Personal Essay: Hockey as Life

My teenage son is a hockey goalie. Now growing up where snow was an anomaly, hockey was not a sport I was familiar with. When it came to skating, we Southerners stood on wheels, not on blades. Call it lack of availability or just too damn cold. We left ice skating for you Yankees and Canadians. But somehow late in his childhood years, my son decided he wanted to be Brandon Holtby, the star goalie for the Washington Capitals. The kid calls, I’m gonna answer. So, we bought pads, found a coach and got a bigger car to haul all that gear. Three years later, he is the starting goalie on his high school team. (And I am happy to report that, thus far, all of his teeth remain intact, but I digress.)

So, I raised a son that gets a thrill out of flying objects being hurled his way. Great. But I have to say he is pretty good at stopping whatever comes at him.  He will contort his body in whatever position is needed to protect that goal. And it works, usually, the first go round. But it is the second shot that throws him off. While he is basking in his successful first block, the one he saw coming and prepared himself for, he is caught off guard by the rebound shot. And it often slips right by him.

And that is the moment that counts the most. The one we cannot plan for. The one that demonstrates our humanness at its most raw. The one we cannot hide behind script and plans well-made in advance. The one that reminds us again and again that the second that we think we have this thing called life down, another shot is coming at us and it just might find ourelves unprepared and exposed.  

Who are you when life catches you off guard? How evolved are your reactions to be respectful and relational when you don’t have the luxury of stopping to think about it? What lurks in your underlying character that quickly surfaces when you are left to just wing it and do whatever you can in the moment to stop that puck?

So, the puck gets rebounded. But so must my son. Being a hockey goalie means that there is no time for groveling in your mistakes. The puck goes in. The other team scores. My son is left sprawled all over the ice in his futility. But he better get back on his feet ’cause this game is going on. Yes, he let this one by and it will ultimately, fall on him. But if he grovels in his error and the inevitable upset towards himself, then he will be useless for the next round. And there will be a next round. He has to shake it off, pull his self-esteem off the ice and reignite his determination.   His team is depending on him and there are no other goalies. He is it. So, like the puck coming into goal after the rebound shot, he too has to recover his defeated spirit. The game is not over till that 3rd period buzzer sounds. No giving up. He must crawl back on his feet to get ready for the next shot.

Who would have thought that hockey would have been in my future when as a gal I was running barefoot in the creek catching crawdaddies? But as if often the case, life unfolds with its many surprises and I now sit bundled on the rink’s sidelines as a cheering proud hockey Mom. And I can think of no other place I would rather be. Watching this maturing man take a hit- sometimes with success, sometimes not – and then getting right back up to take yet another. I think I might learn something here – cold toes and all.  

One thought on “Personal Essay: Hockey as Life

  1. Good picture for all. Would like to be a fly on the wall to watch you ! U know a thing or two about getting up and taking a hit….wise woman

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