A letter to “that kid” from Just a Hockey Mom

A fellow hockey mom friend of mine shared an experience she recently had during a summer camp. She took her son up to a prestigious prep school in the USA that is known for producing NHL players and other hockey heavy-hitters. It was a great experience over all, but there was a stain on that week. She asked me if she would be able to send me a letter that she wrote to another kid at the camp. Now, she didn’t actually SEND the letter to this kid, but I know from experience, that just writing about issues that bother me is quite a cathartic experience.

Reading this letter, made me think of many times when I was her. I think we all need to read this. Whether you are a parent of this kid to whom she is writing or a parent similar to her, we all need to read it. So without further adieu, please read the words of Just a Hockey Mom:

To the Young Man from New York on My Son’s Hockey Team at Camp:

You are 14 years old and you are extremely talented. You have fast feet, great hands, you are strong on the puck, skate like the wind and are physically a beast. It is so clear that you love the game. Congratulations on finding your thing. I love seeing kids find their passion.

Hockey is also my son’s thing. He is 13 years old, a rule follower and he is a tall skinny kid. He is not as good as you. It is obvious you play AAA. He plays single A. His growth spurts have wreaked havoc on his stride, He is not confident with the puck, and when he is told a game is “No check”, he won’t even bump.

He has throughout the years, had trouble figuring out his body because he gets a new one every 5 or 6 months. Like all big kids, he garners a lot of penalties because sometimes when he bumps people, it looks like an adult picking on a toddler. He is not as good as you though, and he may never be. And that is ok, because he loves hockey. It’s his passion too.

My husband brought hockey into my life. I didn’t know much about the sport until we started dating. When I agreed we should put our son (and daughter, for a little while) in hockey, I had NO IDEA what I was getting into. And I wouldn’t change a thing. It is a sport whose culture is different from other sports in a lot of ways. The hockey values toughness. It values humility. It values hard work and tenacity. It values role players and defense. It values team play. And yes, it values talent.

Congratulations! You very definitely have the talent part, in spades!

It’s too bad you dismissed my son at camp because he’s not as skilled as you are. Instead of yelling at him, as your defensive partner, for not cleaning up the mess you made when you went on a defensive rush nearly every time you touched the puck, you would have seen him trying to figure out how to best cover 3 guys by himself when you lost the puck. He could have taught you team play.

It’s too bad you blew him off when he tried to congratulate you when you went on yet another defensive rush with 20 seconds to go in a game when your team was already winning 10 to 0, so you could get that goal that eluded you in the first two games. If you had paid attention, you would have seen him talking to the other team’s goalie at the end, telling him not to be too hard on himself, some games are just like that. He could have taught you humility.

It’s also too bad that on the occasions that you listened to the coach and were home to play D, kids just walked right past you, even with your speed, that you didn’t value my son’s efforts with his awkward stride, to stop the guy you just let past you. He could have taught you hard work and tenacity.

I have seen your team play 3 games this week. My son has zero points. If you had shown some tenacity and hard work, your team wouldn’t have lost the first two games because you were always out of position or not putting in any defensive effort at all. In 3 games, had you shown some team play in passing and communication, you could have had EASILY 6-8 points with assists. Do you know how many points you had? You had 1 point, on that last defensive rush that finally worked with 20 seconds left, so you could put your team up 11-0, just to drive home the humiliation for the other team and their goalie.

Listen, I get it. You are young, and competitive. You still have time to figure it out. I am sure your skill will give you wonderful opportunities to learn and grow. Chances are you will run into players with more talent than you. I hope you learn the lessons that you missed this week, because those are the traits that hockey values that will make you a better person. You treated my son and many others badly. Please don’t think you are the first to treat my son this way, you are just the latest. My son is fine. He is a good kid, with a good heart, and he still loves hockey.

You probably won’t remember the kids from hockey camp this week, and that’s ok. They already have the lessons that you are missing well learned. My hope for you is that the players you run into that are better than you treat you better than you treated my son, some of his teammates, and your opponents. I truly hope these more talented players don’t rub away some of your love for the game. But that is not how karma works, is it?

Congratulations on your talent though. I am sure it will take you far.


Just a Hockey Mom

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