Just a little story as I start to fade from local hockey view. My son Tyler (Helmus) had his Senior night at the high school last night. He’s a good kid and I’m proud of his hockey accomplishments. I’m a bit sad that its coming to an end. I’ve always loved watching my kids play and because he’s my youngest, it’s a little tougher letting it go. But we all move on, and I know his Northwestern IceHawk wings will take him places that I can only imagine.
But I’m not talking hockey here. I’m talking lessons learned. When he was seven I was told by someone that if a kid didn’t have hockey sense, he would never have it. Tyler most certainly did not know the game at seven and neither did I. As a non-playing parent I couldn’t help him much, I didn’t know how. 10 years later, his hockey sense and mine are pretty good. Lesson learned, don’t let anyone define your limitations. When he was trying out for Peewees in the spring he did not make the A team and most of the kids he was playing with that year did. We did not complain to Northwestern. We did not go shopping for a program that would recognize his talent and potential. We had a chat about what he wanted. He said he wanted to play with the kids he was used to playing with. We talked some more and came up with a plan. He’d take lessons in Danbury over the summer and attend clinics. Not as a guarantee of anything just as a way to prepare the best he could to be considered for the few spots left on the roster every fall. He made that team. Lesson learned, if you want something go after it. Not as a guaranteed outcome but as a lesson to prepare and be ready for your opportunity.
When he joined the high school team as a sophomore he maybe got 2 or 3 shifts all season. He didn’t whine, he didn’t complain. His mom worried. I said be patient, it’s a process. He played both Spring and Midget Hockey for Northwestern. As a junior, he got more shifts. He got a lot more shifts actually. At the end of the season he received the most improved player award. He didn’t celebrate. Frankly he was embarrassed by the attention. His Mom and I were proud. What did he do next? He continued to play Spring and Midgets for Northwestern. He kept at it. Because he’s a quiet and deep water thinker, I don’t know if he’s doing it for me or for him. I hope it’s for him, but in either case I love watching him play.
As a senior he’s still quiet. I see him out there on every shift, full effort, full attention; sacrificing his body sometimes for the team to hang in, and simply make the play. Not without failure mind you, its hockey. As a defenseman he knows all too well the agony of not getting a good handle on the puck in a risky situation and scoring on your own team. Still he grinds. 5am’s, AP classes, homework and essays. Just keep at it. He gets lots of shifts now. Sometimes shifts that are not the desired hockey length. Could be 3 to 4 minutes because it’s a small team. He’s on the PK always and more often than not on the PP as well. He’s got 2 games left and he’s never scored a goal. If he does, I know I’ll celebrate like a crazy man. That goal, if it does come will be sweet. But the goals I have for him as a parent; To be a good person, one who gives their best effort, who stays in the play even when he knows a hit is coming, who perseveres, who grinds. He’s already scored those goals.
His life will be sweeter because of what he’s learned. My life has been enriched watching him grow up. Yeah I’m gonna miss it. I’ll celebrate quietly, probably shed a tear or two that last game. I love him, and I love to watch him play.