The article below has been published many times over the last 15 years, most recently in the Toronto Sun on Sept.16th. It is written by Steve Simmons and is a great read for all minor hockey parents!
There was about two minutes to play in the playoff game and I was pacing behind the bench anxiously, barking out whatever instructions seemed important at that very moment. You watch the game and you watch the clock in those final seconds, often at the very same time.
Our team was up by a goal, poised to advance to the next round of the playoffs, when I felt a tug on my jacket.
“Ah coach,” one of my little players said from the bench.
“Yea,” I answered, concentrating more on the game and the clock than on him.
“Are there snacks today?”
“Whaaaat?” I barked, somewhat exasperated.
“Did anyone bring snacks today?”
“Huh?” I said as I looked back towards the game.
“I hope they didn’t bring apple juice,” the young boy continued. “I don’t like apple juice.”
The moment froze me in all the playoff excitement, the way all special and meaningful moments should. If somehow, I could have captured that brief conversation on tape, I would have had one of those telling sporting moments for parents everywhere, the kind you need to play for coaches and executives and trainers and managers and all of us who take youth hockey way too seriously.
It isn’t life or death, as we like to think it is. It isn’t do or die as often as we pretend it to be. In one tiny moment in one elimiantion game, kids hockey was reduced to what it really is about: Apple juice. OK, so it’s not really apple juice. But what apple juice happens to represent in all of this.
The snack. The routine. The end of game ritual.
Kids can win and lose and not give a second’s thought about either at a certain age, but don’t forget the post-game drinks. If anything will spoil a good time that will.
You see, it’s all part of the culture of hockey. Not who wins, not who scores goals, not which team accomplished what on any given afternoon, but whether Mom and Dad were there, whether their grandparents were in the stands watching, whether their best friend was on their team and yes, about what they ate post-game.