Why Canada’s National Sport Gives Me Nightmares

When I was working and pregnant with my second child I had a conversation with a colleague on a Monday morning. He told me about his weekend. On Friday night he had played in a hockey tournament. Saturday morning: up at 4 am to take his son to hockey practice. Saturday afternoon: son’s hockey game. Sunday morning: up at 4 am again for daughter’s hockey practice.

“That’ll be your weekend in a few years,” he said, gesturing to my belly.
“Hell no, it will not,” I replied, “My children will not be playing hockey. My children will not even know what hockey IS until they are out of my house.”

I got a funny look for that. Because how could you deny your children the joy of hockey! Canada’s other official sport, besides lacrosse!

Easy. My deepest, most shameful anti-Canadian secret is this: I do not want to be a hockey mom.

Like many aspects of parenthood – sacrificing my personal hygiene, teaching a three-foot-tall person how to wipe his own butt, considering the implications of zee versus zed – that my kids might end up, well, sporty was not something that had crossed my mind until it was too late to turn back.

I am not sporty. My husband is not sporty. But I know enough about life to know that she sure does love to toss a curveball now and then so it would not at all surprise me if both of my children turned out to be hockey prodigies. Just to spite me.

I have a lot of relatives who love hockey. They follow the NHL teams. They play in fun leagues. They watch their kids play. They watch their friends’ kids play. They would probably watch gas station attendants play; they just love hockey. They would probably not even consider it a sacrifice worth noting to get up at 4 am on a weekend if it was for Hockey. (cue angel choir here)

I have tried to like hockey but I just couldn’t get interested. The game itself is just like any game but the fetish that accompanies it really puts me off. The big NHL stars and their huge salaries. The gratuitous violence. The song, “Big League,” by Tom Cochrane.

I have even been to a couple of games but I couldn’t stop thinking traitorous thoughts all the while, things like, “why does the crowd cheer louder when the dudes fight than when they score goals?” and “why is this crappy beer $9?” I know these thoughts are traitorous because when I shared them with friends I got that all-too-familiar, “What the hell is your problem – it’s HOCKEY!” look.

A couple years ago I even participated in a hockey pool at work. I had to – otherwise I would not have been able to have a conversation with anyone in the office for the entire 9 months of hockey season. Boy did I piss a lot of people off when I came in 2nd place having chosen my players based on their names.

So all my attempts to indoctrinate myself and be a good Canadian have failed and I find myself lately hoping against hope that my boys look away from the sticks and helmets and promise of million dollar salaries and toward a nice, quiet, free hobby. Horticulture, anyone? Web design?

I do not want to get up at 4 am to drive to a cold rink where I have to sit, hands warming around a cup of horrible Tim Hortons coffee, feigning interest and trying not to wince when the other parents yell things like “smash ’em!” and “way to pass, Bruce!” I do not want to spend my life savings on equipment and uniforms that will only fit for one season at a time. I do not want to do hockey laundry. Have you ever smelled a hockey bag? I do not want to sell those chocolate covered almonds as a fundraiser! Those chocolate covered almonds suck!

I just want to sleep in on Saturday mornings. That’s really all there is to it. At the moment, sleep-deprived as I am, the thought of getting up early on purpose, for sport, makes me fretful.

And so, when my older son sees kids outside playing street hockey, I hand him a book. When he grabs sticks in the park and bats at the pine cones and says, “I’m playing HOCKEY!” I ignore him and keep walking. When he makes a goal out of a chair and his baby brother and shoots his plastic cow into it and shouts “GOAL!” I weep a little for my own illusion that I have any control over this at all.

I don’t care if they’re gay or straight, folk singers or rappers, right or left wing. I just want my kids to be a) happy and b) not hockey players.

I sleep with my fingers crossed.

(Originally posted to the Canada Moms Blog)

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