Last night was the season final for our neighborhood street hockey league. The boy decided earlier this summer that he wanted to play hockey. Normally Nick just doesn’t get into team sports. He’s more of an individualist who enjoys more solitary activities. Shooting and Kempo have become his main athletic activities. I’m ok with this because every kid needs to find out what he is good at and where he fits in. Youth is after all a journey of discovery.
So now Nick has discovered hockey. As a kid I played street hockey all the time. There had to be twenty kids in the street on any given afternoon. It was nothing to get a 5 on 5 going. Makeshift goalie pads and Mylec plastic blades were the order of the day. It was after all the era of the Broad Street Bullies and Lord Stanley’s reign in Philly. Fast forward to today and it’s rare to see any kids in the street at all. No stickball, or street hockey or even an irresponsible game of tag. In order to play you pretty much have to join a league. I told him he was going to LOVE playing hockey. I was right.
It was a long hot season. This summer in Philly was brutally hot but to his credit Nick stuck it out. Even on days where he had Kempo first then rushed to hockey he hung tough. I could see how tired he was by the end of the game. Man I miss those days.
When I first saw his coach I thought immediately “Oh my God he’s going to quit in five minutes”. A big gruff guy with an intimidating demeanor he has the look of a grizzly bear without the fur. But he turned out to be a great guy who totally loves the sport. Since this was Nick’s first season I needed to give him a crash course in fundamentals. He decided early on that like soccer he wanted to play defense. So we worked hard on his angles, stick handling and strategic fundamentals. Basically break up the play and clear the ball from your own zone WITHOUT throwing it in front of your own net and hanging your goalie out to dry. The second part was the hardest.
In any event by seasons end he became a solid player, platooning with his little buddy Zach on defense. He got his fundamentals down and started to make some heads up plays in his own zone. For his first season I’d say he came a long way. Nick is at that age where he is really growing fast. By the end of the season he was one of the taller players on his team, although he didn’t start out that way. His adolescent awkwardness and nerves are easy to spot.
But the nerves were partly because he was playing the Orange team. Did I mention the Orange team has a wall in front of their net? The wall would be none other that Wyatt’s son Kyle. Nick swore that his team didn’t have a chance because of Kyle. He had mixed feelings about the game ever since he found out they would be playing each other. It was one of those games where I hated to see either team lose. While Nick played a solid game Kyle kept the Orange team in it until the end. He made several game saving saves.
Orange made a late run and stole the shutout from our goalie who also played a solid game. In the end though our team held on for the win. Nick was ecstatic. It was the first time he played hard and finished first in a team sport. I think he learned a lot about hard work, winning and losing and that’s why we play team sports as kids.
Personally I wish I had more time to coach. It’s great being involved with the kids and I find it awesome when you teach them something and they do it and see how well it works. Nothing beats when that little light goes on. So congratulations to Nick and Kyle on a great season. Maybe next year you’ll win a championship together!