Life Lessons Hockey Taught Me

I’ve said it many times before and I’ll probably say it a million times after today; hockey is the best sport, period. I cannot pinpoint what my favorite part of the sport is. Is it the jerseys? The speed of the game? That feeling of a city coming together when you’re at an arena with 20,000 other hockey fans? Or is it that infamous hockey smell? I’m totally joking on the smell…no one can say with a straight face that they love the hockey smell. Anyways, if I had to pick my favorite part of the game, aside from the smell, I’d have to say, all of the above. Even though all of those options are great, in recent years I have found a new favorite thing about the game, this “thing” is something that I can relate to my everyday work life and it makes me smile each day.

I’m a full time Nanny to two small humans, yes, I refer to my children as small humans 99.9% of the time. It’s something that just stuck and I find it quite comical. Being a full time Nanny has given me a sneak peek at what parenthood is all about, and with that I have learned what techniques work with raising children and which techniques need to be flushed down the toilet for good. The older I get, and the longer I’m a Nanny, the more I realize I’m using the same techniques my parents used on me and my sister (and these techniques and methods have also been approved by my bosses.) At first, I was slightly terrified at the thought of me turning into my parents, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized my parents used methods that coaches use on young athletes. That old saying, “rub some dirt on it” was basically the way of life in the Dudley household.

My father played beer league hockey for what I can remember, most if not all of my childhood and into my teen years. If you read my first article with WO, you’ll recall that my father loved the game of hockey with every ounce of his being. In fact, on his headstone we had “Hockey = Life” engraved. It wasn’t until after he passed that I realized that he, along with my mother, used lessons from the game of hockey to raise my sister and me.

For example, you’re going to get hurt along the way. Hurting is a part of life, but guess what? You can still play hurt. Hurt is not injured. Hurt is something everyone goes through, and you best be close to losing a limb before you start acting like a drama queen.

My Dad always told me that if you want something bad enough, you must be willing to work for it with every ounce of will in your body. I was a competitive dancer then a pompon girl in high school, my sister a competitive gymnast then cheerleader once she started high school – our parents would tell us after our rough practices, “We didn’t raise quitters. You’re allowed to have bad days, but it’s how you rebound from this. Your work ethic, your determination…how much do you want this? How much do you want to be great?”

When I read that last line back to myself, I feel like I’m quoting a coach after a tough loss. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard coaches and players, hockey ones specifically, say those words after a rough game. “How badly do you want this? How hard are you willing to work to be great?”, words etched in my brain from my parents and from various tv interviews. These are words that I’m now echoing to my small humans.

Today for instance, my small humans and I were outside enjoying a beautiful day here in Michigan. Sassy, my nickname for my oldest kiddo, wanted to play driveway hockey. I set up her nets and she got her sticks and pucks in order. She was doing good, then she asked me to play with her. Of course, I’m not going to be easy on her – what will that teach her? I blocked a few of her shots, and got in her face a little bit and oh Lordy, did that annoy her.

I annoyed her so much that she dropped her stick and walked away from me. Now, after what you have read thus far, do you think I would just let my Sassy walk away from the game like that? Heck no. I middle named her and told her she best walk back to me and our game. She then aired her grievances, she said “I don’t like when you get in my face. This isn’t a real game! You don’t have to do that!” Yes, she had a valid point, but I then told her, “How will you learn to knock the other player off the puck if you’re annoyed with me getting on you? I’m trying to help you here, kiddo. You keep telling me you want to be a great player, and in order to be a great player, you gotta practice and learn a few things.” My little pep talk seemed to do the trick because thirty seconds after that, she ripped a slapshot right past me that left my jaw on the ground. Oh, did I mention Sassy is only 7…and about to start her second year of hockey? Yeah, I’ll just leave that little fun fact there for you to ponder.

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The top photo is of my father, playing hockey at Eddie Edgar Ice Arena in Livonia, Michigan. The bottom photo is of my Sassy small human from this past season, playing hockey at the same arena my father played. 

After Sassy’s minor tantrum in the driveway, she spent the next half hour shooting pucks around; practicing new spin-o-rama moves along with dangle tricks in her best efforts to be like Datsyuk, who she refers to daily when playing hockey. In that moment, sitting on the porch watching her shoot pucks back and forth, it then hit me that she’s learning so much from this sport – so much that I’m not sure she would learn from another sport. She has it etched in her that when you get knocked down, you get back up. She learned that last season when a boy from the opposing team knocked her down and she tried to whack him in the head with her stick. She got scooped off the ice, but she has since learned that the best way to get revenge is by putting one in the back of the net.

My time being Sassy’s Nanny will come to an end sooner rather than later, and I hope and pray that she will remember and hold on to these lessons that she will learn; not just from me or her parents, but from hockey too. I know one day when she’s my age, she will look back on the days like today, playing hockey in the driveway and the lessons she learned. I just hope that they will continue to have an impact on her, then again, she’s a hockey player – she’ll always have that hunger to want to be better and to be great, want to know why? Because hockey is the best sport, period.

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