Thursday, October 18, 2007


So there I was sitting at my desk blankly staring at the computer, teeth clinched tight - palms as sweaty as an NHLer wearing the new RBK uniform, minding my own business trying to mentally nurse myself through the strongest coffee buzz of all time without completely wigging out, when all of a sudden I heard a loud “Dad!” coming from behind my chair. The shout startled me as if I just found out Brian Engblom’s hair was made out of muskrat pelt. When my ass finally came down from orbit and hit the chair, my eyes still twitching like Kyle McLaren hopped up on Sudafed waiting for the puck to drop, I slowly turned to face the noise maker behind me suddenly realizing why lions sometimes eat their young and answered with a surprisingly calm “what is it son?” “Do you think I’m pressing too much?”

Are you kidding me? This kid just scared the ever-living shit out of me and he wants to know if I think he’s pressing too much? Pressing his luck maybe as I think he snuck up behind me on purpose, but nonetheless I answered him with the first thing that came to my mind “It’s Thursday morning, what are you worried about?” He had a look on his face as if he was about to get demoted to Peoria and was just waiting for the call to come. “I’m seven games into the pre-season and I only have two goals, I’m just wondering if maybe I’m pressing too much out there” he said with concern in his voice. My initial thought was to bust out in laughter, but knowing that he takes Bantam hockey seriously I refrained and responded with “pressing?” “The coach has you in a checking role, why are you worried about goals?” “I know” he said, “but if I can show him that I can score he might take me off the third line.” Here we go, another morning talking shop with the boy before he heads out to school. He continued as I let out a deep sigh, “We have trouble scoring, and since I was the second leading scorer on my team last season, I just feel like I can contribute more to the team this year.” “But I can’t do it on the third line.” He was right. He can put the puck in the net and set up others, I’ve seen it first hand over forty times during the last two seasons, but he can’t do it this year when he spends every shift in the defensive zone. Even though this year his new coach has yet to see that the boy is being wasted offensively, he has seen how responsible he is defensively and uses that to help the team’s overall performance. However, explaining that to a kid who wants to be a sniper is as difficult as finding someone on the Atlanta Thrashers roster who can score some goals.

So I cautiously responded with “Give it time, like you said it’s pre-season and your coach is still learning what his players can do.” “So if he puts you in a checking role then you play that style of game, banging in the corners, chipping the puck out of the zone, fore-checking and back-checking like a madman, chewing up minutes, don’t worry about goals they will come.” I sat there looking at him, hoping that my infinite wisdom was sinking in without shattering his confidence level in the slightest bit, when he responded with “Yeah, but this was supposed to be my breakout year and my line can’t even breakout of our own zone.” “Thanks anyways Dad.” Those words hit me like a Chris Simon chop to the face. Being a father first and foremost, my fatherhood instinct instantly kicked in “Look buddy” I said with a lump in my throat as I realized this really has him tied up in knots on the inside, “Facing adversity is what makes a person strong, you are no stranger to that and this year isn’t any different than what you’ve faced since you started playing.” “I’m not a coach and even though I could be the fact remains that I’m not, so all I can tell you is to respect what your coach wants you to do and continue to work hard and everything else will fall into place.” “Eventually, your coach will put you in a position where you are playing with more skilled line-mates and you will have the opportunity to show him what you can do, until then just play the game and have fun.” “Don’t worry about goals and pressing too much and all of that stuff just go out there do your thing and have fun.” “That’s why you play isn’t it?” “Because it’s fun?” He nodded without saying anything letting my words sink in. He sat there looking up at the picture of him and I sitting with the Stanley Cup that hangs on the wall above my desk. After a few moments of silence and an intense stare at the picture he said “You’re right Dad, it is fun no matter if we win or lose or if I score or not or if I’m on the first line or the third.” “I just love to play and can’t imagine doing anything else.”

It was my turn to nod without saying anything feeling as if I just gave a team a motivational speech before a crucial game seven. Then, just as I was celebrating my apparent victory of wisdom within my mind and patting myself on the back as if I scored an overtime goal, the boy chirps in with “Maybe I’ll ask the coach if I can play center on that line this weekend.” “That way if we can win a face-off and control the puck we might be able to get it out of our zone and get some chances on offense.” “Thanks Dad” he said standing up and smacking me on the shoulder, “I knew you could help me out.” Within a second he was gone like Peter Stastny on a breakaway, leaving me feeling exposed and confused like Darren Pang in an 8-0 blowout. All I could do was put my face in my hands shake my head and chuckle to myself wondering what to do with that boy. He is such a good kid and he tries so hard to do the best he can and just never seems to catch a break no matter what. Maybe things will turn around for him this year, in fact, I’m sure they will it’s only a matter of time.

The coffee is now cold and I sit here once again starring at the computer screen wondering what to write about today. Thanks, son.

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