Sunday, October 5, 2008

Once a hockey mom, always a hockey mom

All of this talk about hockey moms has made me think about all those years of getting up early, freezing my fingers and toes off, cheering for Joe and his team, traveling to tournaments and games, bonding with parents and waiting in warm rooms.

It has also made me think about how we are not a monolithic group. When politicians direct their remarks towards hockey moms -- apparently a tougher version of soccer moms -- they seem to have a specific audience in mind. But actually these moms are all over the place, politically, culturally and geographically.

I never knew from hockey. Never watched a game. My first exposure came when Joe, circa age 5, watched “The Mighty Ducks” over and over and over. So fascinated was he with this kid hockey movie, I finally asked him, “Would you like to try that?”

"Yes Mommy!"

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Years later when I groaned at pre-dawn practices and, when he got older, practices that got him home at 11 p.m. on school nights, I knew I had only myself to blame.

It all started when I took him to learn-to-skate and he wobbled around on the ice. He was afraid to cross all the way over, so the instructor told him to crouch down and then he gave him a ride.

He progressed from Squirts to Mites to Midgets to Bantams, and then played on his high school team. It seems like one minute he couldn’t tie his own skates, and the next he was dashing across the ice and, later, performing what looked to me like acrobatic feats when he became a goalie. (If he reads this, I hope he doesn’t get angry with his proud mother.)

My own skating was nothing fancy. Growing up, I skated after school during public ice time at Madison Square Garden, and on weekends, my sister and I skated in Central Park at the Wollman Rink with our father. We went round and round, swinging our arms to the tune of waltzes, and going at a pace that felt pretty fast. Afterwards, the little round pizzas and the hot chocolate tasted wonderful.

When I ended up on the ice at a parents vs. kids game with Joe, I learned what fast really was. Some crazy fathers took it too seriously, skating so fast and recklessly that one of them knocked me down. I heard my knee-cap crack, but it ended up only being a bad bruise. Years later when I walked onto the ice and Joe skated over with a rose on senior day, I half expected some other mishap. The only thing that happened was that my eyes filled with tears...the good kind. But I digress.

I was also a soccer mom and softball and baseball mother, and enjoyed all those roles too. They all require a similar amount of dedication, but in different ways. Ben (now a sportswriter and assistant sports editor at The Trentonian, a New Jersey daily) and Joe both lived for baseball, and our life centered around getting to their games. Same goes for Katie's soccer and softball.

Baseball moms actually need to be as tough as hockey moms, but nobody seems to mention them. We sit/stand for hours in the heat and cold. We run into our cars during a rain delay and wait there until we find out of the game is called. Including travel time, we can spend half a day at a game. Once when the season changed from hockey to baseball, a fellow hockey mom whose son played baseball with mine turned to me and sighed, "Bring out the zamboni."

At Bates, Joe still plays hockey. He is a goalie on their team, which competes in the North Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association (NECHA-B), a regional division of the American Collegiate Hockey Association's Division 2. Since I have been sidelined by illness and recovery, I have not gotten to any of those games.

He didn’t take his equipment back to school with him in September, because the season hadn’t started it yet. I don’t have a good place to put the humongous goalie bag, so it is lying on the living room floor under my late mother’s piano, framed by his goalie pads. The stick is still outside the front door, where it landed in May.

So who is a hockey mom?

She’s someone who loves and supports her son or daughter through good and bad games and early and late practices. She’s someone who rushes over with the asthma medication when her child is playing through a cold and comes off the ice short of breath. She is someone who walks around with frozen feet after a game and doesn’t really care.

She's someone who doesn't mind the goalie bag under the piano because it adds a little something special to the living room decor.

She’s someone who leaves the stick outside the door because it reminds her of the good old days.

She's someone who might identify with the messages of either party.


Howard said...

You write so well, Ronni. Nice to read after working late on a Sunday night, before bed. Like a chat with a friend.

Anonymous said...

Is Palin even a good hockey mom? She leans on this title so hard I think we forget that being in government didn't really allow for her to be up before dawn and late at night to be rink side. Ronni, how in god's name did you have time to go to so many practices with a full time job?

Anonymous said...

Two things.

First, my mother used to take me and my brother to Wollman as well so I know of what you speak when referring to those delicious pizzas. We used to count the minutes until it was time.

Second, you talk about what a hockey mom is. How about what a hockey mom is not. A hockey mom is not so one who is so uninvolved in her children's lives that she "misses" a teenage relationship that results in a pregnancy. Nor is she some one who abandons her special needs child during their formative months. I wish the real hockey moms such as yourself would speak out and explain the differences.

PJ said...

Thanks for such a fair and balanced story about hockey moms, clearly not a monolithic group.

I admire your attitude toward the massive amount of unwieldy equipment hockey requires. As a x-country/track mom, all I have to deal with are sneakers/running spikes.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely that motherhood is not partisan and I resent that the Republicans think they have some corner on what it takes to be a dedicated sportsmom. I for one have been to probably over 200 soccer games - including in rain and sleet - but would never under any circumstances subject my children to public scrutiny, especially if one was in such a precarious situation, as is being done on the national stage now.

Back to you... I believe that your dedication to all 3 children, shelping to and watching so many games, keeping your head on straight during the ups and downs of their experiences, has all contributed to the fact that they are strong, resilient, and seem to have been handling your own ups and downs with grace and the same good spirit.

Susan C said...

Ronni, I think you should tweak this a bit and submit as an op-ed to the Boston Globe.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Susan... more needs to be written in the papers to debunk Palin's claim to "hockey mom" status and tell the real story of what it means to be a dedicated parent.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Just read your posts and I am sending good thoughts your way. As a hockey mom (once a hockey mom...), I thought you'd enjoy this poem. Take care, Liz

The Hockey Mom

Behold the hardy Hockey Mom
Up before daylight
Movements quick, determined
Coffee mug held tight.

Lacing lessons, kneeling
Hockey bags that smell
Flooding rinks at bedtime
Hockey tales to tell.

Most Hockey Moms play Center
Menus, driving, cheers.
Onboard Homework Hotline
Pre - game jitters, fears.

Post–game conversations
Hot chocolate, steaming mugs
Jerseys in the laundry
Post-game hockey hugs.

So watch out for the Hockey Mom
Distinctive, active, gritty
Spirit hockey center
One per family – pity!

Liz Webster Goddard © 2007