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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“Mom, where are my hockey socks”?
Actually, to be honest, it would have been a memorable moment if our hockey playing 12-year-old son had asked his Mom that question. What really happened was this.
“Laura, where are Alex’s hockey socks?”
That’s more of an accurate reflection of the everyday state of affairs involving hockey in our household. Mom does all the heavy lifting, and Dad runs around trying to gather all the myriad equipment pieces in one place in time for a game or practice.
Besides the socks, and there should be two of them, the quartermaster also has to check for shin pads, and elbow pads, and gloves, and skates. Two of each. It’s akin to loading up the Ark.
Don’t forget the pants, and the shoulder pads, and the helmet. Oh, and the fancy, expensive pro undergarments, and the socks that actually go on the feet. And the uniform! I can still see a good friend of mine dashing from Chesswood Arena on a Tuesday evening, having to fight traffic to get all the way back to Scarborough to pick up the jersey that his son had left hanging on the bedroom doorknob. And remember to bring both sets of uniforms, just in case.
Now, before we zip up the over-sized team bag and place the two hockey sticks on top of it, are we sure we have everything?
This last part involves the entire family doing a last-second search of the living room, and the laundry room. Yup, everything is in order. Wait! The neck guard! Can’t forget the neck guard.
But what about the mouth guard? Or, more accurately, the chewing gum. Alex spends more time chomping on the piece of plastic than Patrick Kane does. A heck of a lot of good it’s doing him. Half the time, the referee instructs him to take it off, as it hangs down from his helmet, in all its completely chewed through glory.
What about the water bottle? Check, got it.
And is Alex in his York Mills track suit? Yes, but it has chocolate milk stains down the front. You can’t really see them, so put it on, and we’ll wash it later.
Okay, everything is finally in its right place. Time to lug the bag and sticks out to the car. Open the back, throw the stuff in, slam the trunk shut, and high tail it to some far flung arena in time for 5:45 p.m. on a weekday night, cutting through Toronto rush hour traffic.
The parents should also get their names on the championship trophy.
As the kids grow up, one hopes that they’ll slowly (but not too slowly) take ownership of their time in the GHTL. Is all my equipment in the bag? Are my skates sharpened? Do I have the proper hockey sweaters?
This past Sunday, my wife and I dropped Alex off for his early evening practice, then drove off to engage in that most Canadian of activities: drive-through coffee. Returning to the arena, we noticed he was not resplendent in his usual fire engine red York Mills practice jersey. Instead, he had donned a dull metal grey sweater.
The first thought was, what the heck did the kid do? Is he being singled out? Nahh, Coach Darryl doesn’t work that way.
Are they switching up the lines? The team has lit the lamp a few times early in the season, but maybe the coaches are looking to shake things up a bit.
As we settled into our seats, Alex skated by, pointed at the grey jersey, and mouthed the words, “Mom”.
Turns out “Mom” had forgotten to pack the fire engine red practice jersey. There it was, hanging on the doorknob back at home, fresh as a daisy.
When asked later why he didn’t think to make sure said jersey was packed and ready to go, Alex replied “Because that’s what you guys do”.
And it is.
And one day soon enough, we won’t be called upon to pack his hockey bag anymore; the little boy growing up and away even more.
But I draw the line at going from Chesswood to Scarborough, and back, to pick up something during rush hour. There are limits to our parental powers.