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Happiness for a Hockey Mom

One busy mom’s quest for some “me time” leads her to personal growth and self-improvement she never dreamed of.

Hockey Mom

I’d hardly pulled into the driveway after work when my teenage son, CJ, flew out the front door, his lanky arms waving wildly.

“We’re gonna be late for practice!” he yelled. My 10-year-old, Dylan, stepped out from behind him, wearing only a long hockey jersey. “Mom, where are my hockey pants?” he called.

So much for a little time to relax after work. My feet were killing me after lugging heavy equipment all day for my job at the Green Mountain Power company. But now it was time for my second (and bigger) job—mom to two busy boys.

Even the dog wanted something from me, tilting his head and whining. “Not now, Murray. You’ll have to wait for your walk.” I tossed Dylan the hockey pants I’d washed and folded that morning. While the boys got ready, I threw together sandwiches for them to eat in the car.

“Oh, that’s another thing, Mom,” CJ said. “We don’t have any food.” I pointed out a dozen things he could eat. “But there’s no mac and cheese,” he said.

“You know what?” I said, hating the sarcasm I felt creeping into my voice. “Grocery shopping takes time, and when do you think I have any time?”

Dylan appeared in the doorway. “Uh, Mom?” he said hesitantly. “I need to bring a dozen cupcakes to school tomorrow for a bake sale.”

I sighed. “I’ll have to do it tonight.” We piled into the car. Hockey practices, overnights at friends’ houses, cupcakes for school.… Did anyone care about my plans? God, what I would give for some time for me for a change, I thought.

Sitting in the bleachers at the hockey rink with some of the other moms, I finally had time to breathe. The puck skittered across the ice, coming to a stop against the blade of Dylan’s hockey stick. With a flick of the wrist, he passed it to a teammate streaking toward the goal. Dylan’s teammate took a shot.

The goalie lunged, but missed. Goal! I leapt from my seat. “Way to go, Dylan! Nice pass!” That looked like so much fun, zipping back and forth on the ice.

When I was little, there was a pond in the woods by my family’s house, and I loved to skate. But that was a long time ago. “I wish I could do that,” I said to my friend Tricia, whose son had just scored on Dylan’s pass.

“Really? You’d want to play hockey?”

It sounded ridiculous, sure. But at the moment, all I wanted was some fun, a break from the stress I felt. “You bet!”

“Well, if you get a team together, I’ll play too,” Tricia said. Was she serious? Was I? We broke out laughing. Then again, why not try? I’d like to get back on skates again. A few lessons, and maybe I could play. Was it so far-fetched?

While I stood outside the locker room waiting for Dylan to come out, I glanced at the bulletin board. “Hockey Lessons,” one flyer advertised. “Call Coach Dan.” I tore off a number from the bottom. Maybe it’ll be good for a laugh.

I talked to the other moms the next day at the kids’ practice. “That’s a great idea,” one mom said. “I’ve been wondering if I could do what my son does,” another mom admitted. Nine moms agreed to give it a try. Enough for a team. I called Coach Dan. “I’m sorry,” he replied, “but I’m all booked up.”

“Wait,” I pleaded. “I’ve got ten women ready to go!”

Ten?” he said, curious. “Women?” He wanted to know more. Coach Dan agreed to set up four sessions.

I was excited. But what would my family think? My husband, Christopher, promised to take over as the family chauffeur that Saturday. And the boys? “You can borrow my skates, Mom,” CJ offered. Dylan loaned me his helmet.

I was surprised…the boys were usually so territorial about their stuff. I’d have to buy some equipment. Fortunately, I’d spent enough time in the sporting goods store to know what to get. Hockey pants. Check. Chest protector. Check. I walked down the row of hockey sticks and pulled one from the rack. I’d bought dozens for the kids throughout the years…but this time it was for me. I was thrilled.

That weekend 10 moms stepped into the rink. Well, more like wobbled. It had been a while for me, even longer for some of the others.

“Line up on center ice,” Coach Dan said. I moved slowly, my knees quivering. Suddenly, my legs shot out from under me. Splat—I fell on the ice. I wasn’t the only one. Coach Dan chuckled. “Lesson one,” he said, “how to stay upright.”

Four sessions went by too quickly. We signed up for six more. Then eight. Stickhandling, shooting, there was a lot to learn. More moms noticed us practicing; soon there were 30 of us, enough for two teams.

One day I saw another flyer on the bulletin board. “Fight MS Tournament. Looking For Teams.” I showed it to Coach Dan. “Think we can play?”

He smiled. “Well, let me put it this way. It would be a great experience.”

Our team called itself “Ray’s Angels,” after Tricia’s uncle, who donated the entry fee and jerseys too. We chose white, black and gold—colors of the Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Our logo was a hockey puck sprouting angel wings.

And we kept practicing…hard. If I was going to play at the wing position, like my kids, I’d need to improve my shot. One afternoon, I came home and Christopher led me out to the backyard. In the center a flat, oval sheet of ice sparkled, with a hockey goal set up at one end.

“For you and the boys to practice on,” he said. I gave him a big hug. Dylan couldn’t wait to help me work on my slap shot. We whipped pucks at the net until it was time for dinner.

Finally, game day. All the way to the rink I had butterflies. I pulled on my uniform, checked my pads and skated out onto the ice. This is really it.

Was this how Dylan and CJ felt before they dropped the puck? I bent my knees and got into my stance. All right, Lord, I thought, maybe this is your answer to all of my complaining.

“Go, Mom!!” I recognized that voice. I looked up. I’d sat in those stands hundreds of times. Now I was looking up at them from center ice. There were my husband and boys, cheering. “Let’s go, Angels!”

It seemed like every time I touched the puck, I heard them shouting. “Yeah, Mom! Nice shot!” Not quite accolades for every dinner I made or every time I drove my kids to practice, but…in a way it was. As much as my family demanded from me, they also loved and supported me. Even in something as crazy as this.

My team didn’t exactly crush our opponents that day. In fact, we lost all four games. But skating off that ice, dripping with sweat, my legs limp, I was one happy hockey mom.

Pretty hard not to be when you’re blessed with two boys who can’t wait to hug you—sweaty jersey and all—and say, “You were awesome, Mom! Did you hear us cheering?”

I couldn’t have missed it.

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