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Tournament weekends

Posted by Astra on February 8, 2010

Heads up, hockey moms-to-be.  Here are some things NOT to say to your teenage son at a hockey tournament (particularly not in front of their teammates):

  1. Did you remember to pack a book to read in the hotel room between games?
  2. I wonder if he really thought about the consequences before punching that guy in front of the ref?
  3. Can you believe he wore a red helmet when his team colours are orange and blue?
  4. Maybe you should order a salad with that instead of fries.
  5. I waved at you from the stands, did you see me?
  6. Check this out!  There’s a sale at Williams and Sonoma!  Wanna go?
  7.  Are you going to listen to your iPod all the way to Toronto?

At the time, these all seemed sensible questions or comments to me.  I have since learned, however they should either be texted in private or not even uttered (insert sad emoticon here).

Not long ago, out-of-town hockey tournament weekends were a family event for us.  During the 2009-10 hockey season, however our 3 kids participated in a total of 10 tournaments averaging about 3 each.  Five of these tournaments involved hotel stays out-of-town.  As the kids get older, they are no longer content to sacrifice their own busy hockey and social schedules deferring to that of the tournament child, so we now travel alone.  The parent left behind must contend with the busy home schedule and the travelling parent gets to fork out hundreds of dollars for uncomfortable beds, bad food and paper thin walls.  These miseries are all initially alleviated by substantial amounts of alcohol, but that too eventually leads to another traditional hockey tournament weekend legacy.   Hockey tournaments all seem to start on Friday, so they also involve vacation days off work or school so the impact is felt even deeper than the wallet or the hangover; there’s just a lot of catching up to do on Monday. 

Nevertheless, ask any professional hockey player his favourite childhood hockey memory, and he will no doubt reminisce, “The away-tournament weekend”.  I am sure my kids, though not destined to be professional hockey players, will also one day recall these unforgettable weekends among their most cherished memories…perhaps even the fact that I was there to share it.

Go Team Go!

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Bell Capital Cup 2009

Posted by Astra on January 7, 2010

It’s not every day your kid gets to participate in an athletic competition with close to 10,000 other kids from around the world.  Although a pretty significant one comes to mind commencing in a couple of weeks in Vancouver, I am actually referring to the 11th annual Bell Capital Cup for minor hockey players ages 9 to 12 from around the world which takes place annually in Ottawa in late December.

What started as a pretty small international event (deemed international because there was one team from upstate New York) has grown to close to 500 teams from all over Canada (including the Iqaluit Blizzard), Germany, Finland, Switzerland and the United States.  Three years ago, the participation of 510 teams earned the Bell Capital Cup a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s largest hockey tournament.  The championship game of each division (and there are 26 divisions ranging from Major PeeWee AAA to sledge hockey) is played at Scotiabank Place and is televised. 

In a gesture of friendship, competing teams exchange hockey pins before each game.  Pin-trading is had become a very common a side sport throughout the tournament and its 21 venues around Ottawa-Gatineau.  While the pin-trade might be just another Disney-inspired capitalistic venture to some, to my kids it’s just the ice-breaker needed to speak to your opposing goalie from the Geneva Moskitos (Geneva, Switzerland that is, not Geneva New York). 

Speaking of memories, the 2009 NHL draft boasted 9 Bell Capital Cup alumni, including John Tavares.  Participating team coaches in this years’ Bell Capital Cup included Tom Glavine, Keith Primeau, Matthew Barnaby and Derian Hatcher. Aside from these notables, the 2,000 volunteers who make this annual event possible also deserve a couple Hip-Hip-Hoorays.

 This past Bell Capital Cup marked our family’s 5th and possibly final year of participation, making our boys veterans of the tournament.   It has spawned great memories and numerous traditions including spaghetti dinners with the Andersons of the Clarington Toros.  This year, our son’s team finished round robin play with a respectable 2-1-0 record including a win against the Geneva Moskitos, but did not advance to the elimination rounds.  Our family’s future participation hinges on the hopes, dreams and will of our 9-year old daughter whose eligibility is only possible should she succeed at the competitive girls Atom AA level. 

I realize Canada has just suffered a crushing blow to its hockey supremacy with a World Junior Championship loss to the United States but the world has not seen the last of our great young players… and the Bell Capital Cup has hopefully not seen the last of the Chisholms. 

The Bell Capital Cup – the holy grail of hockey for thousands of 9 to 12 year olds.


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The International Hockey Weekend

Posted by Astra on December 2, 2009

This past weekend marked the 4th hockey tournament of our month of November 2009 and a double bill for our family.  My husband went off to Lake Placid, NY for a CanAm tournament with my oldest, I went off to Toronto for the Ice Dogs tournament with my middle guy, and my daughter was thrilled to be left behind from this hectic “boys” road trip by spending it with her friend for a double bill of her own:  the weekend sleepover.

Tournament weekends are always a source of great anticipation and excitement for young minor hockey players because they are usually kicked off with a Friday off school.  I look forward to them quite selfishly too since I am not usually summoned for kitchen duty or other household chores.  The packing list can be intimidating as thought must be given to how the beer will stay cold and the hockey equipment warm, your wardrobe must span warm arena attire to lifeguarding in the pool area in sauna like heat, sensible foot ware for shopping (if I’m lucky), and the right clothes for restaurants without golden arches (if I’m lucky).  I think there is more free space in a van packed for a week long camping trip than one packed for a hockey weekend.

The CanAm tournament was a huge success with my son’s team winning the Gold Medal – a fitting feat in this Miracle of miracles Olympic Village.  Though I wasn’t able to witness the win, text messaging and emailed camera phone shots kept me in the loop – almost like being there! 

Although our Toronto weekend was not as successful as hoped (we were one goal shy of advancing to the semifinal with a 1-1-1 record), I was reminded of the same lesson I learn after every loss:  get over it – the kids already have!  We took in the King Tut exhibit at the AGO on Sunday morning which made up for any other disappointments during the weekend.  I found the exhibit rather expensive, crowded and slow moving but my budding Egyptologist’s intense review of each and every display and careful attention to the audio guide (he never listens to me so intently) was as rewarding to me as his hockey wins.

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The Hapless Hockey Manager

Posted by Astra on November 22, 2009

Research for my upcoming memoir of a hockey mom has spawned a new chapter:  the Hapless Hockey Manager.  I am the protagonist.  I have taken on the added challenge of team management for my daughter’s hockey team this season.  A Team Manager handles every off-ice duty including making sure the team has ice time.  There is an expectation from the coaches and parents that I actually know what I am doing.

As I recently posted, my daughter’s team participated in their first hockey tournament of the season.  Many of the preliminary details had already been arranged by our very experienced head coach:  the tournament registration itself and blocking group hotel rooms.  A defining moment of my hockey manager haplessness occurred following our third and final round robin game.  While looking over the tournament results board with another parent, she turned to me and said, “What do they do when there is a tie?”  It dawns on me as I look at her expectantly that no punch line is forthcoming; she really is waiting for the answer.  “Uh oh, “I think to myself, “Don’t look stupid, think fast”. I embarrassingly recall the tournament rule package I picked up at the registration desk, suddenly realizing I was probably supposed to read it and not use it as a placemat at the snack bar.  So I knowingly nod, and my eyes wander over to the rule board seeing if I can fake this… Aha!  There it is!  Tie Break Rules (in red).   “A tie in overall points is settled by highest goal differential.  Most tournaments, in my experience, settle tie breakers by goals for and against, but I guess not this one”.  I am saved; she walks away and relays my professional expertise to her husband.

At dinner that evening (which I pat myself on the back for organizing), the head coach mentions to me that our round robin ranking will determine who we play in the semi final game and when that semi final takes place (as there are 2 semis played at 2 different times).  Again, it dawns on me again that it is my role to determine what our final standing is, and to communicate the time and location of our semi final game to the rest of the team.  Since not everyone has access to email while away from home (this age of Blackberrys and iPhones makes my job decidedly easier), this will require old fashioned communication:  phoning people’s cell phones and hotel rooms.  This exercise will also require some level of sobriety for the rest of the evening – a state of which I am not always accustomed during hockey tournament weekends. 

As the rest of the story goes, the team does manage to all show up at the right arena and at the right time but we lose in the semi final to another rival Nepean team – a fact which is not being blamed on my haplessness I hope.  I have managed to stave off those who doubt my competence for yet another weekend.  There are many more challenges for me to overcome this year, the next big one being our December practice schedule!   I am certain that by the end of the season I will have to rename this chapter in my memoir.   I simply cannot remain stupid all year!  Go Fireblades Go!

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My almost-Paul Henderson moment

Posted by Astra on November 18, 2009

My daughter participated in the Cornwall Girls Hockey Association annual house league tournament.  It was their 26th annual event which was the first tough pill to swallow because I lived in Cornwall for eleven years and don’t remember a girls’ hockey team let alone their annual hockey tournament.  Now that I think more about it though, I graduated from high school and left Cornwall in 1983 which would have been the year of their first annual event.  This math illustration upsets me.  Still, I do not remember any girls’ hockey when I lived there.

Back to my daughter’s weekend. The Cornwall event is always a great event for her and her team, as the players get to know each other a little better and gel as a team.  We always stay at the NavCan conference facility (Transportation Canada training facility for air traffic controllers) which is a great venue complete with a pool, cafeteria, and gym, pub and social rooms galore.  Hopefully NavCan’s Corporate Event Planner warned Tara Smith that attendees to her Friday evening Scrapbooking function are going to be a little distracted by the noise level accompanied by 350 little girls as upwards of 20 girls’ hockey teams were staying there (poor Tara, hope she got a refund).   It’s also a great weekend for the parents’ to get to know each other too!

My daughter’s team did very well as they finished first in the round robin but lost in the semifinal.  It was a very close game and soon afterward, on the drive home, I found myself fantasizing about Emily scoring the winning goal or at least netting the tying goal.  Very feeble hockey parenting, I know.   She had had a couple of breakaways and my heart started to beat a little faster each time.  She deaks the first player – no sweat.  “Go, girl, go!” I scream in my head (okay, not in my head).   I hold my breath but then a second player overtakes her and knocks the puck out from under her stick. Poof!  There goes my fairytale ending, my Cinderella story.  With just one minute left in the game, we are down 2-1 so our coach pulls our goalie and puts the extra “man” out there.  An empty-netter seals the win for our opponents, who incidentally go on to win the Final (in double overtime, mind you) and take the trophy for the Atom division.  A new rivalry has emerged:  AH2 and AH5.  Look for the fierce rematch at the Nepean Girls Hockey Association in January.

I really have to laugh now about my little fantasy about my pint-size, would-be Paul Henderson.  Looking in the rear-view mirror, she is fast asleep recuperating from a weekend of fun, fast-food, and friendship with 15 other little girls.  I’m sure she was dreaming about the frolic in the pool, the movie nights and crafting sessions during party time and the raucous group restaurant meals.  I’m pretty sure she wasn’t worried about the foiled breakaway and the tying goal that wasn’t to be.  That was, after all, my fantasy, not hers – and I can barely skate.

26th Annual, indeed.

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Fundraising 101

Posted by Astra on November 10, 2009

hockey mom

Ok, Tony Robbins, help me out, I’m a lousy salesperson.  As every hockey parent knows, the fall season brings us all back to the hockey arena as well as the showground of Team Fundraising.  Three cheques x 3 kids totals an already considerable sum, yet this will only cover their ice schedule (practices and games), jersey use or rental, tournament entry fees, trainers and team equipment (first aid kids, pucks, pylons, etc).  Most team budgets cannot cover the cost of team activities, team meals during tournaments or any other semi-hockey-related-event without hitting the pavement, knocking on doors and rubbing elbows (have I missed any clichés?) in order to do some fundraising for the teams.

This seasonal event is not without anxiety as I have now lived in the same neighbourhood for 10 years, married to the same man for 18 years, and been part of the same family for 46 years:  my network of new suckers is not growing.

Each year, I have a number of options open to me.  In addition to volunteering 4 hours of my Saturday morning staffing a local bingo hall with 3 other hockey parents, I may also be asked to participate in neighbourhood bottle drives collecting someone else’s old beer and wine bottles.  Over the years, I have been asked to sell Christmas wreaths, cookie dough, gift cards, JrA hockey tickets or programs and numerous raffle tickets.  I will solicit participation in hockey pools and post practice Gatorade sales.  I may be asked to attend or organize parties and dances or purchase tickets to these events.  As many times as I’ve put out my requests, I’ve also received as many in return from the various fundraising events of my friends and their kids’ teams.  Nine years in hockey and I’ve probably doled out as much cash for other teams as I’ve raked in for ours! 

When I receive another incoming email about a team fundraiser, I have the best intentions of really doing a good job.  Truth is, I suck.   My kids are waaaaay better at selling.  Just to lay credit where it is due, they do often participate in the fundraising activities sponsored by their team –  as well they should since they are the ones who benefit directly from the effort!   Who can say no to a cute 9-year old with big blue eyes sporting a hockey jersey that goes down to her knees?  Not many, is the correct answer by the way

On that note, I have beautiful real evergreen Christmas wreaths for your festive door and loads of cookie and muffin batter for your freezer.  If you’re not busy next Saturday night, and up for a great night of euchre (and drinking) in rural Ottawa, let me know!

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Reliability is Job#1

Posted by Astra on October 29, 2009

hondaThere is a new Honda ad running on TV, shown mostly during HNIC but during other family time slots as well.  First pan lots of early morning hockey parents getting their kids out of bed to get to the hockey arena, zoom in on Zamboni operators preparing the ice, close-up of the canteen man making a pot of coffee, biting cold picturesque winter mornings, that’s the scenery.  The tag line?  Honda:  as reliable as the people who drive them.  The commercial is so very touching, I am ready to shed a tear.  Truth is, I’m pretty sure my kids, and Honda for that matter, might take my reliability for granted.  

Think about this:  with 3 kids in minor hockey, I am juggling the where-and-when-abouts of roughly 80 league games alongside a couple hundred practice times, dry land training sessions, developmental clinics, fundraising events and at least 12 tournaments (not to mention the pre-season tryouts too) over the course of seven months.  No wonder hockey parents are poor and crazy.  Statistically, there’s lots of room for error: at least once during the hockey season, I send my husband and player to the wrong arena.  “Hey I’m here at KRC and I can’t find any of the team.”  Oops. Check the calendar:  “Ummm, maybe that’s because you’re supposed to be at GRC, honey.”  Occasionally I am tripped up by the team and arena names:  I almost took my daughter to OttawaU1 last weekend but in fact her opponent was Ottawa1 but the arena was not OttawaU1.  Who can blame me for that mix up?   Most arenas in the Ottawa area are now known to me (or at least my GPS) but not without learning the hard way that Earl Armstrong arena is not on Earl Armstrong Road, Leitrim arena also goes by the name Fred Barrett arena and there’s a Sportsplex and a Sensplex.  My list of probable mix-ups can go on forever.   I would love to automatically download each of my three online hockey team calendars right into my Outlook calendar.  Hey, is there an ap for that??!!

Finally, don’t be fooled by the charming imagery of the canteen man making his early morning first pot of coffee either. There ain’t no Starbucks in hockeyville and I never witnessed a canteen open for business at any of the 6am practices I’ve dragged myself and my superstar out of bed for. 

Nevertheless, despite our shortcomings and occasional screw-ups and the fact that not all of us own a Honda, hockey parents do manage to get their kids to games and practices whether tired, sick, hungry, or yes, occasionally hung over. For that, we can be applauded. 

Score another one for the ad world.

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Hearty Minestrone

Posted by Astra on October 21, 2009

heart minestroneHere is another delicious, nutritious slow-cooker soup to complement the busy mom’s recipe book!




1 T       olive oil
1          lg onion, chopped
3          cloves garlic, minced
2          bay leaves
½ t      salt and pepper
1          can tomato paste – 5.5 oz/156ml
1           smoked ham hock (1lb/500g)
1          piece Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
8 c       water
1          large potato, peeled and cubed
1          sweet red pepper, diced
1          small zucchini, sliced or chopped
1 c       dried pasta
1 c       each rinsed and drained canned red and white kidney beans

Cook pasta before adding otherwise it will be too mushy.
Fry onion, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper and scrape into slow cooker.
Stir in tomato paste, ham hock, parmesan rind, potato, red and white beans and water.
Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until ham can be easily pulled off the bone.
Discard bay leaves, parmesan rind and ham bone.
Increase heat to high and stir in red pepper, zucchini for 20 more minutes.
Add cooked pasta.


From Canadian Living’s Comfort Cooking, Winter 2007

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Speak Out!

Posted by Astra on October 19, 2009

hockey canada

With nothing better to do on Friday evening, I participated in Hockey Canada’s Speak Out! clinic, a 4-hour workshop aimed at promoting positive hockey experiences.  Any volunteer who has any contact with minor hockey players (coaches, trainers, managers, den moms, other volunteers, etc) must take this workshop.  I had some misgivings about having to take this workshop, giving 4 hours of my Friday evening, but in the end found it extremely worthwhile.  Seriously, I had nothing better to do on a Friday evening.

Over ten years ago, Hockey Canada developed the Speak Out! program, in response to the Sheldon Kennedy sexual abuse scandal.  The program aims to educate and prevent bullying, harassment and abuse in hockey programs all across Canada.  While we all know that bullying, harassment and abuse is not exclusive to hockey, Hockey Canada is credited for developing and delivering the most comprehensive training, education and awareness programs in sports today.

I’m an ordinary hockey volunteer – why did I have to go?

The first statistic proved revealing:  Too many kids will not disclose abuse at all, but 96% of youth who have been bullied, harassed or abused will disclose this information to two people:  either their teacher or their sports coach.  When you think that 578,000 kids play minor hockey in Canada this year, it’s essential that all the volunteers have a good understanding of identifying and responding to bullying, harassment and abuse.

I have an immediate flashback to a couple of weeks ago when, during a mandatory association Team Managers meeting I attended, one team manager of Midget-aged girls (15 and 16-year olds) expressed concern that she could not find a single parent volunteer for the role of Den Mom (this girls’ association’s rule that there always have to be two adult females in the dressing room whenever players are present – the Two Deep rule).  Evidently girls can be loud, rude and disrespectful to grown-ups at this age and the moms want no part of it.  The President went on to explain that the Den Moms play the most significant role at that age in preventing bullying, inappropriate photo taking (and potentially transmitted via texting) and drug abuse.  After consoling and reassuring the Team Managers of Novice  aged girls (7 and 8-year olds), he went on to suggest that a meeting take place between parents and players – as games could be forfeited and teams folded if this rule could not be adhered.


Back to the workshop.  Most of the discussion was common sense but common sense often gets distorted in a competitive environment and close knit social group where lots of individuals are put in a position of power of another.  After teaching us about the differences between bullying, harassment and abuse we went through hundreds of examples of how this behaviour can manifest itself in a team sport environment.  The videos were extremely sensitive, occasionally distressing and one was entirely disturbing. 

I came away with a new found respect for the role coaches play in minor sports (in fact for all sports volunteers) and a renewed awareness for the dangers in this type of environment.  Having exchanged a Friday evening for it, I am now a proud, card-carrying certified Speak Out! participant.  Kudos, Hockey Canada.

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from author aig63

Posted by shotfromthepoint on December 3, 2010

Please know that there is more to read at

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