Wednesday, October 7, 2020

It Takes A Team To Run A Team


We’ve all seen the famous picture of Bobby Orr flying through the air like Superman.

Then just 21 years old, #4 had just slotted home the game-winner in overtime – clinching the Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins – before tripping over goalie Glenn Hall’s stick and into history.

But here’s a piece of trivia for hockey heads – who set up Orr from behind the net on that score? Or better yet – who twice kept the puck inside the zone on that play, allowing Boston’s attack to continue?

We all remember Bobby Orr, but his iconic moment doesn’t happen without an assist from Derek Sanderson or the hustle of Don Awrey.

While it may not be overtime of the Stanley Cup Final, it’s not a stretch to point out that our own young skater’s moments in the sun don’t happen with an assist here or there, or plenty of hustle behind the scenes.

I'm sure your local team, like our Syracuse Nationals Girls squad, wouldn't run as efficiently without our team parents – booking hotels, coordinating travel, team dinners … and the dreaded fundraising ideas.

Still, there's another team that is integral for all teams to succeed and they're not in it for their kids. In fact, they no longer have kids who play hockey. They're members of the wonderful world of volunteers.

Why do it?

For my son's former coach, it's all about giving back to the game that has given so much to him and his children. After Mike Zandri's children went off to college, he was asked to coach an initiation program. I spotted him on the job one day at the rink and was caught by complete surprise to see an old familiar face among the fresh new faces of the littlest skaters in the rink. Bending down, smiling, expressive and laughing.  Mike Zandri? No, couldn't be I thought. It was in sharp contrast to my memories of an intense Coach at the Bantam level who led intricate practices and was always ready to draw something up on his white board.

"It is very different without my own child, " says Zandri. " I don't have to get anyone home to do homework or chores or anything else. This leaves time to answer parents and coach questions, mostly to share all aspects of the game. Sometimes it's more coaching the coaches than coaching the players."

USA Hockey’s New York State District Coach
in Chief is Chuck Gridley, who wears many hockey hats. In addition to coaching three teams, he’s an instructor for the Coaching Education Program, on the board of several National committees for USA Hockey, and National Disabled Board Representative. His son, who he used to coach, now helps him coach all three teams, including the CNY Flyers Sled Hockey Team. “ It’s been great to have the opportunity to not only coach my son when he was young, but to now be able to work with him as a coach.”

A love of the game and a desire to share that with the next generation of hockey players keeps Gridley in the game, “My involvement with the Coaching Education Program gives me the opportunity to help shape the next generation of coaches, and have a real and lasting impact on the game.” There are plenty of volunteer opportunities, says Gridley, who believes it’s an asset to have experienced coaches and administrators who are not connected to a child on the team.

Hockey season can take a lot from us – time, warmth, money, and even our sanity! But if we look at how the game rewards our families with lessons and friends will last a lifetime, it’s easy to see why volunteers are so eager to give back.

After all, once you’ve been through the ringer of being a hockey parent, you know how much everyone can use an assist and some hustle to help the next generation fly.

Monday, August 19, 2019

What Experience Has Taught Veteran Hockey Parents

Lessons from Veteran Hockey Parents

When we first started out as hockey parents, a coach told us, "Nothing about hockey is convenient."
Honestly, becoming a hockey parent for the first time, is like the first time you purchase a smartphone. There's a lot of trial-and-error, and at times, the whole thing made you question if it was all really worth it.
But just like that iPhone or Android, you eventually come to the conclusion that you can't imagine life before hockey parenting.
We were fortunate to get a lot of help along the way, so here's sage advice from veteran hockey parents:
"Don't lose focus on what matters most to your family and your child's development as a hockey player and person. Focus on effort given and encourage them to give their best. That character trait will transcend the game and pay a lifetime of dividends." - Jason Hubbard, Skaneateles, N.Y.
"When they run across that one parent who is acting like his/her kid's agent, they need to understand that they may be the loudest, but they are not the majority." - 'On The Job Mom' hockey blogger Emily Oberst.
"Keep an emergency kit in the car with laces, mouthpieces, extra helmet parts." - Melissa Calfo Hebert, Elm City, N.C.
 "Use the 24-hour period before going to the coach with concerns/complaints." - Chris High, Pittsburgh
"Remember the young refs are somebody's kid, brother, friend and teammate. They will make mistakes." - Peter Bellendir, Fond du Lac, Wis. 
"Keep a rink bag packed and in your car because there's always rinks that are colder than any other you've been in before." - Traci Winter McLaughlin, Syracuse, N.Y.
"Since you're going to live in the car, buy the vehicle you can be comfortable traveling in. It's always fun to have room for friends and travel together. Splitting the cost for travel is good, too." - Pam Munson, Baldwinsville, N.Y.
"I'm amazed at how supportive kids and parents can be. Encourage that environment. It's so much better for everyone." - Kari Hawkins Walock, Faribault, Minn.
"Use your travel time to and from games and practice to talk with your kids and really get to know them better. Don't let them just plug in the head phones right away." - Sharon Johnson Malone, Orangeville, Ill.
"Never presume that you know your child's hockey sense better than their coach. Let hockey be an exposure to the real world and build their work ethic." Brigitte Hoffman, Anaheim, Calif.
"Always tell them you're proud of them - no matter what. Please remember, they're kids, not NHL prospects." - Nicole Moskal-Burgio, Buffalo
"Encourage your kids to have fun. And dress themselves." - Linda Aitcheson, Belfast, United Kingdom
"Just have fun and enjoy it while it lasts because it ends too fast." - Shannon Dankert, Cortland, N.Y. 
Now that you have some cursory instructions to hockey parenting, you can look forward to this new adventure. As a wise hockey dad advised, it's more about where you are going than where you have been.

NHL/NHLPA 2019 Concussion Education Video

A 13-minute video produced by NHL Studios in conjunction with the National Hockey League and NHL Players’ Association created to help players, parents, coaches and team medical staff at all levels of hockey recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion and better understand how to proceed when a player is suspected to have suffered a concussion.
Watch live hockey wherever you are: Breaking news, scores, stats, analysis & real-time highlights:

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Parents, Put Down the Smartphones

  Anyone who has ever picked up a stick is probably familiar with The Great One’s proclamation that, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Hockey savant though he may be, Wayne Gretzky didn’t utter that line in the age of Smartphones and iPads. Were one to update those words, he or she might have to append it with – “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take … because you were staring down at your screen.”
            West Seneca, N.Y. hockey dad James Colby is one of too many parents who have fallen victim to the digital days of our lives and had been checking his phone from the stands. “Sadly, I did this last week, said Colby.
“I wanted to take a video of my 2010 playing. Took it. Then a shift change happened. I started playing on social media, missed his next shift when he scored a goal. Never again. Phone goes away from here on out!”
            Great Falls, Montana hockey mom Paula Hinsz Walker's job required being on call 24 hours a day. After her son took notice of her on the phone in the stands, she changed her ways.
“I would only take it out between periods while they were in the locker room. I didn't think my son noticed when I was on my phone, but when he commented on it, it broke my heart."
There are, of course, exceptions to parents who appear to be tuned out in the stands, as Bagley, Minnesota hockey mom Sheena Ysen points out.  She asks parents not to judge others. 
"We have no idea why a parent may be on their phone. Maybe they have a job that they are on call for.  Maybe they have a sick child at home with a babysitter or a relative in the hospital.”
While there may be legitimate reasons to use that Smartphone in the stands, there unfortunately are others putting phones ahead of their kids, ignoring what's happening on the ice in favor of their mobile device.  
            College hockey mom Debbie Amato, from DeLand, Florida never missed watching her son in the net and has a message for digitally distracted dads and moms, "Cherish every moment, and wake up Moms and Dads. Before you know, he or she is gone."
Our phone dependence may indeed be a symptom of our busy lives, but there’s no reason not to be smart about our Smartphones, and create some healthy cellular boundaries in our children's arenas. Arizona goalie mom blogger Sharon Enck could tweet penalites, goals and saves with lightning speed,  but it soon became obvious she needed to take in the game and report on it later. "Nothing is worse than having your player ask you " Did you see that ___?" when you didn't even notice. Wait until intermission or better yet at the end of the game, because no news, video, or social media feed is that important. The only thing that needs to be lightning fast during the game is your player on the ice, or their glove hand."
            I can remember one game where my daughter, Sophia, asked me to get my phone ready. In this instance, I knew exactly what she meant.
This was the game she was going to help a teammate finally score that elusive goal, her first of the season.
I positioned myself right behind the net, and sure enough, there it was.  My cellphone camera was rolling, and caught that sweet tape-to-tape pass to her younger teammate.
And then came the “celly.”
Big and beautiful. More precious than I could have imagined.
But as I choked back the tears and looked up in the stands – hoping to catch the eyes of the younger teammate's mom – our eyes never met.
Her’s were once again glued to her phone.
About ten minutes later, I felt a tap on the shoulder and a horrified look on the face of the mom, "O-M-G. Did you get it?!?"
While she may have missed that shot, I scored with my camera shot – at least in this instance.
But going forward, that mom left her phone in her pocket during games … and saw 100% of the goals.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Ice Time Woes

In a tightly contested game as things were coming down to the wire, it dawned on us.
“Hey, uh.. Where’s our kid?”

As we edged closer to the ends of our seats and tensed up with every shot on net, it wasn’t obvious at first. But after every whistle or stoppage of play, it was the first line trotting out to the drop of the puck. As winded as they seemed, it became clear to us that they would be the ones to see this game through to its conclusion.

Welcome to travel hockey. Gone were the days of equal playing time for all, the “fun at all costs” mentality was a thing of the past. We were here to get the win, and the coach would do whatever it took to put the team in a position to do so.

Perhaps it was our ego that got bruised more than our kids. Not only did they roll with the punches, they punched back, stepping up their game and eventually working to becoming that players the coach counted on for penalty kills and tight end of game scenarios.

Every parent wants their child to get as much as time as any other kid, and in the early stages, they should. Making players better is the name of the game and that is achieved through maximizing ice time. As players age and the emphasis on winning grows, that equal division of the ice time pie falls by the wayside.

Syracuse, NY hockey mom Lauren Knapp says sometimes you need to work on changing attitudes and telling their kids, ”Don't get bitter, get better. Show the coach you care and are willing to do what it takes to get that playing time."

Monica Hudak Headley is on the same page, "When my son doesn't think he's getting equal ice time, I have him ask the coach what he wants my son to work on. This way it's not whining about not getting enough ice time, it's showing the coach you want to do better."

At the end of the day, not everyone can be on the ice to close out a game and not every player wants the immense pressure that comes with those situations. Often times, our players have a greater understanding of this than we do as parents. They put the team first and know late in the game, it’s just as important to be there to cheer for their teammates. The best thing we can do is cheer right along with them.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Friday, September 7, 2018