I grew up in Michigan, and bleed red for my Detroit Redwings. I still have love for the Hawks and Blues. I’d love to see a “Hawks/Blues vs. Wings” Stanley Cup Final series someday. I’m even training my daughters to love hockey, and they’re constantly asking me throughout the season how the team is doing. My oldest daughter melted my heart recently when she used the name “Datsuk” in a large game of charades some families were playing.
I’ve been wanting to take my girls to watch a local hockey game, ever since hearing the “Decatur Blaze” had come to town. Even though it was a church-night, I decided to try it once last month. We were all bundled up, and ready for action. At an inexpensive $5/person, I wasn’t too worried if they ended up getting too tired to stay for the whole game. On the way in, the friendly woman selling tickets asked my girls if they were staying after the game to skate with the players? Giant smiles on their faces, they looked at me. As if I had any power to deny.
As it turns out, the team Decatur Blaze was supposed to face Saturday night had their franchise folded suddenly on Friday morning. Instead of locking the doors for the weekend, the Blaze wanted to use the opportunity to offer something special to their fans. A black/white scrimmage was put together, with plenty of fun and talented puck handling. The atmosphere was still pretty exciting for a fan-base that was cheering for and against the same team, ultimately. Our girls chose the black team, and were not disappointed. Even though it was obviously a bit more fun than competitive, there was still some great puck handling and teamwork. Watch out for these future stars, like # 95 from Illinois, Micah Young, or Slovenian #11, Luka Znidarsic. We even had some great local talent represented, in #52 Ty Gehrken and #58 Ryan Redpath.
The night was made even sweeter, as my girls were invited to come help collect the “Chuck-A-Pucks” between periods. Getting on the ice, and seeing the Zamboni made them even more excited to skate after the game. So when the time finally came, close to 9pm (keep in mind, these girls usually head to bed around 7:30), they were first in line for their skates.
Here’s the problem: I was skating solo that night. My wife was attending the local production of “Peter Pan” with her parents, and I was pretending to be the responsible adult that night. How could I juggle three girls who’ve never skated before? As we walked awkwardly toward the ice, my girls and I had no idea what to expect. The loud music and low lights seemed fun, but also very distracting. That’s when the first hand reached out. Wearing #88, and coming all the way from Belfast, UK, Gareth Smyth instantly become a part of my daughters’ life. For the next hour, I successfully navigated caring for all three girls, and even took some pictures/video to prove it. Whenever one of them struggled away from me, there was usually a helpful Blaze jersey skating nearby.
As 10pm approached, I knew my girls needed to head to bed soon or they’d never make it to church in the morning. Being the responsible father that I am, I spoiled the party, and promised we’d skate again soon. As my girls skated around in their dreams that night, they’d solidified their love both for ice skating, and for a sport who’s players show heart both between buzzers, and after the game.