There is something special about growing up in a family that bonds around one passion. For my family, that passion is hockey. The idea of this bond evokes senses that I cannot even describe. It brings a smile to my face, warms my heart, and brings peace to my mind knowing that there is something that binds the five of us together and holds us close as a family. When it comes down to it, for me, family is everything. I was lucky enough to grow up with strong family values and, as I have mentioned in previous posts, hockey teaches so many life lessons. Growing up with memories centered on both hockey and family has certainly shaped me as a person today.
Every hockey player is familiar with the classic response “Sorry I can’t, I have hockey.” Apply that saying to 5 people under one roof, all playing. Hockey was a staple of each day in some form in my house. We always had to make sure the truck, that we drove to school most days, was available for my dad on Tuesday mornings for his men’s league. I can’t even count all the Saturday night parties and hangouts I skipped out on to play in the men’s league with my dad and brother once I was old enough. I remember mom always asking me to come watch her games on Fridays and Sundays and eventually watching turned into me begging to play, to get an extra hour of ice time. My older brother had practice every day and games on the weekends, always in addition to my own. I loved watching him play, learning from his every move. And all in the midst of this craziness, my little sister was beginning to get into the hockey grind, learning to skate and realizing her love for the game as well. Hockey is one of the only things on the TV when you enter my house, not to mention the one thing we all sit around and watch together. Even our meals revolved around practices and games.
All four seasons of the year mean hockey for us. Whether it is summer league, fall training and fall games, the season, or spring league…there is always hockey to be played. The winter has a lot more of an emotional tie for me though. The winter not only means the legitimate season, the NHL, and the playoffs. The winter means more. It is the season where I could always get home from a tough day at school, a rough practice, or a day off and flip the halogen spotlights on, put on some tunes, and step into the backyard paradise that my father created for us—the backyard rink. Whether it is lining up the pucks and ripping shot after shot until I have blisters, getting my butt kicked by my older brother even when he isn’t trying, or playing a 3 on 2 with the family, it has always been my escape. It was the best hockey there is to play. Pond hockey—no pressure, no rules, just pure, innocent hockey. In times where I could seemingly forget why I play or forget my love for the game, the rink always brought me back to reality.
As I have moved away from home, spending every moment in school focusing on studies, hockey and lacrosse, I have been able to reflect on how lucky I was as a kid growing up having the opportunities I had and the special family bond that we held out on the rink. When I was younger, I used to roll my eyes and give my dad attitude when thanksgiving rolled around and it was time to start rink construction. I always wanted to be sleeping in, hanging out with friends, or just being lazy instead of being outside carrying boards, metal stakes, brackets, and anything else you could name around the backyard. As I got older, I started to realize how much that time spent with my dad meant. That was a time where I not only learned from him, but also a time where we built a treasure for the family. Something that each and every one of us could spend so much time on. The hours of shoveling snow and slush off the rink after storms, scraping after friends were over, being out there when resurfacing the ice with our handheld Zamboni, in negative temperatures, knowing that the next day the ice would be perfection, those were hours I always thought I was wasting. But again, those were moments I shared and memories I made that I will never forget. I remember the first time my dad asked me to help resurface the ice, I was so frustrated with having to throw on a jacket and warm clothes to go out and was definitely a typical teenager giving attitude. I stood out there and barely moved the hose, leaving a hose track melted into the ice. That was the last time I would do that. Growing up, we take way too much for granted. Not being able to be home spending every free moment with my family and out on the rink makes me really cherish every memory I have of growing up. Every moment I spent complaining about the “work” that I had to do around the house or rink will never outweigh the memories I made, the nights that friends and I skated until the wee hours of the morning, throwing each other into 6 foot snow banks that made up the boards, playing pipes over and over and never hitting them, setting up the radar gun and laughing at how strong we thought we were and the numerous puck searches that went on while still in skates sliding between bushes and the property. The hot chocolate that always accompanied late night skates, the bonfires, the pure joy of having the opportunity to have such an amazing “playground” in the backyard.
Each of you have your own stories, your own family dynamics. But we all have something in common; hockey brings people together. It creates a bond that is indescribable, one that cannot be broken and one that should be cherished forever. There is pure joy in being a part of a true hockey family, whether looking at the values you learn or memories engraved in your life forever. I would never be where I am now, as a player, but mostly as a person, if it weren’t for my family and our unbreakable bond around hockey.