The snow is melting and everything here in Michigan is looking grey and very drab. Spring is around the corner but if you look outside you just can’t believe that it is close. The only way to really begin anticipating spring is to see all the spring goods in the stores and take advantage of the increased hours of daylight. Kids are starting their baseball season and everyone is scheduling around March Madness. It is time for all of the spring sports to begin and for those of us hockey families, it is the beginning of the Spring Dance. You would not understand it if you didn’t experience it. You probably won’t believe me when I explain it. Those of you reading who are in hockey will get it and those of you who are not will question why in the heck do you participate in such craziness. My husband calls it the Spring Dance and I think it is a very fitting name for what is about to occur.
We dedicate ourselves to a season of hockey that runs August through March. We become friends with the other parents on our team because we spend more time together than we do with anyone else. We are on the ice 3 days a week and often will add a game or conditioning session in there somewhere. We all sit together and cheer on our boys. It doesn’t take long to know each kid and know how they skate and what their number is. You start to cheer on all the kids on your team and celebrate their victories as if they are all your own children. Your heart drops when one gets injured and you feel like it is your own. You spend weekends together either in hotels or locally waiting for the games to start. Some rinks stink and leak and some are wonderful. We enjoy finding restaurants that will take a reservation for 40 after a tournament game. I have witnessed hide and go seek in Meijers (just to kill some time in between games), skating parties on our pond or other man made arenas in backyards. I have watched 12 year old boys say dumb things and make messes while showing off in front of their friends at a hockey dinner. I have carpooled with different families and have visited many team members homes for team gatherings. My boys have made so many friends throughout the years of hockey and we have learned to never burn a bridge as you will probably share a team with that person again in the future.
We never dreamed we would be a hockey family. We never played hockey and we really never had friends who played. All it took was a neighbor who had a son 6 years older than my oldest who asked if they could use the pond in our backyard to skate on, one winter 8 years ago. The boys put on their skates and watched the neighbor boy and it was over. They learned to skate on our pond and wanted more. We started with a tot hockey program and proceeded to play house for 2 years. The boys improved and we decided to join the ranks of the crazy people and dove into a “beginner travel team”. By beginner I mean “a glorified house team with more ice time”. We never traveled very far and the cost was reasonable. Most of all the boys loved it. They always kept excellent grades and never ever complained about an early practice or having to miss something because of hockey. They love it, they crave it and they want more of it. Eamon always says, “there is nothing better than a weekend with a hockey tournament and I can be on the ice all weekend” We don’t plan much in the winter months because hours are spent on the pond skating. I usually snow blow while the kids are at school and then they come out after school and shovel so that the puck will skim across the ice.
Let’s talk more about the dance. The season often ends mid March and it is not a week later that tryouts are upon us. The spring hockey season is short..about 6 to 8 weeks. It can be a critical time to make moves because you can better secure your fall spot if you choose that team in the spring. You will see talent move from one team to another year after year. I once heard a coach say that the best part of hockey was the end of the season when the coaches would fight and steal kids and the mystery and anticipation of what team will end up being the best. Spring is the only time you can double roster and the coaches carry bigger teams. You could also call it an extended tryout. End of February and beginning of March is when everyone shuts down. People don’t talk about what they are going to do. There is no talk of staying on the team or leaving. The funny part is that most people won’t ask others what they are doing either. It is a very weird secret time in the hockey world. This is when teams can fall apart. There are times when groups get together and will all leave together..secretly. There is also lots of talk about who is at tryouts. You could happen to run into someone at a tryout who is on your team and it is usually an awkward moment. People will often talk about who they saw at another tryout and everyone is always at tryouts to see who is showing up. “Is there any new talent coming to our tryouts” is a common question among the men folk. You will see a cluster of dads standing around acting like they have to be there for their kids tryout but secretly none of them let their wives take the kids because this is like a prime time social event, a presidential ball where your child is being presented on the ice and everyone is watching. Don’t let any dad fool you that they are not reliving their childhood and experiencing an adrenaline rush just being there for their kids.
After try outs everyone goes about their business and it is only until all the tryouts are closed and the rosters are posted do you really know what people are doing. Every year we are usually blown away with some of the moves but I guess this is part of the game of hockey. This is the part that stresses me out the most. Some years we spend time deciding what to do and some years we don’t try out for any teams other than our current one. This year was the year we chose to entertain some tryouts. It brought back the stress and the anxiety. The little’s are getting older and they are now doing their own sports and we were playing on a team that was a solid 30 minutes away. We have 2 teams that are literally in our backyard and we wanted to check them out. Spring is by far, the craziest time of the year for my family and requires David and me to coordinate schedules and be on our A game. I have recently added all the upcoming events to my calendar and have realized that I will have to enlist a fellow driver to help us out this year. There are too many evenings when we have 3 places to be.
In the end after several weeks of trying out and talking about things we decided that we will be making a move for spring to a team that might (and I stress might) be a little bit better than our current team and it is for sure a lot closer (11 minutes away). We did the dance this year. We made our commitment this past Sunday to a new team and although we disappointed some people and surprised others we are happy with our decision because it was right for our family.