Friday, September 2, 2011

Little Boy's Heroes

I realize that the last couple of posts were a little bit of a downer – I think sometimes it’s easier to write when you’re down, so I’m making a point this time to write something good.  And today was very good.

Actually, today kind of restored my faith in my fellow man.  Sound silly or overstated?  Well, perhaps.  But it did at least show me the kindness of men who by the world’s standard have every right to ignore a 6-year-old boy – but didn’t.

One of my favorite teams is the Phoenix Coyotes.  They are part of the NHL (that’s hockey) – which a lot of people find ironic, ice hockey in the desert.  For the record, it’s a great way to beat the heat.  But because of my Maine roots, hockey is part of a lot of good memories from the distant and not-so-distant past.  So imagine my delight when a few of my good friends here enjoy hockey as much as I do.  Imagine my greater delight when my husband and boys have discovered how much they like it too!

In fact, I’ve grown to love hockey enough that I let myself be talked into (okay, fine, it might have been my idea) going to “unofficial” practices.  Mostly because I’m a hockey nut and after a long, hot summer, I want my fix.  But a lot because it’s fun and a cool experience to see these nationally-known guys play – and play around – on a smaller rink at a local place with not too many people there watching.

Today we went to a practice - myself, 2 of my friends and one of my children (the other one opted for dove hunting with daddy).  While we were wandering around waiting for practice to start, the captain (!) came walking through, and stopped to talk to us.  He introduced himself (even though we obviously knew who he was), shook our hands, tried to get my little guy to talk, and was generally as nice as could be to a few rather silly-acting women who were a little star-struck.

That would have been enough – after all, he is one of my favorite players on the team, as well as the captain and known as a great guy.  We were all a little giddy, in spite of my husband’s text that he’s “just a man.”  We spent the next hour and half watching some very talented players work together and practice their skills and footwork.  It was a lot of fun, and while my youngest was a little squirrely, he thought it was terribly cool that he could be right up against the glass right next to where the players were.

When practice was done, the players began to filter out – and my son hung right by the railing where they exited the ice.  Honestly, he was just excited that they were going out right next to him (and I thought it was funny when he spooked the goalie going in – made the poor guy jump when he was exclaiming over them passing him).  Then one of the guys stopped, bumped knuckles with him through the wires, and then passed a puck to him.  You would have thought it was made of gold!  My little man played with it and carried it around for the next little while, totally happy with his souvenir.

Then, when nearly everyone was gone, one of the coaches – who was on the opposite side of the ice – waved us back over to the same exit that they had passed the puck through.  Coach had one of the players bring over a stick, an honest-to-goodness Bauer hockey stick that was taped and still wet and cold from being used in practice, and handed it up over the rail to give to Joe.  We were all in shock, and thanked the players and the coach over and over.  And my guy could barely stop jumping up and down, he was so excited!

It’s funny, he wanted immediately to try to play with it.  I have to add a picture of him, so you can see just how much bigger than him the stick is; impossible to play with, at least right now.  But he is so proud of it, I can’t even describe it properly.
Hard to tell, but the puck is in his right hand, and the stick stands at least foot taller than him in his left.  Future enforcer, that one is!

Sorry, letting my mommy pride get in the way.  Point in all this being, that these men, who by all rights didn’t need to pay special attention to us, went out of their way to be kind to a little boy who loves to watch hockey.  And doesn’t mind being dragged to the other end of the valley to watch them play.  But I am glad to know that there are noble-minded men out there that care about the kids that idolize them, and want to do a little something extra for a little boy who wants to be out there doing what they do.

Many thanks to the Coyotes, their captain Shane Doan, the coach whose name I don’t know, and the other players I did not recognize who helped make a little boy’s day – and his mom's, too.