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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hockey Night in Kemptville

I didn’t raise any hockey players. My girls enjoy watching the game live with a bunch of friends, but none of them learned to play. My nephew, on the other hand, was probably handed a hockey stick and fitted for skates as soon as he could walk.
My sister invited us to attend one of Riley’s hockey games the other night. I felt a little out of place, and noticed one or two people (high school classmates) looking at me as if they were wondering what the heck I was doing there. They probably thought I was there to take photos for the newspaper.
The Farmer and I had thought ahead, bringing our fake-fur blanket to sit on in the stands. I remember going to hockey games with my Dad as a kid, freezing my bum to the seat. No real need for blankets here though – the stands in our new municipal centre arena are positively cozy, with heaters directed at the spectators.
As Riley’s team skated onto the ice, I couldn’t believe how big he was. I see him a few times a month when he joins us for Sunday dinner – and I buy him clothes – so I know he’s getting bigger but, really, this is ridiculous. I won’t go on and on or he will kill me. Just as he started doing his lunge stretches I swear I felt a presence settle in beside me. Dad was watching his grandson, and his favourite sport.
I was told not to yell, “Go, Panthers” because both teams on the ice had the same name. Riley is in Atom C3 so we tried to cheer “Let’s go C3, let’s go” but it didn’t have much of a ring to it.
I read somewhere that girls make really good hockey players – particularly goalies. I’m sure Hayley Wickenheiser (or is that Wickenhauser?) would concur. Aly Thibert and Mickayla Petersen are confident and quick on their skates and the puck rarely gets past them.
I felt a little foolish yelling out loud at the players at first, but once you get caught up in the game, it’s pretty hard to keep your mouth shut. By the end of it I was hoarse. But probably not as bad as the woman in front of me, who kept letting out this screaming squawk every time the play got exciting. She made me jump every time she did it.
I had to catch myself from giggling and pointing at some of the players – their parents were probably sitting beside us – but at age 9 and 10 the kids are various shapes and sizes. Some of them have a bit of growing to do in order to fill out their hockey jersey. But that doesn’t stop them from contributing to the play. They just have to move those legs a little faster.
I am not familiar with the rules of the game, nor can I follow it closely on the ice, so I won’t be giving a play-by-play of the action. Suffice it to say, we were all on the edge of our seats, from the puck drop through to the game-ending buzzer. Spurred on by the cheers of his proud parents in the crowd (I don’t know whether the players can hear their names from the ice but I’m sure that energy travels), Ryan Hess glided up and scored the winning goal in the last few minutes. Don’t ask me to remember the score. Like I said, I’m no sports commentator. Just a new fan of a game that reminds me so much of my Dad. I could hear him yelling his low, gravelly encouragement to the players, and one in particular: “Atta boy, Riley!”
Congratulations, all of you, and enjoy your March Break. I’ll be in the stands for the play offs!

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