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Not The Ending The Typhoons Were Hoping For, But So What!

Reflections On A Season's Final Games.

My girl's Typhoons team ran into it's toughest competion of the year in the Provincials playoffs, and went winless in three round robin games.

They were close, leading in the first game 2-1, but the Windsor Wilcats stormed back with a pair of late goals to yank victory from us, 3-2. That was followed by 5-0 and 5-1 losses that eliminated them from further play.

That first game, gave this hockey dad his best moments of the season - Poke Check scored both her teams goals. She tied the game up when she one-timed a rebound over the goalies leg, then took a quick feed in the slot and burried it high for the go ahead goal on the power play.

It may seem a futile and a fruitless excercise to pick at straws so small at the end of a long year (one that I always find too short on the last day of the season), but I felt I'd bring some trivialities up as it serves as a lesson in how thing sometimes go, and their perception in the big picture of things.

Our worst enemy on the day were a pair of goal nets that would not stay in place. Pretty much an uncommon scenario.

Most nets have a pipe extension that fits inside the diameter of the goal posts, going about four to six inches into the ice. These nets had finger sized pegs that looked as if they only protruded by two inches deep into the ice.

The suckers kept moving around, at both endsof the ice, the entire game.

Immediatly after the girls warmed up, I first noticed them, and shouted down to out team captain to alert an official. The official skated over and shoved them back down.

During the first two periods, they popped off several times, but only once for the opposing teams goalie, who was rather diminitive in size compared to our goalie, who is much taller and heavier. Ours was warned on one occasion to stop knocking them off.

As we were being outshot in the game, the officials perceived our goalie to be bumping them purposely, which she wasn't.

Early in the third period, a girl from the Windsor team did a wraparound from the back of the net and scored - under the side of the net!

Our goalie, nicknamed "Beezer", had slid over to cover the post, bumping it off and up slightly once again.

The Typhoons coaches from their point of view at the bench, which was opposite to mine, felt that Beezer was a little hesitant getting over, so they couldn't honestly make an argument.

An official even came to the net to shove it down once more after the goal. The female linesman was not standing on the goal line and didn't see the net lift, despite the obvious evidence.

Needless to say, the goal stood.

It was after all, Friday the 13th!

One lucky bounce later, it was 3-2.

Beezer is always are bread and butter, stealing games for us all season. In this contest, we were pretty evenly matched against a Windsor Wildcats team, that was probably more talented and skilled than we were as a whole.

The hardest part to get over is that we were outworking them - and winning the game, until the black cat stepped on a crack and ran under a ladder.

As for the final two games, we were quite simply outclassed by stronger teams, both of whom were more deserving of an "A" team designation than the "B" seeding they were placed in.

Often in travel team hockey, certain squads start the season slowly, and apply for and receive a designation lower than what they truly are. Others, and it's no myth, simply tank it to get that designation, only to face weaker competition afterwards - purposely. Such are part and parcel of the competitiveness of the sport.

The competition then gets off balance, to say the least.

Our girls however, made us proud, as they gave it everything they had.

As with youngers in sports, they put it into perspective for adults instantaneously. They walk away from losses with the same jump in their step, smiling as they go along.

Some take losses harder than others - they wear that unchild-like frown a whole minute longer.
Walking towards the arena exit doors, their uncomplicated worlds are consumed by where to go shopping and where to have lunch.

The odd parent, myself first in line, can learn from this behavior. I'm still slightly ticked about the net fiasco - but finally getting over it as I write this.

I think about all the laughs my girl and I had on the long four hour drive there and home, the time very well spent, and immediatly the smile that exudes from a 12 year old with unbreakable self-esteem makes everything worthwhile.

A perfect moment in an imperfect world.

Poke Check loves her teammates and coaches. There isn't a practice or game, win or lose, where she leaves the arena without a dozen stories to tell regarding her friends and the time she just had.

It's something to hear a kid say, "That was the funnest practice ever..."

With mine, it's become a sort of cliche I've gotten used to hearing when picking her up. To me, that reflects on the coaches she's had the priveledge of playing for.

Coaching these children isn't always easy, but the rewards can be plentiful. There is no job more demanding as far as the expectations of a group of kid's parents go. Where, for all your hard work, effort, time, and patience, your dedication is enumerated with kind words and smiles. The whole equation tidies up nicely on winning teams. On less successful teams, a measure of stress comes into play.

I've been there, in those coaches shoes, a level or three below. I can understand it ain't always a bowl of cherries. I also understand that without them and their selflessness, my kid is off doing something somewhere that may be a lot less wholesome and good.

I'd rather not think about it!

In the middle of the mix are the parents, who entrust their littler ones to a game and all its componants, for better (usually) or for worse.

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the shared perspective of being both a former coach and a parent. It likely gives me a more level viewpoint, having been behind a bench for a decade. I think it might help me cope better sometimes, in the grand scheme of things.

That grand scheme is summed up in my kids smile. Straight, forward, and simple.

That smile is all a hockey parent should strive for. That is your championship trophy.

If you are expecting anything more from your offspring, that hope should arise from someone other than yourself, from someplace other than your dreams when the kid began walking at 9 months.

This hockey parent, former coach, and self confessed sometime know-it-all when-it-comes-to-hockey, has had two pivotal and illuminating moments in his daughters hockey career - keep in mind she's just 12!

Four years ago, she encountered a new coach, the coach she currently has again. That man saw someting in my kid that I never saw revealed. He turned my daughter, a defenseman at age 9, who'd scored but one goal in two seasons, into a 28 goal scoring center in one season.

Of course, I had an Olympic size dream flipout. I was astounded, seeing a limitless sky above. Moving up one age group, and with a change of coaches, she duplicated that season. My dream flipout gained reassurance, even after missing the travel team cuts.

A year later, finding the coach who made her what she was two years prior, she graduated to travel team - thrilled. I was as thrilled, wanting to measure her skill against other players of the same or higher calibre.

It was a mixed success, and I felt something under my feet I hadn't felt for some time. It was the Earth!

My kid's best game assets were an unselfish passing skill and a pretty decent shot. Measured against those mostly better players, she played double the amount of games, and registered a mere 6 goals.

She received twice as much practice time to hone her talents, yet finished fourth in team scoring rather than first or a close second. The three young girls above her, were way above her. She was simply one of the better ones amongst the rest of the pack. Initially, that was hard to take.

I consoled myself in what I perceived was a step back, by resolving that she was a good team player, who fit in where she ought to have fit depth wise.

Poke Check was having the time of her life, and belonged on this travel team, without doubt. Meanwhile, I looked for answers and explanations, to make me understand why she did not seem quite as dominant.

Dominant went hand in hand with those premature Olympic dreams. It was here that I began to understand that they were premature. My coaching understanding served me in this new perspective, and still, it wasn't easy.

She was very happy nonetheless, but she wanted better from herself. Dad felt the same.

This season, she made the travel team once again. As older girls, and as better players moved up, this season's team became a younger, less experienced group. The carry-over from the previous year left eight girls, the younger half of the team, together to compete against mostly older teams.

My Poke Check became a minor, competing mostly against majors.

Needless to say, it was rough.

Through a good thirty games of the season, she managed all of two goals. I became consumed with my own irritations on the situation. I was consumed in such a sense that I tried as best as I could to pull myself away from how I felt about things, for the benefit of the team.

I had much to say, and many concerns about my daughters play and usage on the team.
Honestly, as games went by, my daughter's play gave me less and less leverage to speak up.
While the team as a whole was searching itself, I chose to step away. Other team issues were coming to a head, and I desperately avoided being mixed in with them.

I have always beleived that if one is not part of the solution, one is part of he problem.

Poke Check remained as smiling as ever, and I identified my personal wishes and feelings as being my problem. She was being employed as a type of checking line winger, he role consisting of keeping the opposition out of her end.

At this point, my daughter and I began to discuss the situation that I, yes I, found we were in.
As a credit to her, she put the team first, and losing as much as they were at the moment, wanted me to put my personal thoughts away.

She explained it to me with all the insight allowed to a 12 year old. It would take away from the fun she was having.

I got the message, and resolved to endure the season as such.

I'd spoken to the coach and assistants, subtly dropping thoughts while fading away. I'd mention that my girl was being employed in a way that did not bring her strengths to the fore. Talks with the coaches did not exceed 15 to 20 seconds. My take is, always was, we were but one-fifteenth of a team.

Soon enough, I would learn that the coaches themselves were consumed with some even more pressing parental dissatisfactions. I chose not to be lumped in with them. Actually, my kids play, and my concerns, weren't part of those issues. Choosing to ride it out was a no-brainer, as we were not amongst those disatisfied ones causing a rumble.

I let the concerns about my child slide, not wanting to be perceived as part of a parental division.
It was the right thing to do.

As time passed, most of the teams issues were resolved. Things weren't perfect, but they got better soon enough. Dirty laundry was aired and I made myself absent.

Shortly after Christmas, the coaches shuffled some lines. They had been committed to a certain set of trios for 30 games and tossed that blueprint away when it hit a wall. The team had won but 7 of 41 contests thus far. The changes couldn't hurt.

While other parents were at the coaches constantly, to play their child with another, or not play them with a certain other player, the coaches made choices based on compatability and not complaints.

One player was switched back to defense in exchange of a rearguard moving up. The top two lines were redone, adding a checker to each from the third line. One father took his daughter home to stay and never returned, which was terribly unfortunate. A sweet kid and hardworking player, she was simply not of the same level.

This left the lines with only two centers to rotate, with three wingers to each side.

For all the resulting changes and forward line stability, only one helped the team as a whole. Poke Check was bumped up to the top unit and immediatly started to produce goals and set up twice as many as she scored.

The team suddenly won 10 of it's next 12, with a loss and a tie thrown in the streak. The games were crucial ones and included one tournament and 5 playdown games that qualified them for the provincials.

In the four tournament games, Poke Check scored twice, both in wins. She added three goals, again all in wins, in the four playdown games we won. In our next tournament, our team went 1-1-1, scoring only twice in three games. She had a goal and an assist. We played an exhibition tuneup against a boys team, beating them 6-3. She netted the games first goal.

This weekends 2 goals in the first provincial game, gave her 11 on the season. In the 21 games played since the changes were made after the new year, she totalled 9 goals and 12 assists. We won 16 of those games.

After playing on travel teams for two seasons, she'd finally gotten back to the place in her game where her contributions were making a difference on the scoreboard. She thrilled and I was again content about her place on the team.

As far as those Olympic dreams go, they are a thing of the past. I'm relieved in a sense. Unless her overall game become something totally different in the following year, those ideals will remain unachievable - and that's okay.

It costs a family close to $4,000.00 to live a season like this, and ours really can no longer afford it. Bills are paid late, car repairs put off, and other things are neglected along the way. If it weren't for the goodness of sponsors and grandparents helping out, her season would not have been possible. I'm just not making the kind of money needed to pursue this route any longer.

Next year, barring any miracles, she'll play house league again. Poke Check has a little sister that may want to sign up and play in Novice. That would be the upside.

The trouble with moving back to house is the competition she will face. With two levels of travel team using up to 30 of the best players in the age group, the skill and talent level at house is greatly diluted. Two years back, when Poke Check was last in house league, she scored 23 goals as a minor in Atom. There were maybe only 4 players as good or better than her then, and they will not be in Pee Wee next season. She also missed 7 games that year, having quit in frustration. For reasons I'm still at a loss to explain, the games stopped being fun for her.

Next season, she'll be a major in Pee Wee, and quite possibly the oldest and best player there. Surely she'll be the only one with two seasons of travel under her belt.

Without the same competition against her, she'll put up points by the bucketful. Players need to be challenged, otherwise complacency sets in.

I'll have trouble with moving down as well. I hope it doesn't bring out the worst in me.

Poke Check is looking forward to being a teacher one day. That's been her focus in life since her first day attending pre-kindergarten eight years ago. Helping others has always brought out the best qualities in her. That would be the role I would suggest she takes on with her hockey team.
In class at school, she has always been able to help others out without being condescending.
She's always been appreciated by her teachers for being that way.

It will be difficult for her to adjust to being perceived differently. She enjoys accolades at times, but is not always comfortable with the attention that comes with being focussed on. The adjustment will help her mature some. Going from a child to an adolescent is a bumpy road.

An interesting season surely awaits. I hope we're both up to the new challenges.