Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hockey ‘culture’

(For Rubber Magazine's Parental Guidance – March 2009)

As a native of Michigan I know what it’s like to scrape eight inches of snow and ice off my car and make the long drive to an ice rink in a snowstorm, praying that my kid’s hockey game isn’t cancelled due to inclement weather once I get there. I also know what it’s like to spend days as a kid playing eight hour pond hockey sessions with my friends. These experiences helped to instill the “hockey culture” into me, a phenomenon common in the Midwest and other frozen climes.

But do we have a true “hockey culture” here in California? We can’t play outdoors and don’t have to endure snowstorms and below freezing temperatures to get to our games. A far less common sport here, most of our kids are the only ones at school who play ice hockey, with few friends outside of their teammates who can even relate to the sport. So how do we compare to more well-known hockey states?

California hockey families still endure early morning and late evening practices every week for six months out of the year just like our eastern counterparts. We too curse our alarm clocks for waking us out of blissful Saturday morning slumber so we can drive two hours to play 7 a.m. games. Similarly, we caravan to tournament weekends full of back-to-back games, sessions at the pool, and knee hockey marathons in the hallway. And most importantly, we write the same endless checks and nearly melt our credit cards swiping them to pay for premium ice time, new equipment, and the myriad of other expenses our favored sport brings with it.

Living the culture is more a mind set than a geographical phenomenon. When our California boys beat some good Canadian hockey clubs at a recent Ontario tournament, many of the coaches and parents of those teams were flabbergasted. This to them was the ultimate insult, not only to be beaten by Americans, but to have them come from a state known more in their minds for surfing than for hockey.

I take a lot of satisfaction in that reaction. Despite the fact that we have fewer rinks and kids playing ice hockey here, it means we’ve still managed to create our own successful “hockey culture” here in the Golden State, and for that we should be proud.

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