Last weekend marked the conclusion of Ty’s second season playing junior hockey, and it was a very fun and successful season and experience for him.
After participating in evaluation skating workshops in September, Ty was assigned to the “Mighty Mites” group. This consisted of 6-8 year olds who advanced past the Rink Rats (which is the true introductory level) but weren’t quite ready for the “Mites” level. The league created four teams and Ty was assigned to the Badgers. Our team had both a head coach and two assistant coaches – and they all were great. We also had a team manager who helped organize all of the practices and details – including an introductory team meeting for all players and parents to review the upcoming season and assign team jerseys (Ty chose #11 for the 2nd straight season).I wasn’t sure how Ty would handle the new season as we got somewhat mixed signals from him over the summer. We had signed him up for a pair of hockey camps: 3 on 3 practice and Skating Drills. Ty absolutely hated the 3 on 3 practices for some reason (these are supposed to be mini games that give the kids lots of ice time and practice passing the puck, etc.). It got so bad that we stopped going to them and only taking him to the Skating Drills camp (which was a different night and rink). At that time Ty seemed to respond better to specific instructions – rather than playing in any kind of game. But as we drove to Ty’s first hockey game of the season in October, he was genuinely excited to lace up the skates and get back on the ice to play some hockey. But then something unexpected happened. The time-keeper had set the clock for pre-game drills and warm ups, but had left the area. So when the clock hit 0:00 the loud buzzer went off…and stayed on for well over a minute. All of a sudden Ty’s anxieties and fears about the hockey buzzer returned and he didn’t want to have anything to do with the hockey game. He started to cry and tried to come off the ice. I attempted to coach him up as best I could but it was no use. I had to pull him off the ice and take him home early. Fortunately I was able to work with our team manager to explain the problem – and he worked with the league to ensure that all of the Badger games were at the far end of the ice (away from the buzzer). The coaches all worked with Ty to make sure he got used to the buzzer (its used during games to signal player line changes every two minutes so it’s very necessary). I also learned how to operate the scoreboard and clock so he would feel comfortable that the buzzing wouldn’t be too long (or loud).
It was really impressive and amazing to see how much he improved during the season – even though they only practiced once a week for an hour and then had another hour for games. His skating improved tremendously – especially after he and I went to Play It Again Sports and picked up a “new” pair of skates for him (for his birthday in November). The new skates had a lot more support and the impact was immediate – parents and coaches commented about how well he was suddenly skating.There were a number of highlights in the season but nothing was more exciting than when Ty scored his first hockey goal. It was actually an impressive goal – he was in front of the goal, took a pass from a teammate and then made a nice fake with the puck before shooting it past the goalie on the other side. The other parents all looked at me in amazement (I was equally surprised to be honest). He later scored a second goal and these achievements really boosted his confidence considerably.
The team manager also arranged for the Badgers to play in two hockey tournaments at Comcast Arena with other Mighty Mite and Mite teams from Portland, Everett and Seattle areas. This provided a lot of extra skating time and practice against other teams and was fun/exciting for the kids to play on the “big” ice like the Everett Silvertips. They also got to play during an intermission of a Silvertips/Portland Winterhawks game in January. This was probably most exciting for the kids as they got to play in front of a few thousand fans and also played a “full” ice game for the first time (most of the season they played “half” ice games going across the ice so they could have 2 games at the same time (and its a lot easier). Ty really got a kick out of playing at Comcast Arena – and Stone enjoyed tagging along to all of the practices and games as well.
As the season wrapped up, Ty felt good about his hockey experience and already has his next few years planned out (knowing he will move up to Mites, Squirts, Bantam, etc.). But he was also ready for a change and was already excited about baseball. After we got home from his game on Saturday he asked me if we could practice baseball in our front yard. This was a far cry from last season and tee ball when I couldn’t get him to practice at all! So I was of course thrilled to break out the baseball equipment and start the hitting practice with him. I think the first year of Little League is going to be filled with many more special memories (he’s already talking about hitting his first homerun).