written by @iancmclaren
“Let’s play hockey, Daddy.”
These four words have become pretty common around our house, usually uttered between the hours of 5:30 – 7:00 am, before I’ve even had a chance to turn the Keurig on. It’s the sound of our two-year old son, looking to play the game he’s already come to love at such a young age.
Most mornings, he’ll indiscriminately grab a different mini-stick (Bruins, Predators, Kings, Avalanche, Wild, Maple Leafs, Blue Jackets, it really doesn’t matter to him), grab a hockey ball with an NHL logo on it, and ask me to pass it to him so he can fire off some one-timers. And after that’s over, I’ll take him over to the TV and turn on Sportscentre so I can show how the greats did it during the previous night’s action.
Except there are no NHL highlights to speak of these days, just a bunch of guys in suits and UFC shirts walking out of lawyer’s offices and hotel conference rooms.
It frustrates Daddy, but our boy isn’t phased. All he knows is that hockey is a fun game to play, and there’s no one around to say “Sorry son, you can’t play until we say so.”
I came to know and love the game of hockey through my Dad, a native of Scotland who had settled in Trenton, ON at a young age and was captivated by the one and only Bobby Orr. It was the above image and tales of Bobby’s glory that captured my own hockey imagination, drawing me in to become a Bruins fan in my own, evolving way.
My own “Bobby” moment came during the 1993-94 NHL season, when this happened:
Yes, the great Cam Neely scored 50 goals in 44 games (in a year in which he was limited to only 49 total games due to injury), cementing his status as my favourite hockey player, and teaching me that this is a special game where history can indeed be made.
Even with the lockout that came to pass in 1994, there wasn’t a day that went by that I wasn’t outside shooting on our net, gathering the fellas for a game of road hockey (remember that?), or heading indoors for a day of floor hockey. No, I wasn’t the strongest skater and never found my calling on the ice, but I too was constantly going around looking for a game, whether it be on TV, Sega or with a stick of my own, all with a view to replicating that feats of Bobby and Cam.
I had just moved back to Ottawa in 2004, having graduated college in Toronto and gearing up to get married in the summer of 2005. I was excited to come home and maybe check out some Senators games, after only being able to head down to the ACC one time during my 4 years in Toronto. My enthusiasm was derailed by the cancellation of that entire season, but that didn’t stop my Dad and I from checking out some hockey in the form of the 67s and a visit to the building formerly known as the Palladium by Jason Spezza and the Binghamton Senators.
Lockout or no lockout, you can’t stop a Dad and his son from enjoying the game in some shape or form.
This is the third NHL lockout of my lifetime, each one bringing with it increased resentment, bitterness and yes, even a measure of anger. The fact that I take the time to write about hockey as a busy, gainfully employed father of two would suggest that the game is of some importance to me, and it’s nothing short of shambolic to consider that another season may be on the verge of being wiped out, affecting many others in much more serious ways.
My Bobby Orr / Cam Neely moment was eclipsed by a Cup in 2011, bringing me back those precious moments where nothing else matters apart from what’s going on during the game. And now, less than 2 years later, the owner of that team is doing everything he can to keep the best Bruins since Bobby off the ice, and it’s enough to make me throw up my hands in despair and quite literally consider what it means to be a fan of the team and a supporter of the league.
Thankfully, I have my son to help keep things in perspective. For him, watching a Guelph Storm game on local Rogers TV (in SD no less) is the greatest thing, and his ooooh’s and aaaah’s at the most routine of plays are a sight to behold. When the puck crosses the line and he yells “he shoots, he scores”, it’s a reminder that the game we all love is just that – a game.
He has no concept of what’s going on with the NHL powers that be, a shining example of ignorance being bliss.
A few weeks ago, I sent out the following tweet:
It was a moment inspired by my son, getting back to what’s great about hockey, away from all the noise.
In a sense, I’m not raising a hockey fan; my boy has come to love the game on his own, and he’s passing that back up to me.