I couldn’t wait until my kids were old enough to play hockey with me
By Warren Tabachnick
I started playing this awesome game at the ripe old age of 35. My two sons, ages 5 and 1, would sit close to me as we watched my favorite NHL team play on TV. Soon enough, the entire family was consumed with the sport. And it would only be a matter of time before I would get to realize the dream that every hockey-playing dad has: playing hockey with your kids.
Setting the Stage
I would literally spend my life on the ice. If I wasn’t playing in my own game, on weekends I’d be hunched over my kids at the rink, helping them learn how to skate. And then it wasn’t too long before Max, my older son, was old enough to join a league and play.
As he got older, my younger son (Evan) would be in the stands cheering his brother on. No doubt he took it all in—the thrill of playing hockey; the camaraderie of the teammates; the excitement of the crowd; and the words of encouragement from his parents.
Playing Hockey with Your Kids Becomes Reality
Max was literally growing up on the ice. He was moving up the levels, and he tried out to play on his high school team. And when he turned 17, I signed him up to play alongside me in a summer league. It was the first time he could play hockey without the constant scrutiny of his coaches or the criticism of his mom and dad (as constructive as it was).
Meanwhile, Evan was eager to play the game. He too rose through the levels and tried out for and made his high school team. As a parent, I took immense pleasure in watching both of them play hockey—just as much if not more than playing the game myself.
You can only imagine the thrill I got the first time my son sat next to me in the locker room. As we suited up and laced up our skates for our very first game, Evan sat with us until Max and I stepped out on the ice. He took his place in the stands, counting the days until he was old enough to play with his dad. Max and I played a few summers together, even in a tournament or two.
Add Another Brother
At long last, Evan was finally old enough to join my summer league. So now it was the three of us in the locker room, suiting up for the game. The good-natured trash talking that goes on pre- and post-game included both my sons. With the inspiration of my teammates, Max, Evan and I played on the same line. Being a bit longer in the tooth, I would set up plays for my boys as they obviously had much more energy and stamina.
Not to be overlooked was the post-game locker room banter. Riding high on our endorphins, we joked about our game (or lack thereof). The tables were now turned: no longer were my kids the object of my gentle criticism; they laid it on me pretty thick. And to add to the fun was the fact that there were a number of other dads and moms who were playing hockey with their kids too.
Max would soon move away, and Evan became old enough to join my regular-season league. We had our pre-game routine. We would have our eggs and rice for dinner and catch a period or two of an NHL game on the tube. And when it came time to get ready to leave, we’d grab an espresso and some chocolate, which we believed would give us an edge on the ice. We’d load our gear in the car and get pumped while listening to our up-tempo playlist on the way to the arena.
One season, Evan and I played on a line with another of our teammates, and we did pretty well. I would feed the puck to Evan, who would either take the shot and score or pass it to Larry, who’d bury the biscuit for a goal. And if I was lucky, I’d get to score a goal of my own.
Flipping the Script
Playing hockey with my child would soon take on a different meaning. Evan went on to form a summer-league team, and invited me to join. As capable captain of the team, this time the script had been flipped: now it was him telling me where and when to play. Nevertheless, the experience provided the triple thrill of watching my son play hockey, playing alongside him, and observing his sharp decision making.
These days, I’m on my own. Evan moved out of the area which made the travel to the games in our winter league impractical. He went on to join a couple of leagues closer to home, and now if I can’t get to see him play I take pleasure in seeing videos of his goals or listening to his game recaps.
Playing hockey with your kids is like nothing else I’d ever experienced. It’s great on so many levels: You get to participate in a sport you both love. You get to watch them play. You hear the other guys on the team cheering you on, and so much more.
The memories, stories, camaraderie—and, more importantly—the strength of the bond I have with my sons will last a lifetime.