By Melissa Walsh
Hockey parents know that hockey is more than a sport; it’s a lifestyle. Add the thrill of playing hockey to the experience of hockey parenting, and hockey will become a family passion. It’s like a club. The Hockey Mom Club.
The Rink Congregation
The hockey community is tight-knit. It’s fitting that we hockey families spend so many Sunday mornings together because we function much as a church congregation, or sometimes as a large dysfunctional family, bickering (chirping) during Sunday brunch. Like a family or community of believers, hockey families are emotionally invested, not just in this sport, but in each other. Whether fond of one other or at odds with one other, one thing remains constant: hockey families are not indifferent to one other and they look out for each other.
Hockey moms collectively look after the precious rink rats seated playing with tablet computers or cruising in Heely roller shoes in the rink lobby. They hold babies for their hockey-mom peers getting little skaters ready for practice. They take turns buying team slushies. And, because there are no snow-day cancellations in youth hockey, hockey moms survive blizzards together, convoying their SUVs closely behind one another through blinding, blowing snow. They share spirit scarves, cozy blankets, and laughs in the bleachers. They team to make jello shots and gift baskets for golf-outing fundraisers.
Guys who had played hockey together as kids reconnect as hockey dads to coach the next generation of hockey players. And even if they clash with one another in the competitiveness of coaching, they forgive and move on, as brothers do. They shake hands in the lobby and share hockey news, opinion, and stories. They watch the kids on the ice, longing to be out there with them.
Hockey parents have heart for the game and the kids who play it. I know first-hand how the hockey community cares for hockey families experiencing crisis: From an anonymous payment of an ice bill following a layoff, to a warm hug during a time of grief, hockey people are a caring community. One more example of the Hockey Mom Club.
The Hockey-Playing Hockey Parent
I’ve been a hockey mom since 2001 and have enjoyed the community of hockey more than any other community of friends in my life. But it wasn’t until I started playing the game myself, which was well into my hockey-parenting journey, that I became a hockey mom with any rink credibility. It is valuable knowing first-hand what it feels like to battle for the puck, control it, feed it to a teammate, get open for a pass, obstruct an opponent’s passing lane, block an opponent’s shot, take a shot, score a goal, assist a goal, win a game, and lose a game. To feel the intensity of the game and enjoy the camaraderie of the bench and the room… that experience has immeasurably enhanced my hockey parenting sense and skill. It has made me believe in hockey as the best sport ever.
America’s Hockey Mom Club
So in honor of the start of another season, here’s an acrostic:
H is for the Humility of hockey’s greatest players
O is for the Obsession to play this addictive game
C is for the Character that hockey builds in the player
K is for hockey Keepsakes, like tourney trophies and game pucks
E is for the Empowerment hockey players’ sense on the ice
Y is for the Youthfulness players of all ages feel during a game
The hockey club is a memory-maker for my family. It is my family’s social life, my support network, and a gateway to dreams. Hockey creates a rite of passage for my sons and a language I can use to communicate with them. Because hockey allows no shortcuts to glory, pursuing hockey excellence instills the values of perseverance, discipline, and humility.
So to all the volunteer coaches, league administrators and rink managers out there, thank you for helping this great sport thrive. My family is blessed to be part of this congregation of believers, also known as Greater Detroit’s outstanding hockey community.
Though Melissa Walsh grew up enjoying hockey as a fan, as a single mom she felt lost at the rink as she launched her sons’ youth hockey journey. A freelance writer, she decided to research the topic of hockey parenting and write The Rookie Hockey Mom: How to Play the Game’s Toughest Position. Following the publication of the book’s first edition in 2005, Walsh continued to grow her hockey mom sense, not only as the parent of four hockey players, but also as a recreational player and youth coach. In 2011, she revised the book’s content for USA Hockey’s rules changes and her expanded hockey knowledge and insight as a more seasoned hockey parent. In 2012, Walsh released the title’s revised print edition.
Walsh lives with her four sons in a Detroit suburb, enjoying life as hockey mom to three midget-level players and a peewee, coaching youth hockey, and playing recreational women’s and coed hockey three to four times a week. She supports her family’s hockey lifestyle by providing writing and editorial services, doing business as Powerplay Communications. “The Hockey Club” is a post from her Hockey Mom Sense blog.