Mick Kern has been a GTHL hockey parent for six years. His son Alex plays on the York Mills Peewee A team.
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Nothing says minor hockey more than an out-of-town tournament. More so than trophies, goals, and team photos, the yearly road trip by the gang will be the hockey memory your child cherishes most for the rest of their life.
It could be a journey to Pittsburgh, a trek over to Montreal, or a day trip up the 400 to Barrie. Which is what my son Alex and his Peewee A York Mills teammates did recently – piling into various cars and vans as the convoy wound its way up north to cottage country.
There were the prerequisite stops for coffee along the way, and thank goodness for having a GPS on your phone. In the not-too-distant past, a two hour trip to an out-of-town arena often turned into a three-and-a-half hour odyssey thanks to us continually missing the proper turnoff for the rink’s parking lot.
Arriving early Friday morning, the kids couldn’t contain their excitement. The hockey games were one thing; the games back at the hotel later that night were another. What could be more fun than a bunch of 12-year-olds running around the hotel, playing mini sticks, taking over the pool and sauna, then squeezing into one room to watch Dumb and Dumber until the wee hours of the night?
Not to mention the team lunch at the local pizza joint, and cramming copious amounts of pizza and pop into you before the next game. Okay, maybe not the most conducive manner in which to prepare for a hockey game, but a great way to celebrate being on a road trip.
As for the actual games, they didn’t go as well as hoped. A couple of breakdowns early in the first game led to a hole too big to dig out of, and before you knew it, there wouldn’t be any games on Sunday. The disappointment in losing was cushioned by the promise of a night of fun ahead.
Saturday night meant a trip to the Barrie Molson Centre for an OHL game between the Colts and the Ottawa 67’s. The section behind the net was occupied by the gang from York Mills, who after loading themselves down with hotdogs and pop, settled into their seats and decided to cheer for the visiting 67’s. Which proved to be a good call, as Ottawa jumped out to an early lead enroute to a 7-3 win.
The coaches and parents along for the ride gently pointed out to the kids how the two teams were properly clearing their zone, and what puck possession really looked like. Good idea, though the gang were more interested in making as much noise as possible, wondering when would there be a fight, and how exactly did Alex’s dad win the Barrie Colts’ jersey raffle? (Full disclosure…I paid $5 for a ticket and for once my number came up).
Sunday morning, everyone straggled to the lobby to check out and slowly make their way back home through the first snowfall of the season. There was a scheduled team practice that evening, but the coaches wisely changed it to a family practice. Everyone invited, as long as they had skates and a helmet. It turned into an hour of pure hockey joy; pond hockey in an era where systems so often dominate the game.
Overall, it was a winless weekend on the ice that was more than balanced by a fantastic weekend of fun and team bonding. And the Barrie Colts’ jersey was pretty nice, too.