Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What Happens in Jamestown Absolutely Doesn’t Stay in Jamestown

Jack and I got back from his hockey tournament in Jamestown, New York, on Sunday. We had an amazing time. Sadly, there was no wi-fi in my room, so I could only check email and try to write posts and stuff when Jack went swimming in the hotel pool with the free lobby-area wi-fi.

I assume that if you are looking at photos of your child in the pool in front of you, that is almost as good as actually looking at your child in the pool in front of you, right?
Fortunately, Jack likes to swim. I’m going to give a conservative estimate of four to five hours spent in that pool over the weekend.

Like this, only with 75 other small hockey players and a whole lot of splashing and some outraged yelling by Jack of, “My eyes! My eyes! I’m telling on you!”
The wi-fi situation was actually quite vexing, what with THE MAGIC OF SPECIAL HOCKEY but no ability to blog about it in the evening when I had time. The silver lining, of course, is that I got a tremendous amount of sleep.

Exciting as my sleep habits are to you, no doubt, let’s be honest, the reason you came here is to hear about hockey. We headed up on the team bus on Thursday afternoon, which was perfect because Jack had a math test that morning and he didn’t have to miss it. He might not agree with my assessment of the situation as “perfect,” however.

Alex was out of town on Thursday as well, which proved troubling, considering everyone comes from different schools on different bus routes at different times. Four separate groups of people stepped up to help us out and make sure that Quinn and Sam were safe and supervised on Thursday and Friday.

Some of those people went really above and beyond, having to babysit far longer than originally planned, due to a babysitter no-show and a late flight. For those of you who helped us out and who read here, I want to make sure you know how thankful we are to each of you for getting my kiddos home safe and then keeping them supervised so that Jack and I could take the bus. You are all part of the THE MAGIC OF SPECIAL HOCKEY. Thank you.

Before the first game.

Jack played four games on Friday and Saturday. He did really well. I am not a big “you have to kick ass at sports!” kind of mom. I’m more of a “good for you, sweetie, for trying your hardest” kind of mom. Regardless, at this tournament I tried to put just a leeeeetle pressure on him to step it up a bit and pretend that he was skating in a hockey game instead of on a leisurely afternoon glide with his pals.

I encouraged (and by “encouraged,” read “bribed”) Jack to follow the puck and to go to the net and otherwise play as if hockey were a team sport. And he did. He managed to get some puck time this tournament and even stopped the puck with his stick—when the puck was moving. That’s real hockey, right there.

He even got to do the very first face-off of the tournament, although I think that had more to do with pushiness on his part than earning the privilege.

He did such a good job. I am so proud of that kid. He played hard for the most part in all of his games with minimal complaining.

Except for, you know, the stretch of time he spent ignoring the game going on behind him to inspect the game clock.
I am always blown away by my kid at these things. He is a total rock star. And you know what? Every single other kid that went to that tournament is too. It is phenomenal to see them rise to the challenge and energy of tournament play. Each of those players went out there and skated at the top of his (or her) current ability. At the risk of sounding like a total dork, it was really, really neat to watch.

And not for nothing, watching those same teammates play together in the swimming pool? I think that is pretty amazing too. The togetherness of the team and they way these kids get to know each other is almost as good as the hockey at the tournament. You remember…your baby is my baby.

Friday nights festivities were awesome, what with a pizza (and beer, oh thank the good lord, someone brought beer) party at the hotel. It was even the birthday of one of the players so there was cake. Also there were announcements, preceded by pre-announcements.

But beer and pizza and cake weren’t the end of it, no sir. The whole team had tickets to go see the local team, the Jamestown Ironmen, play an actual real game of hockey. And guess who was there?
The Ironman.

He’s a little creepy, but that’s okay.

Jack and I left after two periods, but by all reports, this was a great game with a great overtime finish, in which the Ironmen skated to victory. It was, however, a little bit jarring to go from THE MAGIC OF SPECIAL HOCKEY to the IMMA KILL YOU OF SMALL TOWN HOCKEY, also known as THE MAGIC OF FISTICUFFS.

There was a lot of brawling. In my head, I was like, “Man, these teams must really hate each other.” But then in the other part of my head, I was all, “Or maybe it’s for show, like in wrestling.” I still am not sure where I come down on this issue.

Naturally, the children loved the fistfighting.

I was curious about whether our players would start swinging fists the next day themselves. They did not.

After two periods, Jack’s ability to hang out at the rink was waning, so we took off, but not before we found the slushee machine. We watched it for a fairly good amount of time.

There was a perfectly good hockey game going on behind him, but *this* is what held his attention.
Jack was pretty tired on Saturday morning, considering we woke up at 6:50 am and were at the rink at 7:15 for a 7:45 game. He was complaining that he’d strained his back (during his strenuous sleep activity, evidently), and he was pretty grumpy. During the game, he actually attempted to leave the ice at one point, but was encouraged to stick it out and he did. Hooray for everyone involved in that. You know who you are.

(If you’re wondering, his back was fine in very short order. I think he just had to warm up his muscles.)

Jack was actually very much a hero on Saturday, playing two games and fitting in two long swim sessions—as well as a solid chunk of iPad playing time.

The coach tried to convince him to be captain for either one of the two Saturday games, but Jack was having none of it. This was him at the morning game:

Jack’s attitude was all, “That sounds a lot like work that requires me to be upright and happy and I’m not willing to be either of those things.”

The great thing about Jack these days though, is that he managed to pull it together.

See? Upright! Just like the hockey sticks!

And happy too! Just like the hockey sticks!

After the last game, I updated Facebook to make a general statement about Jack’s awesomeness.

And by the time I showed it to him the next day, 42 of you had liked it.
The team went out to dinner on Saturday night (that Applebee’s will never be the same) and the word that kept coming to me in terms of the Cheetahs was “safe.” I’m pretty sure I’ve used this word before to describe the Cheetahs community, but that’s because it is so apt.

The Cheetahs create a space where these players can be safe, physically and emotionally, and their parents can be as well. Whether it is at a practice or a tournament or in the friendships between players or the friendships between the parents, this team is truly a magical, safe place.

Jack and I are very lucky to have the Cheetahs and we are very lucky to be able to go on tournaments. But we don’t do it by ourselves. We have the help of the team leadership and coaches. We have the help of the other players and their parents. We have the help of the parent volunteers who plan out every detail of the complicated puzzle of tournament trips. We have the help of the Cheetah mentors who come to practice each week to make sure our kids learn hockey skills.

We have the help of Alex, Quinn, and Sam, who are willing to let us disappear for days at a time. We have the help of friends, neighbors, and babysitters who watched Sam and Quinn so we could go. We have the help of Jack’s teacher, who was excited to hear about his trip. We have the help of every single one of you who donated to the Cheetah-thon last year.

And we have the help of you. Yes, YOU. Don’t look behind you, I’m talking to YOU. I feel your support here all the damn time, but I feel it especially strongly when it comes to the Cheetahs. Your support of Jack and his team feels visceral to me. We are never alone when he is on the ice because you are always there with us.

YOU are part of the magic of special hockey—and that isn’t any small thing. Your support fills my whole heart.

So thank you. From all of us.

Thank you for being a part of THE MAGIC OF SPECIAL HOCKEY! We are both happy AND upright!

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