Hockey May Be “Our Game”, but it isn’t Everybody’s Game

by John Hoffman

Confessions of an un-hockey dad.

The Stanley Cup final is on. And, while all kinds of Canadian fathers and kids will be sitting down to enjoy the series together, my boys and I won’t be among them.

In some ways that’s surprising. I grew up watching the Leafs, playing road hockey and collecting hockey cards. I even played organized hockey (house league) for a few years. I was terrible – the second worst skater on my team – but I still loved it.

But none of my kids played hockey. That put us in the minority in Peterborough, which is a real hockey town. Once, at a cocktail party, I heard a confirmed hockey dad say, “Of course, a boy who grows up in Peterborough has to play hockey in order to fit in socially.”

I was mildly irked. My first thought was, “Hmm. Well, you’re talking to a father of three boys who don’t play hockey and they’re all doing fine socially.” But I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t really want to have that argument.

And I don’t want to have it now either. I think hockey is a great game and I’m happy for the people enjoy it. But I just want to speak up for the non-hockey dads and kids of Canada.

Here’s a story that pretty much sums my kids’ lack of interest in hockey. When my boys were growing up we lived less than a hundred yards from the Memorial Centre, where the Peterborough Petes (Major Junior team) play their home games. I remember the first (and last) Petes game I took my middle son to very well. At the Memorial Centre they used to sell these ice cream treats called Flintstone Push Ups. Jesse had heard about them from our neighbours who were Petes season ticket holders. As soon as we sat down for the game he started asking for a Push Up. I told him we could get one after the first period. And like the patient, self-contained little soul he was, Jesse waited without complaint until the first intermission. We bought the Push Up, came back to our seats and he ate it quietly. When he finished, he folded up the packaging very neatly, sat there for a few minutes and then said, “I’m ready to go home now.”

In other words, the only reason he went to the hockey game was to get the Push Up. OK, fine. Lesson learned. I took him home and then went back and enjoyed the rest of the game by myself. We never went to another Petes game.

My boys did show interest in others sports at times. We went a few Blue Jays games, one Raptors game and, actually, one WWE Wrestling event, which, I know, isn’t really a sport.

They did participate in sports a little bit. Two of my guys played organized soccer, two took karate for a number of years and one was on his elementary school basketball team for a year. They played soccer and basketball on the playground at school. But they never developed the major love of sports that I’d had. I don’t know exactly why, but I was OK with it.

Sure they missed some opportunities and experiences as a result. But they had others. My kids all got into music the way some kids get into sport. Music was a great thing for them. They learned skills, exercised their brains, developed physical coordination, learned about teamwork (playing in bands) and had great social experiences with friends. That’s not unlike what kids get out of sports, except without the physical fitness aspect. And, before I go any further, let me say that physical activity is important for all kids, not just for physical health, but mental health and fitness as well. Kids who aren’t into sports need to find other ways to be active.

What’s my point? It’s that kids need to own their passions and they don’t always choose the passions we would have chosen for them. Whether it’s sports, the arts, school achievement, volunteer activities, scouting, or whatever our role as fathers is to provide opportunities, and then encourage and support our child’s interests. Sports are a great thing for kids who enjoy them. But there are lots of other activities kids can get into that have similar value.

So, to all the hockey dads and kids out there, enjoy the Cup final. I hope it’s a good one. And to all the non-hockey (or sports) dads out there, I hope you can find activities to share and enjoy with your kids. Because it’s not so much the specific activity or sport that matters, it’s the opportunities for fun, learning and friendship.

And you can be as Canadian as can be without loving hockey.

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