At my son’s first ice hockey practice, I learned two valuable lessons.
1) Always make sure your kid goes to the bathroom before putting on his gear.
2) Hockey socks don’t magically stay up on their own.
Duncan was so excited to get dressed in his new equipment that he forgot to go to the bathroom. So he had to make a quick trip off the ice during warm-ups. We then learned there’s a reason you put equipment on in a certain order. Slipping off his padded shorts messed up the delicate balance. His socks slipped down his little legs during the rest of the practice.
Hockey socks are really extra-long legwarmers. No different than those from the Flashdance era, only with team-colored stripes. Duncan’s socks were literally 50% longer than his legs.
He struggled to pull them up, especially once his skin started showing (keep in mind the climate inside the rink). His coach pulled him to the side to try to help, but to no avail. Toward the end of practice, the coach skated over.
“You Duncan’s mom? He needs to get his socks fixed,” he said. “You can sew them to a pair of shorts. Some parents do that; that works well.”
Our desperate need for Hockey 101 garnered attention in the stands.
“You the one with the kid and the socks?” a parent called.
“Yes,” I said, sheepishly.
“You can tape them over his shin guards; that helps.”
Another approached me by the double doors.
“Hey, you the one with the socks? They sell mesh shorts with a cup built right in, and Velcro to attach the socks to.”
Now that sounded fantastic. What an invention!
Only $39.95 later, his socks never fell down again.
* * * * *
At Duncan’s first game, I stopped in the locker room to help him tie his skates. I searched for him among his teammates, who were chattering nervously, snapping their helmets on, and taping their shinpads. I was horrified to find Duncan lying face down on the floor, having equipment buckled to his legs.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
He turned his head toward me and grinned.
I looked at Duncan’s father and raised my eyebrows.
“They asked for a volunteer,” he said proudly.
“But he’s never worn goalie gear,” I protested.
Neither one of them cared.
Duncan had long wanted to be goalie; for his sixth birthday, his grandparents had bought him a mini soccer goal, and he pleaded for us to take shots on him in the net. He’d hold his baseball mitt in one hand like a goalie glove, a boxing pad on his right arm like a blocker, and a plastic hockey stick. All he needed was his game face, and he was ready.
But all those times we shot on him, there was no ice to be found, no skates on his feet.
Thankfully, the coach took a handful of shots before the game started. Some, Duncan stopped. Others slid right by him as he picked his way toward the post. There was time for only eight or ten and the warm-up was over. Duncan then skated back and forth in the crease. That was funny. (He clearly had watched many NHL games and was trying to chip up the crease.) But he was not a very strong skater, so the ice didn’t really chip. It more just scratched.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if he started doing splits.
My heart stopped a few times during that game. Like when the puck slid down toward the goal from center ice going about 1 mph and he reached down to pick it up—but instead, it slipped in the goal under his glove and the other team scored.
Or the time when he wasn’t close enough to the net on a face off; he was too far out and a puck eased right in behind him. His father kept yelling, “Square up your stick!”
I yelled back, “He doesn’t know that that means!”
The other team scored twice. But in the end, his team won 3 to 2.
He saved 6 or 8 shots on goal that day, and his position as the goalie for the season was established.
In the end, he proved me wrong. He didn’t need to have practiced with ice, or skates. He was totally ready. Forget performance anxiety. Forget fear. Do what you love.