old guy shuffles his way to a seat on the hard wooden bench
at the far end of the rink, past the mother who has a stopwatch
in her pocket to time how long her son is on the ice, past
the father with the video camera trained on his boy, past
the guy who was tossed out of the last game for swearing at
walk isn’t really necessary. There are lots of empty
places where he could rest his body, but none of them meet
his needs. He wants to be left alone. Before and after the
game he enjoys laughing and trading stories with the parents
on his grandson’s team, but months ago he decided he
couldn’t be anywhere near them during the game.
rather put up with the pain in his aching feet from his walk
to the corner of the rink. He wants to be where he won’t
be disturbed - and where it’s clear that he’s
not with them. That includes his son and daughter-in-law.
man loves them dearly, but he can’t think of a single
good reason why they become so damned stupid when they watch
Danny play hockey.
he stretches his legs in front of him he thinks about last
week’s victory over the first-place team. It was a huge
win for Danny and his teammates, one of those games where
everything goes right. It was so inspiring that after the
game he forgot to complain about how much his feet hurt and
how much of a sacrifice it is to come to these games.
couldn’t wait to compliment Danny on the victory. While
he was waiting in the back seat of the SUV, he had been thinking
about the goal Danny had set up, the way he’d worked
so hard on every shift and the way he’d kept his mouth
shut when he’d been given a penalty.
thoughts ended abruptly.
many times do I have to tell you to tie up their winger when
the face-off is in your own end?”
son -- Danny’s dad -- had an entirely different view
of the game and he’d jumped all over the boy the moment
he got into the Explorer.
goal they scored was your fault. You can’t let stupid
mistakes happen. The season is almost over and you’re
still screwing up. How many times do you have to be told?”
had watched the smile quickly fade from Danny’s face;
the moment of triumph had been demolished.
old guy knew his son was a supportive father. Yet when it
came to hockey, he was a complete idiot. He became hypercritical,
as if a mistake meant Danny’s career as a hockey player
was at an end.
At home his daughter-in-law was polite and quiet to a fault.
But at hockey games she was almost out of control. It’s
one thing to be loud, it’s another to be loud and wrong,
and she was always wrong, especially when she was shouting
at a referee.
wasn’t the only parent with this team who liked to holler
at the refs.
He couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to wear that
striped sweater. The money couldn’t be worth the constant
abuse. Tonight, even before the game had started, the parents
were complaining. His son was right there in the middle of
you see that cross-check last week? The referee was right
there and didn’t even call it. These guys are completely
out to lunch. I hope they don’t destroy the game like
they did the last time.”
words moron, idiot, loser are tame compared to what referees
hear almost every night. Early in the season, before he had
started to sit by himself, the man’s daughter-in-law
and a couple of dads were whining that the refs were making
it impossible for their team to win.
been stupid enough to tell the guy beside him, a guy he thought
was level-headed, that he’d never seen a referee score
a goal. The response was sharp.
guess you haven’t watched much hockey then, old-timer.
Everyone knows the refs can decide which team is going to
win and which one is going to lose.”
remark had been decisive. He hadn’t replied, he simply
got up and walked to the other end of the rink. He just couldn’t
take any more, so from then on he'd been sitting by himself.
He had escaped the noise and the stupid comments, which allowed
him to settle in and enjoy watching his grandson play.
he couldn’t help thinking about what he hadn’t
done. He hadn’t told his daughter-in-law that some day
Danny might be a referee and that she should think before
making her bitchy comments. He hadn’t told his son to
stop complaining about how the kid played because it was destroying
his already-fragile confidence. He hadn’t told either
one of them about the sadness he saw sweep over his grandson’s
face the week before.
he hadn’t told them he was pretty sure Danny was also
tired of the insults and the antics and that he, too, was
looking for an escape. He knew Danny’s solution wouldn’t
be to sit in a corner; it would be to never play the game
you for your letter on the net about the Grandfather and Danny.
It truly touched me. It is so easy to get caught up in the
heat of the game. I had thought I was doing well this year
as a coach and a father. It is so very hard to separate the
two. I was just tossed from our last play off game for abusing
the referee with 1:20 left in the game. I too have never seen
a referee score a goal but am so very quick to blame them,
at times, for participating in our demise.
I was watching myself get carried away it was easy to see
the kids get caught up as well. We are an influence and need
to mind that!
a father to my son I am critical at his mistakes but try very
very hard to make sure he gets positive feedback as well.
I can say that it is not easy and I have probably been far
more critical than positive.
all, I do believe I have been there for the kids up to the
last game and vow to continue to be. The letter you wrote
serves as a great reminder. As one of the players mother so
matter-of-factly stated, I need to just "Zip it"....
Cloverdale PeeWee B2 Colts
is a fantastic piece of work. It should be required reading
for every parent at the beginning of each season. I have been
saying that since my son began playing in 1975.
to his mother, a teacher, I did not become one of those parents.
She taught me positive reinforcement and I never found a better
example of that than when I was an assistant coach until he
was 10 or so and would tell the kids when they came off the
ice what they did right. We could explain what they did wrong
a little later. Got their attention and after all, we all
like to hear a little praise, right.