Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reading and Scoring at Minetto Elementary School

     My school presentations have certainly evolved since the first one, one year ago. I started off just reading a few chapters of The Puck Hog to a single classroom of about 20 students, to now doing entire school assemblies with hockey demonstrations, deep discussions about teamwork and the rewards of unselfish acts. I've been to Little Falls, Red Creek, Trumansburg, Skaneateles, Liverpool and some 30 other schools throughout Onondaga County. I've treasured every visit!
     Today I delivered a presentation to 250 very enthusiastic students, K-2, at Minetto Elementary School in Oswego County. Great kids! Sitting on the carpeted library floor, they listened intently and shared their own stories about unfair play. When it came time to share a few chapters of The Puck Hog, they hung on every word.  Author scores!
    I always enjoy the Q &A sessions at the end of the presentations and I've learned to be prepared to answer anything and everything. Sometimes the questions have nothing to do with reading, writing, being an author, being on television or hockey. ( I'll save that for another post)
Minetto Elementary joins The Puck Hog Team
    My favorite moment of the day, came not in the form of a question, but more along the lines of a comment.  I called on a boy who politely raised his hand and then so matter-of -factly made the statement,  " I got a connection, you know."  "A connection?" I asked, thinking maybe he knows someone on Sophia's hockey team, or one of my relatives, or perhaps plays hockey. He then went on to explain he has been to Syracuse Crunch hockey games, plays NHL hockey video games, and he liked my story very much. Then came his big smile, and I felt the connection.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Maven on "Ravin" Parents

     First comes the lecture;  "Parents, please,"  the certified parent instructor starts off, " No yelling at the refs, keep your cool, and remember it's only a game"....etcetera, etcetera.  Then comes the cheesy, but valid  videotape showing examples of parents behaving badly in the stands and during those car rides home after the game.  In one scene, the dad actor tells his kid all the things he did wrong in the game, and not to listen to the coach.   Then there's the mom who nags the coach because she doesn't think her kid gets enough ice time.  There are plenty of other examples, and maybe a few of them ring true.  The videotape ends, and the discussion begins.   A discussion that may not go on for very long, seeing how everyone seems to be on the same page, at least when everyone is in the same room.   Finally, the promise. We put our signatures at the bottom of a form each year, promising we'll behave ourselves in the stands during games, or else.  We might even take a moment to think about how we may have shouted something fairly unkind at the ref during the last game when he "made that bad call."  My kid didn't mean to stick his leg out while that other player was speeding by with the puck.  How could that ref think that was intentional?  He didn't see what that kid did to MY kid.  Forget your glasses ref?  You know those moments.
   So much for our promises and code of conduct once the games begin.  Fortunately, for most of my children's games,  even when intense, they've been enjoyable, with no hard feelings. That's even after some pretty hard losses. I can't say that for all the games though.   I've also had the unfortunate opportunity to witness parent behavior take the elevator ride down. Way down.  How low can it go?  Really low.  From listening to mouths loud and big enough to have their own zip codes, to insults being hurled at kids, to threats being made.  Sickening.  Yes, it can be difficult to watch refs blow calls, see kids turn into thugs, seemingly with the bulls eye on the back of your kid's jersey. You've got their number, right?  We've heard parents yell that out too.
                                                              TIME OUT!
There's no room for thuggery in youth hockey on the ice, and certainly, not in the stands.
Stan Fischler  "The Hockey Maven"
    But you're dealing with human emotion, human error, and the passion parents have for their kids. That's a lot of ingredients that doesn't always blend when mixed into a heated hockey pot.  Despite all the lectures, promises and cheesy movies, some parents still don't and won't get it.   Stan Fischler, The Hockey Maven, has a few thoughts on the subject.  Here's an excerpt of my recent interview with the Emmy winning hockey journalist, and author or more than 90 books.
    " It's not the same, when I was growing up.  My parents didn't watch me play football, they didn't watch me play stick ball.  You went outside and you played,  We never had a coach.  One of the things I find kind of sad, and it's because of the way life has changed, is that parents are always at these games. Having gone through this myself, with a soccer playing son, parents can be more of a problem than anything! The way I would do it, I would  take the parents and put them somewhere in a luncheonette until the game was over.  That's an idealistic kind of a thing. It's not reality, but I've seen too many situations personal and otherwise, where parents get too involved. "
   Extreme, radical and unrealistic? Certainly.  But, Stan makes that preposterous pitch because that's how ridiculous it's become, at times.   Of course no one would vote for the parent extraction solution.  Especially when it comes to hockey.  We invest a lot of time and money in this sport and there's tremendous satisfaction and reward from watching our children battle it out on the ice.  Plenty of life lessons are learned there too.  Good and bad.  I would, however, like to hear a little less and see a lot more tolerance among parents who have an opportunity to score for their kids while in the stands, by setting good examples and showing them the right way to behave.  Call it a win-win.

 Next week, Stan's NHL picks for good  role models for our kids. 

   Stan Fischler, known as “The Hockey Maven,” serves as the resident hockey expert for MSG Network and MSG Plus. Every week he can be seen on MSG Networks’ comprehensive hockey show “HOCKEY NIGHT LIVE” where he provides pre- and post-game features and reports for the Rangers, Devils and Islanders. In 2011 Fischler collected two New York Emmy Awards, one for his weekly -American from 1955 through 1966. Over the last four decades, Fischler has written for many publications, including The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Sport Magazine, Newsweek and Hockey Digest. With the help of his wife Shirley, Fischler has authored or co-authored more than 90 books on the game, including The Hockey Encyclopedia.

Follow Stan on twitter!!/StanFischler

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Win a copy of The Puck Hog with USA Hockey!

52 Weeks of Winners! - Week 21 - Player's Bench & The Puck Hog

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Double Prize Week: TWO Chances to WIN

• Simply log in and click on the respective "Enter" buttons to be entered into a drawing to win a great prize from Player's Bench! and a fantastic children's book The Puck Hog!
• Children will enjoy skating along on an emotional journey with a tight-knit group of youth hockey players. Their goal is to be the best in their league, but their biggest challenge isn’t an opposing team.
The source of their anger, frustration and disappointment is a mouthy, self-serving teammate. The Puck Hog, an early reader chapter book, encourages the values of fair play, playing together as a team, playing hard and having fun! Now available at

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Cutest Kindergarten Kids

    Why do you wear all that stuff when you play hockey?  How old were you when you started playing?  Do you get scared when you fall?  Do you have any other girls on your team?  The curious little kindergarten kids at the Syracuse Academy of Science had an abundance of questions for my 10 year old hockey player.  Sophia was eager to share her knowledge, and talk about her experiences which shaped the story of The Puck Hog. 
   We had to laugh when we pulled out the knee hockey sticks and asked for two volunteers to demonstrate a tape to tape pass.  When I handed the stick to the little girl we had chosen, she asked, " What do I do with this? " No clue how to hold it.  No clue, really, what it was.  Sophia showed her how to hold the stick and handle the puck, and to our amazement, the demure little lady, whacked that puck clear across the room! Bam!
   Most of the kids weren't familiar with the terms, the game, or the ice.  But they got the message.  Even at the tender age of five, they've had dealings with selfish Eddie types, who only think of themselves. On the playground, in the classroom and in their neighborhoods. When asked for examples of what they could do to be good team players, the answers came, rapid fire.  Pick up papers on the ground, say something nice to someone having a bad day, be quiet for the teacher.  One little girl raised her hand, begging me to call on her.  "I know!  I know!"
   "Great, " I said, " Let's hear!"
She smiled from ear to ear, and stood up to proudly say.....drumroll please.... "All you got to do, is ....PASS THE PUCK!"    

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Season Brings New Reasons to Smile

                              Let the Hockey Season Begin

     Cha-ching! The new hockey season has only just begun with our first practice and already my wallet has been emptied. New skates for my ten year old, shoulder pads for my high school hockey player, plus gloves, and knee pads for both of them. The family budget took a huge hit this week. Can't believe my daughter's skates were two sizes too small! Yes, I am feeling pains of guilt having told her at the end of last season, "Oh come on, they can't hurt that much?!."  Lesson learned.

   Ah yes, I can't wait to sit in the stands of our ice cold rinks, blanket wrapped around the legs and hand warmers activated in every available pocket.  Practices and games will mean many trips to the rink and out of town. There will be endless dinner challenges, weekly spelling quizzes in the car on the way home from practice,and playing tag-your-it with the husband. Fundraising strategies will be discussed and launched. Tournaments will be scheduled. Sign up sheets for the penalty box, scorekeeper, and snacks for the team. Doesn't sound like much fun? The world of a hockey parent may be a little crazy and very hectic, but it is a wonderful world, and I wouldn't trade one crazy second of it. Especially when you witness those unforgettable moments. Those times when your children demonstrate not only great skill, but good character. Cha-ching.  Priceless.

Hockey Mom Defined

When she learned my 8 year old wanted to play hockey, Nancy Duffy shared this article with me. She had written it many years ago, when her boys played. It's been in my top desk drawer ever since. At the start of each season, I pull it out and share her words of wisdom with as many hockey parents as I can. I miss Nancy so much.

    The hockey mom is truly a model of unacclaimed virtue, a paragon of womanhood tested beyond all limits. She is someone who shivers at 4,015 rink sides from Elmira to Ottawa, from Niagara to New Jersey, and who drives through four-hour blizzards for a one-hour game. She buys $200 ice skates instead of furniture, lives six months in long underwear with skate guards in her pockets. She sifts through the moldy mysteries of a hockey bag, dripping over hockey pucks in drape folds or tries to maneuver past hundreds of splintered hockey sticks, too good to be thrown out, in the upstairs closet. She lugs the hockey bags on her shoulders when her child is a tyke, bakes cookies for the locker room when he's a squirt and billets young Canadian teenagers when he's a bantam.

     There are no holidays or time-outs for a hockey mom. The day after Christmas is always spent on the road to a tournament. It's almost Easter before the season ends. That means six months of car breakdowns in Massena and whiteouts in Pulaski and Oswego. Hockey moms don't flinch when they hear that five more games have been added to the schedule, though. They just postpone their cleaning and cooking for one more month. The hockey mom endures and pays the price as long as the ice is available. Somehow the 12-and 13-year-olds who cuddle their hockey sticks in the night make it all worthwhile.

By Nancy Duffy

Monday, October 3, 2011

New York Hockey Journal: Fischler Report: .

If you're looking for a top-notch hockey kids book, get a copy of "The Puck Hog" by Christie Casciano. It's published by North Country Books ( Christie is a TV news anchor in Syracuse, N.Y. She knows of what she writes having two youth hockey players of her own in the family. "I wrote this book because I love youth hockey and I want to encourage the values of fair play, playing together as a team, playing hard and having fun," adds Christie. ...

New York Hockey Journal: Fischler Report: Tavares, Fighting and More ...