Writers Block: Adventures of puck parent’s first season

by Tim Hennagir

I’ve become a fast and hard convert to all the adages about the benefits of youth hockey. It’s the best investment a parent can make in molding a healthy child.

As a first-time puck parent, bringing a 13-year-old daughter into the game has created plenty of memorable moments. My wife and I have been blessed with a trio of understanding coaches and a highly supportive group of experienced parents who have increased our hockey knowledge faster than a speeding skater.

Along the way, we’ve learned how to have plenty of old-fashioned fun learning about tried-and-true fund-raisers such as meat raffles and pizza sales.

I’d never understood the meat raffle concept until this earlier winter. I knew I was in early trouble at the start of the season when I e-mailed our team manager and asked her, “Where does the meat come from?” To me, it was a logical question, since my dad worked for 22 years at Armour & Co. in South St. Paul. The team manager’s reply was hilarious: “From cows.”

Learning how to pack and unpack a stinky bag filled with ripe hockey gear became a quickly learned skill. One of better approach is emptying the bag ASAP at home and hitting the equipment with a high-speed floor fan as it hangs on a portable drying rack.

Seeing your child score his or her first youth hockey goal is another gem. Other team parents told us it was a moment we’d never forget and to be patient for the puck to pass under, around or above the goaltender’s pads.The magic moment in the Hennagir household happened this weekend.Daughter Hollie tallied her first goal, rapping in a rebound from netside.

Hockey Dad (me) managed to maintain some composure but Hockey Mom was moved to appropriately placed tears. Even better was the behind-the-net reactions of a couple of team parents and the post-game cheer Hollie received after making a quick bathroom stop.

Apparent over-consumption of a sports energy drink had made her skating lively, to say the least.  “Dad, get out of my way, I gotta pee!” were her first words as she bounded off to the ladies’ room, hitting me in the face with the jersey and hockey bags.

One of the better pieces that’s been penned about the experience of being a first-time Hockey Mom or Hockey Dad comes from ESPN’s online archives. Here are a few excerpts from author and anchor John Buccigross’ highly appropriate “Thirteen Simple Rules For Hockey Parents Everywhere.”

Under no circumstances will hockey practice ever be canceled. Ever. Missing practice or games is akin to an Irish Catholic missing Mass in 1942.

Hockey is an emotional game and your child has the attention span of a chipmunk on NyQuil. The hockey coach will yell a bit during practice; he might even yell at your precious little Sparky. As long as there is teaching involved and not humiliation, it will be good for your child to be taught the right way, with emphasis. Hockey is a very, very, very, very difficult game to play. You are probably terrible at it. It takes high skill and lots of courage, so lay off your kid.

Don’t berate them. Be patient and encourage them to play. Some kids need more time to learn how to ride the bike, but, in the end, everyone rides a bike about the same way. Yell like crazy during the game. Say whatever you want. Scream every kind of inane instruction you want to your kids. They can’t hear you.

In the car ride home, ask them if they had fun and gently promote creativity and competitiveness, but only after you take them to Denny’s for a Junior Grand Slam breakfast or 7-Eleven for a Slurpee.

Enjoy the rink. Keep it fun, keep it in perspective and enjoy the madness. In this digital world of electronics, you may find hockey to be the most human endeavor you partake in. Cell phones run on batteries. Hockey players run on blood. Blood is warmer. Welcome.

Finally, encourage your kid to block shots and to battle hard in the corners. It will serve them well in life.