My son recently finished another season of hockey. This year he was on one of the traveling Bantam B-teams of the Sioux Falls Flyers. For those that don't know hockey, the "Bantam" means that he's playing with a team of 13 and 14 year old's. Some of his teammates he's played with since he was six years old (they were called Atoms back then).
When your child plays hockey you come to learn that hockey is more than rules of the game, but also embracing hockey culture and accepting every member of that team and their parents as part of your hockey family. For nearly a decade, the family has had a five month ritual where three evenings or mornings a week are dedicated to taking sons and daughters to practice. Weekends are for traveling to in-state or out-of-state hockey games and spending your nights in a Best Western. This is not only a significant time commitment for the young hockey player, but also the player's parents. Some parents love hockey more than others but all of us love our own kids equally.
I never once told my son he had to play hockey. My only requirements were that he did an activity that: got him off the couch; gave him exercise; had him working with others as a team; and most importantly something he would remain committed to for the season. Despite not being the most passionate or best hockey player on the ice, rarely did I hear my son complain on those days I knew he would rather be home. Given that I quit my second grade baseball team mid-season and never looked back, I can't help but think this young man is already on track to be a better person than I was when I was his age.
So here we are at the end of the hockey season. I haven't written much on my blog posts nor done much of anything else of substance these past couple weeks. This is my annual ritual of just letting my body adjust to having more time to do my own thing. This is also the period of time I also get to watch what new passions my son discovers with his own spare time. In the past month, he's talked about becoming part of his high school's show choir, getting a summer job, and taking his first steps to becoming an aviation pilot.
As another summer approaches, my son will decide once again whether he wants to try out for next year's travel hockey team. He's currently thinking of skipping the travel team next year and playing instead in the less demanding and less time consuming Recreational City League. While we would no longer would be part of the travel team family, it still remains an opportunity for his mother and me to see our son on the ice for another season or two.
Make no mistake though, there will be a time when my son will decide he is no longer a hockey player. Inevitably, there will also come a time when I will no longer be called a hockey dad. I'm OK with this. All I really need from my son is for him to call me Dad as he follows his own passions and dreams wherever they lead him.