One of the sacrifices anyone involved in hockey has to make is missing some important days. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I wouldn’t change it. It’s the job I’ve dreamed of doing since I was a little kid. That doesn’t mean when those days come that I don’t wish I could be there… whether it’s Thanksgiving or a wedding or in this case my father’s 60th birthday. Of course if anyone is going to understand me not being there it’s my coach.
I could never ask for anything more from both my parents and I’ve been remarkably lucky to have them. In this case, my love for hockey comes directly from my dad. I have a vivid memory of sitting on the floor at the edge of the couch in our old bungalow while we watched Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights. I learned a lot about the game from his commentary those nights… or those nights years later when my dad the Leafs fan got so much joy out of the suffering of my friends the Senators fans during those famous “Battle of Ontario” playoff wars we’d watch it play out in front of the TV in our house. All our neighbours would know when Toronto had scored when he would let his famous “yip!” cheer fly. I’ve certainly never been a Leafs fan but I do hope one of these years he’s rewarded for his patience and devotion to that team!
I first learned to skate on rinks my dad made in our backyard and remember learning such basic things like how to poke check someone (which he seemed to do so effortlessly) in hours spent on that ice. As it got a little obvious that there was no serious playing future for either of his kids, he still built those rinks for us. That’s where the first games I got to broadcast were the ones I made up in my head with a puck, a stick and a makeshift light shining down on the freshly shoveled ice. Our neighbours probably thought I was a lunatic doing play-by-play for goals on an empty net. My parents just recognized my passion and have always encouraged me to follow that dream… even when it took me away from the path I’d started with my university education and even when it took me so far away from them.
Dad also served as my actual coach. Neither my brother nor I are uniquely gifted with the talent to have made it anywhere in hockey… not even close really. Our parents didn’t spend hours driving us to 6am practices, watching our games, or in dad’s case coaching our teams to live out some dream of us playing in the NHL. They did it because we loved it and that’s all that mattered. That didn’t stop dad from taking it seriously or doing everything he could to help every kid on that team get better.
It also didn’t stop him from teaching important lessons. I remember one of the times he got the most mad at me was after we’d got scored on and I smashed my stick on the ice. He wasn’t mad about us getting scored on, he was mad about me throwing a fit and showing poor sportsmanship. Win or lose I had to have a good attitude. To him if you gave everything you had and played with class and respect he was happy. As a hockey, baseball or soccer parent all he demanded of me was to be polite, put in my best effort and to respect the commitments I’d made… and those are really the main things he wanted from me in other aspects of my life.
Today my father celebrates his 60th birthday and I couldn’t be happier about the position he and my mom are in these days. They’re living on their dream property and after years of hard work are able to enjoy each day there with the friends and family who all want to visit them as often as possible. The only thing I would wish is that I could be there to raise a glass and toast him for all he has given me, my brother and my mom over the years. You couldn’t ask for a better father and she couldn’t ask for a better husband.
Happy Birthday, Coach. Tonight’s broadcast is for you.