Thomas J. Robidoux
I went to an amateur hockey game the other night. That doesnít seem like an unusual occurrence for most people, but the fact is I donít know anything about hockey except that it is a barbaric contact sport. So, why was I there? Because my son plays hockey and my wife insists that a good father should take an interest in his sonís games.
I explained to my wife that I couldnít go to the game because I had to get up for work in the morning. She pointed out that I have been retired for almost three years, so that didnít fly. Please understand, we are not talking about peewee hockey, I am not some errant, absentee father. My son is forty-two years old.
We left early so we could get a ringside seat. My wife and I constituted exactly one half of the Hawks cheering section. The other half consisted of my daughter-in-law and her girlfriend from work. This made us the dominant crowd because the Hooligans, the opposition team, had only one lonely woman in their section. We got front row seats. I sat down on the bare aluminum bleachers and it didnít take long to feel the cold seep into my butt.
They came out on the ice and I cheered them with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. The ladies explained to me that the game had not started yet, this was only the warm-up and I should save my cheering for the game. I let my mind wander and wondered why these guys would do this. The idea of a six foot plus, two hundred and seventy-five pound giant hurling himself at me at a gazillion miles per hour intent on taking that little rubber puck away from me sent chills up my spine. (If I were ever foolish enough to play this game I would stay as far away from that little puck as I could.)
I knew the game had started because everybody was racing from one end of the rink to the other chasing that little rubber puck I mentioned. I tried to pick out my son but everyone looked the same. They were all encased in enough padded armor to make a medieval knight green with envy. The goalies had so much padding they both looked like the Michelin Man. I thought that this was a little overkill until the puck hit the Plexiglas right in front of us. Wham! I instinctively recoiled back and the only reason I didnít fall over was my butt was frozen to the aluminum bleacher. I was informed that my son was number fifty-five. Unfortunately the number was only on the back of their shirts and they moved so fast chasing that little puck that I was rarely sure which one he was.
The game went by in a blur. I cheered whenever the Hawks made a goal but I was always a little behind because I never actually saw a goal. When my ladies cheered, I cheered. I made sure I did not cheer when the Hooligansí gal cheered. I messed it up a few times but I tried my best.
Before I knew it the game was over and all the members of both teams skated by and shook hands with each other as if they were all the best of friends. I thought that this might be a little hypocritical considering the zeal and ferocity they displayed as they crashed into one another. But no, they really did seem to be friends, go figure.
Since we constituted such a large part of their fan base, we had clout. We could go over to the side where the players were. (Sort of like being in the dugout, to coin a phrase.)
Every one of the players towered over me, especially if they still had their skates on. I felt like one of the seven dwarfs. The only exception to the rule was a close friend of my sonís who shared his enthusiasm for winter backpacking. (That should tell you something right there.) Although he is smaller than me, he is a wiry, energetic little dynamo with about the same percentage of body fat as skim milk and the same metabolism as a raptor. These are not the kind of guys you want to insult. I was on my best behavior.
My son suggested that his wife come down to the locker room and get the keys to his pick-up. She looked at him incredulously. I volunteered to go. Taking my petite, attractive daughter-in-law to the doorway of a locker room filled with a bunch of sweaty, testosterone driven hockey players in various stages of undress did not seem like a good idea to me. (I do worry about that boy sometimes.)
Out in the parking lot, all showered and dressed in street clothes, everyone seemed so civilized. They had a few beers, laughed and told stories about the game. Did I mention that the Hawks won the game? Four to three and my son scored the winning goal. Thatís my boy! A chip off the old block.