Hockey Challenges 2019

First hockey tournament win
goalie bantam
The-Youngest readies himself for a Canuck-like season

I thought last year would be, you know, the last year of hockey. However, The-Youngest decided to play another year. As goalie. In the Bantam league.

At this point in boys’ hockey, the field is narrowing.

More and more boys drop out because of the demands of school, other extracurricular activities, and the biggest killer of having time to play hockey, girls.

Luckily, none of those things apply to The-Youngest. Yet.

Now, had we agreed to drive The-Youngest up to a mountain every weekend and twice on the weekdays, he may have declined hockey, since his real love is mountain biking and skiing.

But apart from the driving time, the cost of gas and ski passes and rental gear, despite the cold and the lift rides and all the falling, the simple fact is we’d have to do it with him and since I haven’t skied in 30 years and would likely break something (other than my ego).

I mean, if I had to get on the ice with The-Youngest and skate for 8 hours, we wouldn’t likely sign him up for hockey either. Add in a 90 min to drive there and another 90 to drive back, and, yeah, I can guarantee we wouldn’t be doing hockey.

But after last year, after an amazing hockey year, the-Youngest thought, why not?

So, we bought new gear since he’d done the silly thing of growing over the spring and summer, we signed him up for goalie camp (which was delightfully free!!!! Since they wanted to encourage young goalies), and we prepared for the duties of goalie parents.

Oh, sure there’d be early morning practices. Honestly, I never minded them at all.

Oh sure, we’d have to fork over money for tournaments and gifts for the coaches and bribes for the refs, (wait, no, sorry, no bribes, nope I never said that.)

Oh sure, we’d have to do something terrifying like scorekeeping or socializing (that latter very hard on an old introvert like me who knows nothing about how the Canucks are doing – though if I go with the old, they suck, I’m pretty safe).

It’s easy winning all the time. And fun. But what if that’s not how a season goes.

But it would all be worthwhile if The-Youngest has fun. Because, by having fun he would not only, you know, have fun, but continue to learn about teamwork, about sportsmanship and about trying your hardest. And with a good coaching team, he’d learn about being a good man as well.

This year, though, he will have another value tested.


Last year, they were tournament champions twice and came second in the Langley Cup (beaten by a better team).

This year?

Well, 10-2 loss in the first game, and an 8-1 loss in the second.

On the plus side, unlike last year when I asked, how’d you do? and he said, “I got bored sometimes. I only had to stop 2 or 3 shots,” this year, he’s looking at 30+ shots each game, multiple rebounds he’s going to have to stop, and snipers who can rocket a shot over his shoulder when he’s in the butterfly position.

Now, being a writer, and a teller of stories, these are starts from which great legends are born. The underdog team, struggling at the beginning, somehow manages to come together and win the final game, learning about life, values and the importance of having a hidden superstar on the team like in Bad News Bears.

We’ll see what happens.

It’ll be …. Interesting. Stay tuned.

Tournament Trials – Playoffs – Part 6

16 teams. 2 days. Add one motel, one ferry and 16 wild and crazy kids. Yeah, that is a good idea.
16 teams. 2 days. And they were in the finals.

After 3 games, the boys should have been near catatonic exhaustion. I know I was. But no, they were full of excited energy. Hell, they’d just won 3 games in a row and were going to the finals. Top 4 out of 16 teams. They were proud and they were loud.

But mostly they couldn’t wait for the final games. They were sure they had the talent and skills to win.

I forced The-Youngest to be in bed by 7:30. It took him an hour to stop wanting to chat, but that’s ok, he was asleep by 8:30. And was asleep by 8:31.

The first game came at 10am on Sunday, and if we won, we’d go on to the finals at 3:15. Games are an hour long, so we’d catch the 5:45 ferry back, easily. Or so I thought. I forgot that we were on the Island, and Island time is sometimes a little different. If we missed it, the boys wouldn’t get home until 10:30, and they had school the next morning!

However, if we lost that first game, we’d play for the bronze medal at 1:30.

Was it bad of me to hope we’d lose so I could catch an earlier ferry? Am I a bad parent?

The boys, though, were psyched. To quote The-Youngest as I tied up his skates, “So Joe, it feels like I’m at the top of a roller coaster and it’s just about to go down. It feels like that in my tummy. It’s not a bad feeling though. Kinda like being scared and excited at the same time.”

Exactly right. He nailed it. All the boys had nerves. Even the parents.

I'm pretty sure this was the Victoria team picture
I’m pretty sure this was the Victoria team picture

Their first game was against Victoria, a good team with a perfect record just like us. When the puck dropped, our boys flittered around like moths in search of a flame.

Game jitters had gotten to them.

They all wanted to score. They all wanted to dazzle their parents. They all wanted to be superstars.

In the end, they managed to remember to pass, to back-check and play their positions. They played hard and won. Honestly, it could have gone either way, but a win is a win.

That meant we played for the big trophy, for first place!

Now the boys were as excited as I’ve ever seen them. They were sure they could take the top prize. They were so sure they were that good.

Would it be a Mighty Ducks ending?

Only the Oceanside team stood in their way. They, too, had won all their games, even getting a shut-out. These boys came from a small town where there’d be no rep team, all boys, good or bad, would suit up for Oceanside.

We had a LOT of time to burn so we went to Boston Pizza, ate pizza, watched a good 2 hours of sports fails on TV and waited. “Waiting is the worst,” The-Youngest told me. And, again, he’s bang-on.

At 3:15 the final started. Well, let’s say it started to start. Unlike the other games, there was a bit of a ceremony. The teams turned to face the flag. A little girl came out and sang O Canada.

That was cool. Later the Youngest would say it was like a real playoff game. Then the game began.

Within the first minute, it was 0-1. Then 0-2. And it was apparent that Oceanside had a really good team.

Now we have a few good players for sure, and one outstanding one, but even our outstanding one (who could normally skate through the entire opposing team and score), ran into problems. They had 4 or 5 like him. Big kids. Fast skaters. As soon as our outstanding boy would get the puck, he’d be mobbed by those skaters as fast as him.



I watched the parent’s shoulders slump.

The Youngest getting some final instructions.

Then we scored one, a brilliant NHL level pass from the boards to the man by the net. Bang! 1-4. But they scored right back. 1-5. Then, 1-6.

Our star player got hurt trying to stop yet another breakaway. He had to go off to the bench. Then another of our players fell into the boards. Hard. He went to the bench.

It wasn’t like the boys weren’t trying. They were. They gave it their all. But we were simply playing a better team.

Before the 1st period was out, we got another goal. 2-6. At this point, just keeping it close would be a win.

And they played even harder in the second period. We got 2 goals, they got 2 goals. The-Youngest even made one of his most epic saves of all time! Having his stick knocked away from him, he fell on his side and failed his arms and legs, somehow managing to block not one, but two shots.

Then, for some reason, when the play moved away from him and one of his players had pushed his goalie stick back within reach, he just stood over his stick and looked at it. Like he was talking to it.

“Bad stick. Bad. You shouldn’t go walkabout. Bad stick.”

He stared at it for a long time as our team fought hard at the other end of the ice, the coach shouting for him to pick it up. Maybe The-Youngest was debating whether or not he even needed a stick. Maybe his epic saves had convinced him sticks were unnecessary.

Then the play shifted and the other team roared back down the ice towards him, fast skaters skating fast. As they reached our blue line, the Youngest slowly bent down and picked up this stick like he had all the time in the world, and prepared to make another save.

Such things make my hair go white.

The final was 6-10. From the 2nd period on, we matched them goal for goal, an amazing achievement in my mind, but we couldn’t overcome the 4 goal lead they got in the first period.

As the boys skated to the trophy ceremony, I wondered how they would take it, and as I looked up at the clock, 4:35 (far past the time the game should have ended and there was still the medals to be given out), our chances of making the 5:45 ferry were fading fast.

The Tournament Trials – Part 1

16 teams. 2 days. Add one motel, one ferry and 16 wild and crazy kids. Yeah, that is a good idea.
16 teams. 2 days. Add one motel, two ferry rides, and 16 wild and crazy kids. Yeah, that is a good idea.

Christmas had come and gone. So had New Years.  So what better way to start off 2016 than with a hockey tournament in Nanaimo? 2 days of hockey.  A day of travel to and from the tournament. With 16 kids.  And a ferry ride! And a motel!! And…possibly unsupervised playtime!!!

Such are the things that age me (or nearly kill me.)

I guess a part of it is that I was once a 9-year-old boy, and 9 year-old-boys are very creative when it comes to fun, explosives and sharp sticks. If you’ve read the blog, or seen some of the pictures, you know what I did when I was young, and I think I was a pretty good kid.

I greatly feared what the new generation could come up with.

But I also knew this could be a legendary weekend for The Youngest. Something he’d remember for years. Maybe for all his life. So I had to take him.


And the truth be told, I wanted to be there to be a part of that experience. Maybe as Sgt Shultz shouting “Hoooooogan!!!!” all the time. Or maybe just as a hockey supporter. Or maybe just as the proud parent of one of the few kids who didn’t pull a fire alarm or yell at the top of their lungs all the time.

So the plan was to head over on Friday, have a great time at the hotel, then buckle down and play 3 games on Saturday. Now, 3 games is quite a lot, even for young kids, and getting a goalie in his gear, out of his gear and in his gear over and over and over and over, again, can be a fun experience all on its own.

However, if we won the 3 games, we had a chance to go to the playoffs. If we won one of the playoff games, we’d go to the finals and probably get a trophy or a medal or a golden jock or something. But that was only a part of it. In truth, the kids were looking forward to pool time at the hotel more than the games, and they were looking forward to playing mini-hockey in the hallways more than the playing in the playoffs.

Such is the nature of boyhood.

For me, though, I was more than a little stressed. See, I have control issues. It could be hard being a parent on a tournament. I would have to let the Youngest out of my sight and believe that he’ll make good choices. At the age of 9. With a mob of other 9-11 year olds. Yeah. That’s a serious leap of faith.

But the other choice was to keep him by my side at all times. Don’t think I didn’t think about this. I thought about this very seriously. But what fun would that be, so against all my fears, I wanted him to have a good time more than I wanted to avoid ending up in a mental hospital.

The BC Ferries could not have possibly imagined what awaited them
The BC Ferries could not have possibly imagined what awaited them

So, I nutted up, loaded him into the car with tons of equipment (forgetting, of course, the water bottle), and then picked up another parent and his two boys. My first test of parenting on a tournament would be the ferry.

What could go wrong on a ferry?

Well, now, that’s an interesting story.

10 More Reasons Minor Hockey is Better Than the NHL

10 More Reasons Minor Hockey is better than the NHL

IMG_26101) In the NHL, the goalie’s go-to move is the butterfly. It’s effective, efficient and so very boring. In minor hockey the go-to move looks like they’re falling on a live grenade or driving off a high-board. It’s used on long shots, short shots, when a player is trying to deek them out, and even when they think no one is looking and they get bored. Squirrel!

2) I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many bum saves in the NHL as you do in minor hockey. Sometimes it’s a variation of the downward dog, sometimes it’s just because they haven’t turned around fast enough. I think someone should keep track of the bum saves. It could be an interesting stat. “And little Bobby Johnson stopped 22 shots in the game, four with his ass, three with his face, five while looking the wrong way and ten by leaping on the puck like a cat on a mouse.”

3) When the puck is in the other end of the rink, the goalie will get bored and do something to entertain himself. Can you imagine Luongo (can I still use that name?) lying on his back, staring up at the ceiling? Or practicing butterflies? Or swinging his stick around like a Viking swings an axe? Or singing? Or going all gungun style?

celbration4) When a team scores, watch the celebration moves. In the NHL, they have the moves down pat. In minor hockey, it’s, well, a work in progress. They are as odd as they are entertaining. I swear more injuries occur as they try to high five each other with their heads or ride a stick or spin around or pump their fists in the air.

nuts5) I wonder if the Canucks sit in the dressing room and whack each other in the nuts over and over and over again to see if their jocks work. Would Kesler’s mom have to say, “Stop hitting your friend in the nuts with your stick!” You know what? Probably. And recently, too. However, with young boys, this seems to be the norm. All I can think of is God help the kid who forgets his one day.

6)  In the NHL, you watch the play. You follow the puck. Maybe see how they do the changes. But sometimes watching the little guys (or girls) the fun is seeing how many will fall on a line change. Or how one really doesn’t want to play defence and so twitches on the blueline, waiting for his chance to charge in. Or the one who would really rather be at home and so skates around in circles, off in his own little world.

7) How often do you see the entire team has fallen down? In the NHL, not often. In minor hockey, not only could an entire team be down, but ¾ of them could be in the net.

8) How often does Crosby deek himself out? Maybe he can be a little too clever sometimes, but with the little ones, they are their own worst enemies sometimes. If someone was doing play-by-play, it might sound like this… “It’s a breakaway. 4-0. The goalie falls down. The net is wide open. All ‘X’ has to do is shoot… and ‘X’ steps on the puck.” Or “and he moves left, he moves right, he.. ooops he did one too many moves and fell down.” It’s why the results of a breakaway, (and there are a LOT) are massively unpredictable.

kesler9) You’ll hear this at both games. “Don’t throw the puck in the front of your own net!!!!” However, in minor hockey, you’ll also could hear this immediately afterwards. “Mommy loves you!” Ok, maybe Kesler’s mom still says that.

10)        In minor hockey, after a season, you see an amazing improvement in the player’s skills. In the NHL, it seems like the later in the year, the worse some teams play (*cough Canucks cough*) In minor hockey, it’s such a thrill to see how much better they skate, they pass, play their positions and gel as a team. You ask me, that’s worth every 6am practice.

Team Pic - Grouse 2014And lastly, none of the little kids gets paid a dime for playing. They do it for love of the game, (sometimes the odd small trophy and a bag of skittles,) and they do it for… FUN. You can see the difference.

Goalie Parents

Goalie Parents

Carter Goalie - 7Does Loungo’s mom tense up every time someone takes a shot on her son? Does she cheer like a banshee on meth when he makes a save?

I know in minor hockey, both those things can be true.

No one will tell you this, but being a goalie parent is hard. Stressful. Agonizing sometimes.

Here’s why.

luongoAs goalie, you are either the goat or hero. Miss one shot as a forward, no big deal. Have someone skate your jock off as a defensemen, kinda embarrassing, but ok.

Miss one stop as a goalie and it’s a goal.

Worse, if the defense totally collapses and it’s 3 on 0, (which happens a lot for some reason in minor hockey)and, big surprise, there’s a goal. The expectation is that the goalie should have found a way to stop it.

Honestly, at this level, it’s about 50/50 that a goalie will stop a shot. The really good ones can stop most ice level shots with a clever use of their pads or with a determined death grip on their stick. Few can stop a high arcing wrist shot. Fewer still can stop a deek-out.

I’ve tried to ask the youngest what he feels when there’s only him and a shooter. No defense. No help.

He shrugs.

Does he feel tense?

Or does he accept the challenge?


Does he worry he’s gonna get scored on?

Or does he know he’s gonna stop that shot?


I wish I knew. When he’s older, I’ll have to find out. I need to know.

Cuz for me, for most goalie parents, that moment is fraught with massive tension. If he makes it, he’ll be the hero and if he’s the hero, the other kids will like him and if they like him, he’ll have tons of confidence and if he has tons of confidence, he’ll do well in life and get a lovely wife, have a great job and become really, really good at Minecraft.

lindsay lohanIf he doesn’t make that save, then the team will hate him, he’ll hate himself, he’ll drop out of hockey, marry an aging and kinda sad Lindsey Lohan, work at McDonalds and become really, really good at Minecraft.

Oh, I know not that much is at stake.

It’s a game after all. It’s supposed to be fun.

None of this is supposed to matter much. We never mention any shots he missed, we only mention the great saves he makes (and he does make a lot of them!)

Yet, deep down, when that breakaway happens, I will the hockey gods to be on his side and let me make that stop.

luongo gold medal


Because I know it’s important to him that he make that stop.

That he’s the hero he imagines himself to be.