The hockey report

It has been a long, long season for the Mite Bears, the lovely Weaselette’s hockey team. They have not won a game, nor even tied one, and while score is not officially kept for the 8-and-under age group, they are all very much aware of this fact. Today was their last game.

At our previous game on Thursday the kid slated to play goalie came up sick, so we bumped the next kid in the rotation up. We then had nobody scheduled to play goalie for this, our final game. Weaselette, of course, wants nothing more than to be a goalie like her brother, so I exercised coach’s prerogative and declared that she would be the final goalkeeper.

Then she came down sick with the cold I’ve been fighting for a week, a proper bastard of a virus that kept me aching and worthless for several days. She was home from school yesterday and looked a bundle of misery when I got home. While tucking her into bed I explained that if she were sick she would have to miss the last game – it wouldn’t be fair to the team to put a sick, weak player in goal.

She did not take this news well.

So this morning, at 7:30am, she came running into our bedroom. “Look Dad!” she exclaimed, “I’m all better! I can play!”

She wasn’t, of course. When her mother caught her coughing violently she begged her not to tell me.

So I was left with the unappetizing choice of crushing my daughter’s soul, or of putting a sick goalie in play, damaging her team’s changes in the last game of the season, and possibly still crushing her soul if that worked out badly.

I put her in.

And bless her, she was rock solid, doing all the things her brother had taught her: hugging her post, staying square, using her stick. She let in four goals in the end, one a weak shot but the others all rebounds after she had already made a save. But between those she put up save after save – according to the score sheet (which notoriously under-reports these numbers at this level) she made seventeen saves, and the score keeper had stopped counting at all in the third period.

In the meantime, the rest of the Bears were making a surprising match of it. Down three-nothing in the second period and being heavily outshot, they began a rally with a lucky goal, a weak shot from the red line that the opposing goalie missed completely, apparently being engaged in spinning about for dizzy fun. That one was lucky, but then they went out and earned three more the hard way, grinding unglamorous work from the middle-of-the bench kids. Little T, a tow-headed kid with huge eyes and a tentative smile, not much bigger than a toddler,  jammed one in from a scrum. Little A, even smaller (I suspect strongly that his parents lied about his age to get him on the team with his brother) managed to swat in a rebound. And big A [1], a bigger, scowling kid flipped one in. Each one of those was a first-time goal.

So it came to be tied four-four with one minute left in the game when one of the opposition got a breakaway and skated in alone on Weaselette. The whole arena held their breath. In.. in.. shot! Save! And she collapsed on the puck, denying him the rebound. Our bench roared. We might get a tie! An honest tie! That would be the best thing ever, and Weaselette to thank for it!

But we didn’t.

We got the freaking WIN instead, when M., a bug-eyed and very serious kid who has blossomed this past few months, returned the favor by bashing a rebound in past their sprawling goalie with 9.9 seconds left.

I tell the kids that it’s not about winning. It’s about playing hard, having fun, and learning.

But boy, it’s pretty darn fun to win one once in a while.

Even though it’s been a damn long season and there were many days when I cursed myself for signing up to coach, I felt a little sad turning off the lights in the locker room for the last time. As Weaselette and I walked down the hall to the snowstorm outside, I told her, “You know I’m going to boast about you up and down and everywhere I can, right?”

“Everywhere?” she said.

“Yep,” I said.

And so here it is. Consider yourselves boasted at.

[1] big A is skilled but lazy. I’ve been frustrated by him all season. Finally in the last two games I challenged him by putting him in at center with weak line mates and telling him he had to carry the line – and suddenly he was the hardest working kid out there. So I was particularly pleased to see him score. Hopefully a little lesson about work and rewards was learned.

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