I’m sure you have heard it as many times as I have. Hockey is expensive. I’m a single parent, and I can’t even tell you how many people have called me crazy when they find out how much my son’s latest hockey team costs or the lengths I go to so he can keep playing. Look, I’m with you, and I get it. I’m not delusional to think my son is going to the NHL. He’s likely not, and he knows this, too. So why on earth would I sell my stuff, hustle nonstop from morning until night, make multiple sacrifices just so my teenager can pursue hockey? The bottom line is we are getting so much more than ice time or the possibility of playing college hockey.
I pay for my son to learn a healthy lifestyle. He could absolutely learn this at home or at school, but it has a greater impact when it affects something he loves to do and wants to succeed at. He can see for himself the effect it has when he loads up on junk food before a game versus eating clean and nutritious food. This is far more powerful than mom just telling him to lay off the chips.
I pay for my son to have an escape. My son has been the target of bullies, and being on the ice has enabled him to make friends with similar interests, escape the grind of school and just play. There’s just nothing like a fresh sheet of ice for a hockey player, you know? There’s hope and possibility, and you feel like you’re flying when you race from one end of the ice to the other chasing the puck. You forget everything else on the ice, and everyone needs something like that in their life.
There’s a brotherhood with your teammates. He forms friendships and relationships with people from all over, from all walks of life. Some of these relationships will last his whole life. It’s an instant family. You can walk into any arena anywhere and know that you have shared experiences with nearly everyone there. He learns what it truly means to be on a team because in hockey, one guy can’t win it. It has to be a team effort, and sometimes you have to sacrifice something of yourself for the good of the team, but it also means the guys always have your back without question. That’s just what hockey players do--a buddy needs help, you help, and it goes both ways. He’s been both the helper and the helped.
We travel to new places, even if most of the time they aren’t exotic locations, so he learns to roll with the punches when the GPS has us take a wrong turn or we get lost. We have visited lots of places in our own state and others, and met lots of people. This means that when he finds himself in a new city somewhere down the road, he’ll likely find a familiar face from his hockey days and not be completely alone.
I pay for my son to learn how to face a challenge and set goals. He learns not to give up when the task seems insurmountable, but to strategize and break it down into smaller, more achievable chunks. He learns from the experiences of playing with and against kids who are more skilled and gets better himself as a result. He learns that by banding together with his team mates, they can formulate a strategy to beat the “better” team. He learns to face challenges head on rather than just give up. Look, you get knocked down a LOT in hockey, and you have to get back up as quickly as possible because your team is counting on you. This carries over to his life as well, and sometimes when things look like they might not turn out your way, there’s almost always something you gain. You don’t lose in hockey. You learn.
I pay for my son to learn how to fail. You see, I want my son to learn how to pick himself up after failure. I want him to fail epicly and spectacularly as many times as possible when he’s growing up so that he learns that failure is a part of life, but it doesn’t define him as a person. I pay for him to learn to look for ways to overcome his hurdles. I pay for him to figure out for himself why he failed and how to do better next time. He gets to really feel that with hockey. I can tell him all day long that he’s good enough to make that team or not, but when he does, or not, he gets to feel that with his whole being.
I pay for my son to learn to manage his time. Keeping up with the demands of school and balancing hockey and a social life is no easy feat. It’s easy to get distracted, especially as a teenager, but he has managed to maintain focus on his goals and do what he needs to do. I’m not 100% sure that would have been the case without hockey.
I pay for all of the life lessons I couldn’t provide at home ranging from living with different families as a billet son to figuring out what to do when your car is broken into in a strange city or how to find a reputable place to get the car repaired. He has learned to entertain himself on long bus rides to games and learned to deal with death when he lost his billet brother in a tragic car wreck. He learns to deal with all kinds of different coaches and types of people, and how to just suck it up and deal with it when he doesn’t like something. There is always a choice, but when the choice is between listening to a coach you don’t like or not playing hockey or playing with a linemate you don’t like or riding the pine, sometimes you just have to remind yourself that it’s only temporary. I like that he has had to learn how to do that.
So the answer is yes, I will continue to work as hard as I need to for him to play hockey as long as he can and go as far as he can go. My hockey bill is worth every penny.
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