It strikes me suddenly that it has been a week—more even—since Jack’s tournament and I have barely written about it. Well. That should change if only because anything that makes my kid smile like this needs to be written about.
Although to be honest, that photo just reflects that he was smiling about a video Quinn had made about his nose, which resulted in Jack asking me to make a video about his nose, which led to this, which I share because I think my guy is just so goldarn cute.
Um. Oh, right. Hockey.
So, the UCT Winter Hockey Festival took place about 20 minutes from my house a little more than a week ago and it was GREAT. The Cheetahs had four teams playing in the tournament, which hosted more than a dozen teams from around the Northeast.
Jack’s first game was in the afternoon on Saturday, which was a lovely change from our normal Saturday morning routine, wherein we have to have Jack at the rink and all suited up for practice by 7:45 am.
Team Stimey accidentally sat in the bleachers with the opposing team’s families for that first game, which mostly only got awkward when some folks commented on the kid who was lying down on the ice in a big X shape. I think you know whose kid that was.
Regardless, the game was fun, my friend/one of Jack’s former teachers came to watch, and someone won. Or didn’t. Honestly, at Jack’s level of special hockey, sometimes it’s hard to tell. Hey, we’re all winners! Even if we lie down on the ice during the game.
We were thinking about sticking around after Jack’s game to watch some of the other Cheetah teams play (those games do have winners), but Team Stimey (read: Alex) was a little antsy, so we decided to head home until the opening ceremony a few hours later. (The magic of local special hockey.)
We did stop at the playground outside the arena to have a little subzero climbing time, because WHY WOULDN’T WE?! (Because it was subzero.)
We returned later that afternoon for the opening ceremonies at which each athlete got to walk across the ice and get a medal.
Jack killed time before he got his medal by hanging out with Slapshot, the Washington Capitals’ mascot.
Sam killed time by pretending to be Jack.
Quinn killed time by reading a Garfield book. I won’t bore you with that photo.
After the opening ceremony, we followed Slapshot out to the parking lot…
Now, the thing about hockey tournaments is that the games are great and the cheering is fun and the opening ceremony and the medals are a blast, but the real magic of special hockey comes in watching the players be with the other players and their coaches. They find common ground. They laugh. They joke. They spin. They play video games together. And if they are Montgomery Cheetahs at this particular tournament, they DANCE.
The Cheetahs had a party after the ceremony for the athletes and their families. Let me tell you, it got raucous.
Watching all those players connecting with each other and finding their community among themselves? I can’t even tell you how good that feels to watch. Also, if someone organizes all the kiddos into the front of the room and has them sing “We Are the Champions,” well, that will feel pretty good too.
Sadly, there is a harsh alarm after every excellent party and mine went off at the crack of dawn because Jack had an 8 am game on Sunday. We got to the rink on time and settled ourselves (on the correct cheering side) in the bleachers and then Alex demonstrated for all of you exactly how we all felt at that moment.
It was early, y’all.
Soon enough though, Alex’s face unscrunched as he watched Jack skate and play. Then we watched Jack hit the puck between the goalie’s legs and score a goal. A GOAL. Those aren’t easy to come by for the more cheerfully lackadaisical players, of which Jack is one.
You should have seen Alex’s face. I was too busy smiling and clapping to take that photo.
Then my longtime commenter/new friend Karen showed up to watch the game. She is a Stimeyland reader and, according to WordPress, was my top commenter last year. It was wonderful to put her face to her words and even better to find out that she is a really lovely person. Big thanks to you, Karen, for putting yourself out there and coming by. It was an absolute joy to hang out with you.
Jack and I didn’t take all his gear off between games, because his next one was at 11 am, so he sat in the cafe and played on an iPad wearing everything but his helmet, gloves, and skates.
Naturally, after wearing them for three hours, he determined right before his next game that THESE ELBOW PADS ARE ITCHY AND TERRIBLE AND I ABSOLUTELY CAN’T TAKE THEM ANOTHER MINUTE ELBOWS ARE OVERRATED ANYWAY!!!
I managed to scratch his elbows until he was okay and he marched off to the outside rink, which was where his last game of the tournament was. Honestly, it didn’t feel TOO cold out there.
The outside rink is a very tiny rink, which made for some highly entertaining hockey, full of collisions and spills and lots of action. Plus, the players’ bench was right in there with the spectators so we could cheer on and support our kiddos from close up.
Tired as he was, Jack stayed motivated and played all of his shifts. This kid is so amazing. I couldn’t be prouder of him.
I’m also proud of Quinn for making it through the entire game, even if he did hog much of the players’ bench in a profound expression of his freezing-cold misery.
After Jack’s game, we headed home, which was a nice little aspect of not traveling for this tournament. (Also nice, running into my friend Andrea, whose son plays for another local special hockey team, but whom I NEVER see.) This tournament was really well put together and a lot of fun. Watching these teams play never ceases to make me extremely happy.
The real question, however, isn’t about whether the tournament makes me happy. It’s about whether it makes Jack happy. Sometimes he grumbles about going to practice and sometimes he gets grumpy out on the ice, but he loves his team too. He is so proud to tell people that he plays hockey with the Montgomery Cheetahs. Anytime there is a “wear your favorite team’s jersey” day at school, he wears HIS Cheetahs jersey. He is a Cheetah through and through, and we are so happy that he is.
The best testament though, is that when I asked him just a few days after this tournament if he wanted to go to the travel tournament in New York again this year, he thought for maybe three seconds, popped his thumb in the air, and said, “Bingo!”