04-24-11 (click on the images
for larger pics)
Confidence in the ice
We go to stick-puck night on
6:30pm. The boys are usually brushing
teeth and heading to bed at this time. Now
they don hockey jerseys while I tie skates.
The rink is quiet (not like Saturday). The
high ceilings throw echoes around. It's
chilly inside, like a cathedral. I see the
other kids and gulp hard. I mean, these
dudes are big, and older, and better. The
guy with the old-school purple Kings jersey and
'Kopitar' on the back (figures!) must be 14.
The boys make friends with Kya, who seems
friendly, but wears a Lucic shirt. I'm
worried. These kids look mean. I tap
my boys on the shoulders, 'You guys look good.
You ready? You look good. If your
ankles hurt, come see me, I'll tighten the
laces. You got your stick? Good.
You guys look good. You look
The boys have a quiet
determined look. Not worried, anxious to
get going. Dash is tiny. He is the
Travelocity gnome, dressed in Bruins black
and a 'Lucic' name on his back. The top of
his helmet does not quite reach the crossbar on
the goal. On the ice, he is unstoppable.
Kopitar continually steals the puck from him,
but he patiently goes back and gets another one.
This repeats until I swear I'm going to go on
the ice and punch that damn Kopitar kid. I
do a crossword - take my eyes away from the
Dec dishes some business (aka
an elbow) to a kid who's much better and half a
foot taller. On the next rush, the kid
lines him up in front of the net and deals him a
rib-cruncher. Dec gets up after the
business and skates away - no reaction.
But no more trouble from Dec. Message
sent. Message received.
It's 7:30pm. Time to
go. We usually stay an hour, and this has
gone on long enough. Half the time, they
don't even get the puck. They're chasing
kids around. I yell to Dash - he ignores
or doesn't hear me. One of the coaches
smiles at me: 'You want to get a message to
little Lucic over there?' I smile: 'When
does this end, exactly?' 'This week's
session has an extra hour - 8:30 we finish.'
I finally get Dash over and try to convince him
it's time to go. 'No way! I'm not
leaving! We're just getting started.
Daddy. Did you see me playing net?
Did you see the save? The other kids say
it ends late this week.' He then skates
away. He. Just. Skates. Away.
I go back to texting and
cross-wording. I can't read because it
feels to geeky. At 8:30, the lights stay
on. I look around. I hear someone:
'They say the kids finish up at 8:45 tonight.'
8:45! That'll be over two hours on the ice
and hockey practice first thing tomorrow.
But I love watching them. I love the way
they watch the other guys and imitate their
moves. I love the way they never complain.
Sometimes they shout to each other. I only
hear echoes. The time goes by quickly.
I take pictures and know I embarrass them.
Boys need confidence. They need to feel
like they belong. They need to be tested
by other boys - even made fun of. And when
there is extra time at the rink, you need to let
The Zamboni comes out. In the locker room,
Dec says: 'I can't believe I just did that!
That was awesome!' Leaving the rink, Dash
says: 'Look at that purple building!' They
have never seen downtown at night and the
building lights amaze them. They skated
with players who were better, older, and bigger,
and they were able to hang. The night
We look back at the cathedral of ice and Dash
says: 'See you tomorrow morning, Mr. Hockey