The Sunday Magazine

The trials and tribulations of a hockey mom

Being a hockey parent comes with many costs — some financial and some personal. Angie Abdou unflinchingly talks about both with guest host Kevin Sylvester. Her new book is called 'Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom'.
Author Angie Abdou was born and raised in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. (ECW Press)

Being a hockey parents comes with many costs.

Some are financial.  Some are personal.

In her new book Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom, Angie Abdou unflinchingly talks about both.

Abdou admits hockey is not her first love; there is sexism. She gives numerous examples of moments when her thoughts and opinions (and the opinions of other hockey moms) were not taken seriously or are rejected out of hand.

"I felt like women's voices are not taken seriously in the hockey rink. They can come in and tie their kid's skates, but then it's like 'get out' once that's done."

A mother helps her son put on his skates before a training session at the Tiger Cub Ice Hockey Club in northern Beijing. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

There is physical violence, there are parents and coaches who take winning far too seriously, and there are even darker realities.

A lifetime at the rink

Abdou grew up in Moose Jaw,  Saskatchewan, where her brother played for coach Graham James — later convicted of sexually abusing numerous players, which is an experience she recounts in the book.

Women's voices are not taken seriously in the hockey rink.- Angie Abdou

But when her son Ollie picked hockey as the sport he wanted to play, Abdou was faced with a choice.

"You don't get to pick your kids' marriages or their sports, and he wants to play hockey," Abdou says.

"I said as long as he loves it I'll drive him to the rink, and I'll drive him all around the place to competitions and I'll keep an eye on the less savoury aspects of the sport."

He continues to love it, she says, despite occasional problems with referees, coaches and even other parents.

A mother and her son practice on Lake Louise in Alberta in 2016. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Along the way, Abdou discusses what she sees as problems with the way hockey is organised in Canada. Kids specialise in one sport. They are then divided into winners and losers at too early an age, only to quit playing when they're young.
"So what you end up with is great big country that's hockey-obsessed, and really not a huge pool of kids playing it by the time they're 17 or 18," Abdou says.

"They've either quit early because they were told they weren't good enough or they quit early because they were told they're really good and got tired of it, or got injured." 

At 10, Ollie is only just beginning to face those obstacles, so the tournaments and practices continue.

The ripple effect

The demanding hockey schedule puts a strain on Abdou's personal life. Her husband Marty focuses on skiing with their daughter, which leaves Angie to handle the long drives through the B.C. mountains alone.

A mother shoulders her son's hockey bag to the rink in predawn hours during a 2007 road trip in Massachussets. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Other couples go through the same thing; Abdou writes that marriage is often a casualty of hockey.

"We were both over-tired. We both have full time jobs and are doing everything we can to support our kids and their organised activities and we don't have anything left for each other," says Abdou. "We have quite a bit of resentment." 

Off the ice and onto the page

Abdou has written numerous novels, and admits writing a memoir was a different kind of challenge.

She's still not sure how the book will be received by hockey lovers in her hometown of Fernie, B.C. 

"I gave the book to one local hockey mom as an early read, and she said that we need to have meetings to see how to take the ideas in this book and make them happen."

Angie Abdou's new book Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom, is published by ECW press.