyone. Kids who are not lucky enough to have what we have in a big city, but kids who have figured out how to make do with what they have been given. I doubt there have ever been more grins on and off the ice during any hockey game. Ever. This game was all about teamwork, sportsmanship, passing, allowing others to shine, encouraging weaker and younger players to make big plays and most of all teaching everyone present that hockey is so much more than titles and wins. It is about how you become a better person and player by building up and respecting others on and off the ice.
A CC Player in Christian's Jersey
I know that there is a reason we play hockey and why we were suckered in after our first season. Not only do you get to be a part of the most technical, action packed, fast paced and rough sport on the planet but you gain friends, memories, life skills, respect, hard work ethics and the desire to be better. I know these are the same reasons families choose to participate in whatever team sport they love and sacrifice greatly for it. When you are a part of a team, it means something and last weekend, on a chilly Saturday morning, I was grateful and proud to be a parent of a Grizz kid. Well, make that two Grizz kids. How about the Hodson brothers playing together for the first time ever?!
Evan, Isaac and Noah battling it out.
I hope you enjoy these pics below as much as I do. First, how cool to be snapping photos OUTSIDE with NATURAL LIGHT?! I had a spot with NO GLASS and I got to be right up in the action. These photos are all about fun. I loved the carefreeness and camaraderie that took place in between and after games. Notice the smiles and the laughter and It is comical seeing our boys skate alongside opposing players with their jerseys on. A big thank you to the Cedar City hockey family for hosting what turned out to be one of the highlights of our season!