SMILE

LOVE - LOVE - LOVE the smile!

I just looked at the above picture of Austin and realized how much I love that picture and here is why.

It shows his true emotion about the game in which he loves so much. It shows how happy he is on the ice. Granted he is not always this happy on the ice. I have seen so much emotion from this kid when he is on the ice. It’s a mix between happy, sad, disappointed, elated, frustration and pure LOVE of the game.

A lot of people think that Austin plays hockey because I work in the industry, but it is quite the opposite. I work in the industry because Austin plays the game. Here is a quick look back at Austin and hockey.

When I worked for Les Schwab, the store I worked at was the district advertising store, so all of the advertising for the entire district went through our store. At the time Les Schwab was a sponsor for the Portland Winter Hawks, Justin was working afternoons like always and Austin and I would take advantage of our free tickets to the hockey games.  I vividly remember when Austin was 4/5 mos old at his first hockey game. We were in a suite that night and people in the suite next to us wanted to see him, he got passed around about 5 suites! He didn’t mind it at all, except for the goal horn, which now I think is his favorite sound, well if he is playing that is! We got to go to a lot of games for the first 2.5 years of his life. When he was around 2 he said I want to play hockey.  We told him he would have to learn how to skate first, thinking that would be the end of his want to play,  you all know how that ended! He started out in group lessons, which was a very bad experience and I don’t think he learned much after his first few lessons. At one point we had the instructor come and tell us that she talked to Austin and he said he didn’t want to skate and we should not try to push our dreams on him… I so want to go back to her today and say, wow you were so right…  He eventually started taking private lessons when he was three. he was doing great, then we had the set back when he had his accident and had to take 6 mos off. He picked it back up just like he had never stopped. He joined the Portland Junior Hawks at age 5. You were suppose to have passed 2 learn to play hockey classes to be able to join at that point, neither class did he take. He has been playing roller hockey outside for a year and that was it.

I remember the first practice he had as a 5-year-old. It just so happen to be the day of his 5th birthday party also! I was so nervous, probably more than he was. I wasn’t sure his attention span would last the hour. He had never been on the ice with his stick… he had never take the lessons the other kids had… I had no idea what to expect.  I certainly didn’t expect for it to become his life.  As my career choices changed, I found myself without a job for a while and then I started volunteering at the Winter Hawks and finally made it a paying job.

Hockey for Austin has shaped his life in so many ways and will continue I think for a very long time. When he was 5, if his group was not listening they all had to do push ups! He also started T-Ball later that year – big mistake, here is a kid that liked baseball and new the basics and also was a hockey player now for 6 mos and new he had to behave and listen or there were consequences, T-Ball on the other had been like a vacation sport, you could do what ever you wanted!!! It was not much for him to say the least.

In the 5 years Aust has played hockey, he has gone from not knowing anything to being on travel teams the last 3 seasons. He has seen the joys of playing and the rewards of playing the greatest sport (well at least in our house!), he has seen how the dream of playing can come crashing down in an instant due to injuries and age. He is very realistic when he plays and he is very realistic when it comes to his future. We, especially him, never talk about “playing in the NHL”, it’s always about this season and what he can do to make it on the top team next season. He does have a goal, he wants to attend Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy in Kelowna BC when he turns 12/13. That is a realistic goal, one he can obtain if he continues to want it and continues on the path he is on. He has made comments about playing in the “Dub” but that even is a very long ways ahead.

Hockey is not a very forgiving sport. It starts as a very early age and it does suck the regular kid life out of its higher players. Austin is always at practice or lessons, or away for tournaments. Thank goodness for the school he is at so that he doesn’t miss any, was we usually leave on Fridays for tournaments or Thursday afternoons.  He has had to do homework in the car, hotel rooms, or in the locker room just to get it done some weekends. Practices 3x a week, private lessons on top of that, most of his time is spent on the ice or in a rink. Kids in the neighborhood are always at the door wanting him to play, the other day our neighbor asked him to play, I hear Aust say, sorry I’m leaving soon to go to practice and I hear our neighbor say “AGAIN”! So funny, because any one outside of the sport, doesn’t get and probably will never get it. It’s one of the most expensive sports there is also, especially here in the Pac NW, where we don’t have a lot of anything hockey. We buy most of his equipment either when we are in Canada (seems like every other weekend some months,) or online.  He spends his summers at camps here in Portland and in Canada. I am sure some people think we push him, but it’s just the opposite, that kid lives to be on skates, he lives to have a stick in his hand… He has hockey in his blood, I don’t know how, but he does and he lives for this sport.

There have been times when he has had practice and a game and then we will stop by the mall and he will want to free skate on the rink there. I always say, aren’t you done, aren’t you tired of skating and the answer without a doubt is NO. It’s his choice, he knows he can say, I’m done and there won’t be any backlash! At home, he does play with regular kid stuff – legos, bakugun or what every trendy toy is out there, PS3 and the Wii, he is a regular kid, but he plays knee hockey any chance he gets, he is always in the garage shooting at all hours of the day. He has taught all the kids in the neighborhood how to play! He is a HOCKEY PLAYER. It is HIS LIFE, HIS LOVE and HIS DREAM. I will never stand in the way of it, even if that means losing my baby at age 12.

With my job, I deal with the players parents all the time and it is my favorite part of my job. I have awesome parents and I have learned a lot from them and I hope I will be ready if he makes it to POE in Kelowna (that is 9 hours away from Portland if you didn’t know.). Well I won’t be ready emotionally, but I will hopefully know what to expect in all other aspects, that is a plus with my job. J and I won’t be naive or taken back by what happens in this sport at such young ages. It is demanding and hard, physically and mentally and I know Austin is a better person at age 9 for having played for 5 years, I am excited to see him in 10 years at age 19 and how much this sport has shaped him. 

He will miss a lot of normal kid stuff growing up. I saw it this season, he has missed friends birthday parties, playing with his friends, school activities, holidays at home. He has stayed in hotels more than probably all his friends combined at school, he learns to do homework in locker rooms, hotels and the car. He has gotten so much that his non-hockey friends don’t have – the comradery, everything that comes from being in hotels all the time – the pool, the pranks, the being in hotel rooms by yourself when all the parents are hanging together at night, the friendship that will last a lifetime. lessons about losing and humility and pride when you score and the happiness when you win, the soft spot for your goalie when he gets lit up. This life is hard, but it’s worth everything to my little boy. 

I know I have rambled a lot! That is how my mind thinks, so just go with it, if you have ever had multiple conversations with me, you will know this is how I think! This whole post came about because I was just staring at the above picture of Aust!

 I found the below words a long time ago, it’s on my bulletin board at work.

IS THIS WHAT WAYNE GRETZKY’S MOM FELT LIKE EVERY TIME HER SON WAITED TO GET ON THE ICE?

Do you think her heart leapt into her throat so full of pride watching her son play a game that he came to love more than anything else?

Do you think she could already tell by his passion for the game that he would become one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen?

Or was she just another mother worries about keeping her child injury free for another game?

Perhaps she was hoping that his team would win so that she wouldn’t have to muster up the words necessary to ease a bruised ego and wounded pride.

Perhaps all mothers of the great one’s have that one moment, that moment when they can feel the passion that radiates from their child.

It’s all because of  a love of a game that drives them to practice at all hours of the day and night and the want to play every chance he gets.

That moment when they look out on the ice and see something different from you and I

It’s their playground, their dreamland, and it’s their LIFE.

I will leave you with a conversation between Aust and I the other day.

Aust – Mom, what do you think is the better goal, the tying or the game winner?

Me – That’s a good question, which do you think is the better goal?

Aust – I would want to get the tying goal to get my team back into the game!

I don’t know to many other 9-year-old hockey players that would take the tying goal, over the glory of the game winner.

LOVE MY KID!

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