The final year of youth hockey for the U18 Single A Flames ended with a fizzle. While they celebrated (pictured here) winning the regular season Pro Hockey Life Cup, they did not, in the end, win it all like they imagined, but the fact that there was a season at all was miraculous in itself. Covid continued to throw a wrench into their young lives. However, the team came back from a two-month lockdown over Christmas and went 14 and 0 in their last few weeks, all while one after another went down with Covid. And injuries. Coaches scrambled every day for call-ups who distinguished themselves on the ice and helped win games. In November, they won their final away tourney in London, and a few of them went to the finals against Lawrence Park as Leaside (High School) Lancers. I watched all this as an anxious mother praying that they could just play the sport they love. Doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but we live in strange times.
One of the coaches pictured is hanging up his whiteboard after 12 years. It doesn’t seem that long ago that our boys caught hockey fever after watching Sidney Crosby get the golden goal in the Olympics in 2010. Since then – 12 years of driving two kids in two different directions, waiting for games to start in cold arenas, the joy of victory and the agony of defeat. The excited ride home, or the silent, sullen one. The time spent with parents on buses, or in motels, or in crappy chain restaurants. They become your social group – friends, the kind that suddenly show up when times get tough. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
You might say that hockey isn’t that important. But you live in Leaside, right? Hockey is camaraderie, fitness, discipline, life lessons, social culture – just another outlet in their waning childhoods denied them during the pandemic. Hell, our older son missed his entire senior year in hockey in the previous season. You may think that’s not a big deal, but it broke his heart and mine. When we wonder and examine how our kids have fared over these last two years, missing sports and active participation will be front and centre.
When the fall comes, these empty nesters will be wondering what to do with ourselves. No tryouts, no anxiety over team selection, no soccer or baseball finals. A milestone in parenting. Of letting go. Here’s to the value of all that time and effort. Here’s to the return of kids’ hockey.
A shout out to some of the other Leaside Flames big winners this season: pictured – the Wildcats U11AA Provincial bronze medalists, U17 AA won the GTHL East Finals, and U18 Gold and U17 Red won their NYHL Select Championships.