a sign hung by a hockey family that reads life begins at the rink


It Can Be Lonely Being a Small Town Canadian Family That Doesn’t Love Hockey

Sep 4, 2019

I’m Canadian, I live in a small town and I’m just not that into hockey.

I know, I know, it’s practically treason to admit this. It’s as if I don’t have maple syrup or Tim Horton’s coffee flowing through my veins. But although I am so proud to be Canadian, and I love my country, I don’t love hockey. And neither do my kids.

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And while this fact doesn’t often make it onto my radar of things to worry about, sometimes my family’s different preferences are quite obviously at odds with the rest our small town.

But it’s hard when our community feels like a ghost town because everyone else seems to be at a tournament.

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t hate hockey. I watched a fair bit of it in university, when it was the social thing to do. I even played a little house league with friends (although truth be told, my favourite part was going out for breakfast after…yum, pancakes). I’ll even tune in from time to time if I’m at a gathering and the game is on (great for introverts).

But my kids and I are not part of the social fabric that is kids playing hockey and spending tons of time with their teams.

This isn't always an easy fact. Some of my children’s best friends are ardent hockey players and fans, and their time is often taken up by games, practices and tournaments. This mean those kids also spend their time socializing with kids my offspring don’t know. That’s as it should be, and obviously one of the great advantages of playing sports. But it’s hard when our community feels like a ghost town because everyone else seems to be at a tournament.

My kids are into swimming, hiking, theatre and writing. There aren’t a ton of sleepovers for the hiking set. No writing or environmental action tournaments that I’m aware of. Our pastimes are more solitary, and without the thread of competition that seems to bind friends and families together. They can be deeply fulfilling and yet at times isolating. But it's what fits for us.

My eldest child is my son. When he was a preschooler, I had no idea what his preferences would be. We tried a little bit of everything: soccer, gymnastics, lacrosse, drama and, yes, hockey. My son’s dad is a hockey fan, and used to play quite competitively. He supported my son in trying hockey. So every Saturday morning we began the long and arduous task of preparing him for practice. For a kid with a lot of sensory issues, putting on all of the heavy and restrictive gear was a nightmare. Even though his dad was an assistant coach, my son was not at all happy during practices. He was that kid who wanted to touch the ice with his fingertips, marvel at the coldness and make ice caves with the shavings. He didn’t want to learn how to control the puck with 30 other youngsters in a loud arena.

His hockey career was short lived, and I was relieved. Not because of my preferences, or rather my lack of preference for early mornings in the cold arena with the tang of Tim Horton’s heavy in the air. But because my son so clearly detested the whole process, just as much as he so clearly loved other things: hiking out in the wilderness; swimming in a pool, lake or ocean; and learning about capital cities and far-off places. 

My daughter was also not destined for hockey greatness. Some of her very good friends are excellent hockey players, and there is a thriving girls league in town. But my daughter is big on creativity and short on coordination. She has tried sports — bless her, she has really, really tried. But it’s not just that athletic pursuits don’t come easily to her. They don’t come to her at all.

I don’t feel any less Canadian because I don’t love hockey or a Timmies coffee.

She gets hurt, frustrated and completely turned off by the whole experience. And yet this girl can get up in front of a crowded theatre and sing her heart out. She can talk to and connect with anyone. And at the age of eight, she started writing a novel. She’s not lazy. Not without determination. She has a great work ethic, and a stick-to-it-ness, but her interests are a bit more esoteric and harder for some to relate to. And while her passions may not be as popular as some, they fill her with joy.

So we’ve learned how to be the odd ones out in a small town that runs on hockey. We realize that on some weekends, friends will be tied up with other things. We’ve learned to find our joy in activities that work for us. And slowly, but surely, we’re finding others who feel the same way.

Another Piece from Janice Quirt: When I Say No, Why I Say No and When I Let My Kids Take the Lead

It’s not always easy being a decidedly non-hockey family in a hockey town. We’re a bit different — quirky, perhaps. But passions and interests differ from person to person. I don’t feel any less Canadian because I don’t love hockey or a Timmies coffee.

I can rock a toque on a winter hike, help my son find a team in his lifeguarding group and support my daughter in making group connections through theatre. We are our own version of Canadian, through and through. And we don’t give a puck if anyone disagrees.

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