Is it really already the middle of March? It’s simply hard to believe how fast time flies these days. It seems like only a couple of weeks ago Ty and I were trekking to Olympic View Ice Arena for his first hockey practices – neither of us really sure of what was in store for the upcoming season. I was as clueless as a Dad could be – I’ve never played hockey in my life and have only ice skated less than 20 times probably. I had no idea how to put on the equipment or properly tie his ice skates – thank goodness for YouTube because I was able to find a video demonstrating exactly how to put on the equipment (and believe me, it does make a difference if you try to put on hockey socks AFTER the shorts!).
The first few practices were admittedly a little rough for both Ty and I. For me, I was struggling trying to get him dressed and ready for practice – while trying to pretend I knew exactly what I was doing (even while putting taking off and starting over with some of the gear). I also had to learn how to properly layer him so he’d be comfortable on the ice during practice. I went from nearly freezing him to roasting him over a couple of weeks before finally figuring out the perfect layer of long underwear and sweatpants below combined with long underwear and a long sleeve t-shirt above.
Ty wasn’t really sure what to make of the experience at first. Fortunately he was a good skater – much better than most of the kids on the ice. The first four or so practices really were all about getting the kids used to skating with all of their new equipment so there was lots of free skate time and not much organization or drills. Because Ty wasn’t very comfortable on a few occasions (thanks to Dad’s cluelessness), there were a few minor crying episodes on the ice and he said he wanted to go home early two of the first three practices. I was getting worried about this experience and wondered if we’d make it through the season. But I encouraged Ty to keep trying and things got better after the kids were issued their official hockey sticks and team jerseys and were able to participate in stations and drills during the practice. The more formal organization was what Ty needed – he really started to enjoy practices more and more.
Finally in January the big moment arrived: Ty and the Green Team’s first hockey game! The excitement in the rink was unquestioned as 6 rink rat teams squared off against each other in the ice arena (which was divided into thirds by pads so teams could play horizontally against each other). A local TV station was on hand for a special “Little Heroes” segment. Ty was nervous because he developed an aversion to the loud buzzer in the arena (while he was in skating lessons). I tried to reassure him that the buzzer wouldn’t be too loud and that he’d be too busy playing hockey. Each team had two “lines” of 6 players and every 2 minutes the buzzer would sound off to signal a line change. All things considered, Ty did well in that first game. Even though he was nervous his coaches did a great job of encouraging him and getting him out on the ice for each shift and eventually it became much less of an issue. He spent most of his time during his first game skating on his own – not too interested or concerned about the location of the puck (or other players). But he had fun and was genuinely excited after the game – and that’s truly all that matters.
By his 3rd game, Ty was a full-blown hockey nut. He woke up Monday morning announcing that his next hockey game was Thursday night and he began insisting on turning on hockey games on the TV when we were home. The buzzer became a non-issue and I was able to get Ty to start working on more basic parts of the game. I told him he needed to do 3 things every game: have fun, skate during his entire shift (he is so smart he began watching the clock and knowing that his shift was almost over, would head to the bench sometimes with 10-15 seconds left) and follow the puck. It really was amazing to see the development and improvement over the six game schedule.
The boys got a special treat at the end of the season. Instead of having practice on the final Saturday as was previously planned, the league arranged for the teams to go to Comcast Arena in Everett and play a final game in the large (for them) stadium where the Everett Silvertips play their home games. It was really a fun experience. The teams got to use the real locker rooms and watch the Zamboni machine clean the ice before the game. They played their final game of the season and Ty was again thrilled afterwards – and vowed to play again next season.
Alas, the season is changing from Winter to Spring (even though the Seattle weather is hardly proof) and it’s time to bid hockey farewell for now. I’ve signed Ty up for Teeball through the Edmonds city league and his first practice is Thursday. Even though he was a little reluctant about the thought of baseball a month or so ago, he’s now warmed up to the idea and I’m looking forward to another fun experience. And now that we have a new male Au Pair who is a baseball fanatic (that is another post for later this week) Ty will be able to get lots of practice.
I couldn’t have asked for a better first season experience as a new hockey dad.