My son stood at center ice with the opposing team’s goalie, posing for pictures with a big smile on his face.
The smile wasn’t because my son’s Rockford Hockey Club squirt team had won. It hadn’t. It just lost the championship game to Winnetka, 5-4, at the Brickyard Tournament in Indianapolis on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.
My son’s smile was the result of being named his team’s tournament MVP, an award given to him by the choosing of his coach. At the blue line near the far boards, I stood with a smile on my face and, maybe, a tear in my eye.
I could not have been a prouder papa, even in defeat. And it was that moment that I knew my wife and I made the right decision by allowing our son to play club hockey.
All the benefits of playing a team sport such as hockey were on display in this championship game.
My son’s team trailed, 4-1, in the third period. Keep in mind, the boys had lost to the same Winnetka team the day before, 3-0.
At this point, nobody could have blamed the team members for giving up, skating out the clock and jumping into our cars for the five-hour drive home.
Instead, the boys fought back. Suddenly, it was 4-2. Then 4-3. Riding a wave of momentum, the team tied the game, 4-4. With about three minutes remaining in the period, my son’s team thought it took a 5-4 lead when the puck found the back of Winnetka’s net.
The goal didn’t count. The referee whistled us for a penalty. Winnetka scored the game-winner on the ensuing power play.
But the traits the boys displayed during that third period made us all proud parents. They trusted each other. They showed teamwork. They never quit. They left it all out on the ice. We won even though we lost, and those lessons carry over to other things in life.
I had heard all the horror stories of playing travel hockey. It’s expensive. It takes up a lot of time. You have to drive everywhere at all hours.
That’s all true.
But there’s so much more; for the kids and the parents.
All that time together and all that hockey builds a camaraderie. The kids become good friends, as do the parents. You share moments that become lifelong memories. And it’s amazing to watch your kid improve on the ice.
This club season has concluded. The focus now shifts to spring hockey and summer camps. After my rookie season as a hockey dad, I’m proud to say I loved everything about it. And I’m sure hockey parents who have kids playing for the Crystal Lake Yellowjackets, the Leafs or the Barrington Redwings agree: The benefits far outweigh everything else.
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Speaking of the Redwings: Several local youth hockey players helped the Barrington Redwings’ Mite AA Gold team win the Northern Illinois Hockey League’s President’s Cup.
The award is given to the team with the most points at the end of the regular season. The Redwings – coached by Steve Martins (head coach), Mark Eissler (assistant) and Jason Van Herik (assistant) – went 11-0-3 and were one of only five NIHL teams across all age groups to post an undefeated regular season.
Playing on the team were Hunter Eissler (Barrington), Jake Lukasik (Cary), Isac Martins (Lake Barrington), Tommy O’Neill (Inverness), Caden Pullen (Fox River Grove), Andres Rojas (Barrington), Tommy Shore (Crystal Lake), Calvin Spieth (Fox River Grove), Kevin Spieth (Fox River Grove), Noah Van Herik (Kildeer) and Grant Webster (Lake Zurich).
• Jason Schaumburg is editor of the Northwest Herald. He’s unsure how many miles he put on his Honda CR-V this hockey season, but he’s sure it’s a lot. Reach him at 815-459-4122 or via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Schaumy.