THE ULTIMATE DEFENDER
by hockey mom Dawn O'Neill
Let me introduce myself...I'm the mom of a first-time goalie (now 7). I would like to share some of my journey, as we wrap up our first season in our newly found world of youth hockey.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
It all started last December, when my then six-year old son, begged me for weeks on end to take him skating. It came as a bit of a shock, since he NEVER strapped on a pair of skates in his life! I finally succumbed to his begging and pleading. One Sunday afternoon, I took him to our neighborhood ice rink in Radisson. Being ill-prepared, I dressed him just in jeans and a coat. I slapped on a pair of rental skates and got him laced up for what would be a really rocky first start. During our first 30 minutes of "open skate" as we now know it, my son fell nearly 100 times. With each fall, came the tears and I could see the "Mom, I want to go home now" coming my way. Not being a quitter myself, I encouraged him up again and again. To my surprise, by the end of the hour and a half, he was running across the ice and I could barely keep up. It was this day, that our hockey journey began.
THE BIG REVEAL
We continued to skate every Sunday for the next few months, and then that fateful, exuberant phrase was spoken, "Mom, I want to play hockey!" Before I go on, I need to share something with you. There were two sports that I did NOT want my sons playing and yes you guessed it, HOCKEY was one of them. (the other was football)
If you could see the love in his eyes when he exclaimed to me his desire to play hockey, you would understand why we mothers do what we do....we forfeit our nights and weekends for our children's' enjoyment in all that they love to do. As we continued our new venture into this very unfamiliar sport's territory, I reached out to people I knew and found good contacts in the Lysander Youth Hockey Association. So, we started taking those Sunday skating clinics to strengthen the skills of this new, young player. THEN came the most exuberant claim from my little guy, "Mom, I want to be a GOALIE!" I thought to myself, "Oh, my goodness, it's bad enough he wants to play hockey, but now he wants to be goalie?" So, not only does he want to play a sport that requires a lot of time and money, but now he wants to play THE MOST EXPENSIVE position. Yikes!
So off we went. He began taking goalie clinics. He did all the formalities of registering for the league. Then came the tryouts, where he declared his intent on being a goalie, but he tried out for player as well. To our surprise, he stepped right over the Mite C level and into Mite B. So far, so good. Then came THE big day, our first game in Geneva and he was starting goalie. Now, if that doesn't put a lump in your throat and triple your heart rate, I don't know what will! While we have all watched our kids "perform" either in a play or a concert, there is NOTHING like being a goalie mom and watching from the stands as your six-year old gets "shot on" and "poke checked" with the whole intent of breaking him down and finding his weak spot or that open "5 hole." Being a goalie (like it or not), means you take the weight of the whole world on your shoulders! Looking into a son's heart and soul after a loss (and a win) will bring tears to your eyes! Whether the team played as a team, failed to defend, or simply got out-played, he feels the defeat into his core. Or, the time when he played one of the best games of his life with a 1-1 tie with 15 seconds left, only to see the other team "stack the line" and poke at him until they wore him down and jammed the puck in with 7 seconds left. Ouch, that one hurt! I never sit down during a game and have an extreme level of nervous energy the minute he steps out onto the ice until the final buzzer. Nonetheless, I am the proudest mom in the stands when they skate off the ice. I give him my hugs, win or lose. I always tell him how very proud I am of him for always playing with heart.
When I look at my son and when he asks, "Mom, will you shoot on me?" (24/7) or when he says, "Mom, I just wish I was in net today!" Or, "Mom, I'm going to be the next Ryan Miller and play for the Sabres, "... I know in my heart of hearts, this is worth it! And...he's good. (Well, what mom doesn't think that?)
Being a goalie is like no other position on the team. For a goalie mom, the ups are the most exhilarating sight to see, as the team piles on your son mid-ice because he made all those saves and they got the win. Or, when you get told, even after a loss, that your son just broke a record with 31 saves! The downs will tear at your heart as he feels a complete let-down to the team. But, in most cases, it's short-lived and often fixed with a trip to Friendly's and he's back at it with the same yearning passion the next time around.
I proudly wear my "Goalie Mom Badge of Honor" and as we finish this first season. I can't wait to see my son "IN NET" again next year, with the same lump in my throat and sense of deep pride every time he skates onto the ice to take his position as the Ultimate Defender.