The Cheetah Nation

Warning: I got sidetracked several times while writing this post. The narrative is not what you would call “smooth.” Hang in there. Good luck and Godspeed!

The DC area is really lucky in that we have three special needs hockey teams really close by. Four, if you count Baltimore. Whereas a lot of special hockey teams don’t have opportunities to play games very often, we are able to meet and compete on a regular basis.

Yesterday (and the day before), Jack’s team and the other two area special hockey teams had a little mini-tournament. Team Stimey missed the first day because we were enjoying the air and space museum and the dentist. But we were able to see how it went, because the Cheetahs were on the news! See the story here! So very cool.

We did, however, attend yesterday, and Jack played in both games that his squad played. It was tiring. For Jack too.

You know what is adorable? Jack. You know what’s even more adorable? Jack on ice skates in his Montgomery Cheetahs game uniform. I show you a lot of grainy, poorly lit photos of the back of Jack’s jersey or pictures of him on the bench because I rarely manage to get a picture of his face while he’s on the ice. I am a terrible photographer. If someone wants to teach me some sports photography, both me and the Cheetah Nation that has to look at my photos would be grateful.

I also, incidentally, really enjoy that the team director calls the team families the Cheetah Nation because every single time it makes me think of the Raider Nation and I imagine some crazy dude in cheetah facepaint and spikes on his jersey making a scene in the front row of the local ice rink. The imagery pleases me.

Anywho. I finally got this photo:

We can’t seem to convince him to skate with his stick on the ice.

It’s a little blurry. I don’t know what setting I had my camera on. Maybe the little running guy one? I would think that would be the right one, but it doesn’t seem to be. Anyway, Jack is still adorable, even if he’s a little fuzzy.

The rink where we had the tournament was extremely cold, even for an ice rink. Fortunately, we’d been warned by the Tournament Day One-ers, so we’d brought blankets. If not for his blanket and one of the coaches who got off of the ice to hide under the blanket with him, Jack might not have made it through the first game. Do you see why I love this team? There aren’t even words.

He’s cute here too.

Funny story about that blanket. My really wonderful friend Joeymom made—MADE—blankets for my kids with thought and love tied into them. I sent her kids a bag of stuffed rats. I should repeat that: I SENT HER A BAG OF RATS. I am so much the friend you wish you had. To her credit, she loves me anyway.

Let’s back away slowly from the topic of my inability to properly maintain my side of a relationship and return to hockey.

Someday Jack is going to learn the love of the game as worth working past his (dis)comfort level—or he’ll score a goal—and his motivation will increase until he can make it through a whole game without freaking out and collapsing onto the ice in a Gandhian show of nonviolent resistance. Until then, he will entertain the spectator bench with episodes such as this:

Face down. Thank God for his face guard.

He laid there for a really long time. Eventually some coaches came by and poked him with their sticks.

No response.

The game went on around Jack. Although, honestly, Jack wasn’t the only kid to lie down on the ice during that game. Apparently Jack and his coach had a whole conversation down there on the ice. It consisted partly of Jack saying, “I wish hockey had never been invented,” and the coach telling Jack, “The zombies are coming!”

The zombie thing worked. He sped off down
the rink with a huge smile on his face.

In the coach’s defense, Jack spent weeks at the beginning of the season telling him all about Plants vs. Zombies after every practice. Whereas so many adults don’t listen when kids go off on stuff like that, this coach really does. He asks questions about the game. He uses it to connect with Jack. It is soul-filling to watch.

(Of course, when Jack abruptly changed obsessions from the zombie game to Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, it caused some confusion.)

In all seriousness, Jack is getting so good at skating. Every game, he gets closer and closer to skating in proximity to the puck. Every game, he manages to hit the puck a few more times. Every game, his meltdown comes later in the game. And every game he gets more connected to his team.

I feel like I’ve been pretty lucky in my life, but whatever course that brought Jack and me to these people and this team? Well, that is extraordinary luck.

Even if my tiny player wishes the game had never been invented. Go, Cheetah Nation!

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