Part one of a two-part series
My son, Patrick, discovered ice hockey when he was in high school. Inspired by a teacher at school, he decided that he wanted to be the team manager.
This was hard for me. I had always detested the perception of “water boy.” I was Ms. Cynical. I thought “how humiliating, how degrading.”
He was warned about cursing and the odorous nature of the game.
But Patrick lost his sense of smell as a child, and cursing was part of his adolescent social world — to prepare him and limit his hyper vigilance, I gave him curse words for his birthday.
At his interview with the coach, despite all reminding and discouraging, Patrick’s coach told me they that had an intense, lengthy dialogue about strategy, specifically about the Double D from the movie “The Mighty Ducks.”
The coach laughed and said, “We’re good to go.”
Upon meeting the team, another coach reminded the students that “Patrick’s one of us now. He’s a brother. And if anyone gives him crap, we’ve got his back. Here on the ice, at school or anywhere else.”
Those words changed my son’s life forever. Within days, he walked differently.
From his team, he learned “guy” stuff he couldn’t learn from his female special education teachers. His “hockey brothers” taught him about being part of a team, teasing, girls, dating and real cursing.
He got the “F” word for his 21st birthday.
He never missed another school dance because his brothers were there to “hangout” with him (along with a pack of pretty hockey girlfriends).
If that’s not good enough, the team won the championship his first year.
When Patrick hoisted the championship cup over his head, the crowd roared his name.
Still, Ms. Cynical sat for hours on popsicley bleachers in an unflattering hockey jersey wearing plastic cougar earrings until they wore out. Yet, I sobbed senior night when he grabbed my hand and held it high.
Ms. Cynical died a cold but happy death that night.
A DVD reflecting Patrick’s high school career revisited hockey victory speeches. Coaches talked about what Patrick had given them and his friends talked about the kind of friend Patrick was to them. The DVD is evidence of “for real” genuine love and relationships only a bunch of smelly, cursing, and yet, so honorable young men and coaches could offer.
Now a student at Marshall University in Huntington, W.V., the concepts of team, sacrifice and resilience still hold true for Patrick.
In 1970, the entire Marshall University football team, coaches, flight crew, numerous fans and supporters died tragically in a plane crash, during a rainstorm.
The movie, “We are Marshall” identifies some of the surviving coaches, and Patrick recognized one of them on campus. Patrick introduced himself to the coach, got a picture and invited coach to his birthday party.
Now he tailgates on the 50-yard line with one of the most iconic people in the history of Marshall Football.