The other day, my 6-year old lad's Tyke hockey team staged an early morning practice as they prepared for the "Little Stanley Cup" final in their Toronto house league play-offs.
Just before the kids hit the ice, one of the assistant coaches rushed into the dressing room.
"Sorry I'm a little late guys," he said. "I had to work some overtime."
"How was work?," one hockey dad asked.
"Let me put it this way," the coach replied. "I was wearing dirty overalls, spraying water all over the place and sweating buckets. So where do you think I'd rather be? At work or having fun with the kids on the ice?"
I'm not sure what the guy does for a living, but I can definitely see where's he's coming from.
Don't get me wrong. Sure, we sometimes sweat a little in the Newstalk 1010 newsroom, as late night broadcaster Michelle Rosa and traffic reporter Jessica Baker duel over the switch that controls the temperature. But for the most part, life is pretty comfortable inside the cozy confines of a radio station.
However, while we're among the lucky people who actually love what they do for a living, I have a confession to make; as much as I get a kick out of being a sportscaster, it pales in comparison to the thrill of watching your little guy score a big goal or make a huge save.
As it turned out, my Tyke lad was lucky enough to win his league championship, slapping on the goalie pads for the play-off run and making a nervous hockey dad very proud. I was also fortunate to coach my 8-year old in the Novice division this year, and while we didn't claim the Cup, we did have a very successful season filled with lots of fun.
I hadn't coached for about 30 years, and my last experience wasn't exactly a picnic. In fact, I've got to be the only coach in hockey history who was fired with a 13-1 record. I was a mediocre junior and college goalie, nowhere near good enough to play at the professional level. So, following my final junior season, I decided to get into the coaching ranks by taking over a team of 15 and 16 year-old's in my small Alberta hometown.
"If I can't play in the NHL," I thought, "maybe I can get there as a coach."
Unfortunately, however, my teenage team didn't share the same passion. I rode the guys really hard and it obviously paid off, as we quickly shot up the standings. But I was definitely on the "wacky" side, even forcing my guys to train by running through the streets in full hockey gear (A little embarrassing when their girlfriends would drive by giggling from their pick-up trucks.) So, even though our record was great, the players and parents got together just before Christmas and gave me the royal chop.
To be honest, I deserved it; as my coaching methods were obviously a little over-the-top for a bunch of guys who weren't going anywhere in the game and just wanted to finish off their minor hockey days by having some fun. The good thing is, I definitely learned from that experience and, as an older and wiser coach, my 8-year old Penguins had a much more enjoyable experience this season.....and no, I didn't force them to dodge Toronto traffic while running in their equipment.
But while I do have a lot more perspective on minor hockey, I can understand why some parents go a little koo-koo on occasion. For instance, I hate to admit it, but while I enjoy helping my guys do their homework, it's a lot more exciting to see them stickhandle by a defenseman as opposed to stickhandling around a math problem. As my dad used to say, "If hockey interferes with school....quit school!"
Dad was kidding, I think. There's no question, though, that watching your child compete and have fun in sports is an intoxicating experience.
In fact, if managers want to cut down on sick days in the work place, the solution is pretty simple.
Set up a hot dog stand, serve a bunch of lousy coffee and bring in a couple of kids to whack a puck around.