We weren't on home ice, so I expected to see unfamiliar faces in the locker room for the Saturday spring hockey clinic that we decided to give a try. Making a slow entrance into the locker room was an elderly gentleman, one fist clenched around a handle as he wheeled an overstuffed hockey bag behind him. A young hockey player, I'm guessing around 7 years old, flew past him and picked a spot on the bench right next to us. As I laced up my daughter's skates, the elder man settled the bag near ours, and eased his way down onto one knee, slightly moaning under his breath...'hang in there knees.' Unzipping the hockey bag unleashed that familiar, foul smell. "Ah," he said, " Some things never change."I laughed as I turned to him and asked, " Is this a second generation of smelly hockey bags?"
"Oh, yeah," he said, "...had three sons go all the way up and even play some hockey in college. Been around it, a long time. Feels good to be back in the locker room with the grandson. Doesn't smell too good, but it feels good. Brings back a lot of memories."
I thought for a moment, about all the memories he most be holding on to...all those heartbreaking losses and hard-fought wins those twinkling eyes must have witnessed. Got to treasure these times, I thought to myself.
I was impressed by how quickly he got his grandson suited up, while I was still struggling to press those stubborn snaps together on my daughter's helmet. (Reminds me, one of the snaps is about to snap off again) His grandson was obviously eager to beat everyone else out of the locker room, and onto the ice. Before making his mad dash, he made a bold prediction, as his grandfather struggled to get back up on his feet, using the hockey stick as a cane. As he handed the boy his stick, the child blurted out, "Get ready to count all my goals grandpa, 'cause I bet I can out-shoot any one of these kids."
Grandpa took the stick back and said, "You're not getting this back, until I hear a promise from you." "Whaaaat grandpa,"as if he's heard a few lectures from grandpa before. " I would be more impressed to see assists out there young man. So let's see you work on your passing too. Got it? Never cared much for puck hogs."
"Ooooh....kay...," he said with his head down, as the stick was returned to his glove. The grandfather smiled,turned to me and said..." I guess there are some other things that never change. Had to give that same lecture to his dad, 'bout the same age. Took awhile, even took him out of a few games because of his pork-chop attitude, but eventually he learned. In high school, he made team captain and the coach said he was the heart and soul of the team. Proud moment for me,as he choked up and smiled at his young grandson. Hockey gave me a lot of proud moments. "
I bet he'll have many more with his talented grandson, who made a point of passing the puck to my daughter, when he could have easily scored himself.