The end of our daughter’s hockey season will mark the end of much more than a game she’s played.
Hockey forged her into a strong, confident, dependable, resilient hard worker who knows what it means to stand for something bigger than herself.
We both have her dad to thank for that.
We were not sure she was actually ever going to try hockey. She seemed to want nothing to do with it. Her dad had been coaching her entire life, forcing her attendance at hockey games for people she really didn’t know, playing a game she really didn’t understand. For the longest time, she would make the most of our family support of her dad by dressing up in frilly dresses and plastic heels while she carried with her what became named the hockey purse; a pink, sparkly purse she had at every game.
It’s sometimes what happens between fathers and daughters though, isn’t it? Girls wonder what might endear her to the man who looms large in her house, and she tries different things to see what might connect her to him. Our daughter ultimately determined that her dad had a love affair with hockey that she wanted to understand, that she wanted to share with him. She watched how important those big guys in the big pads were to the man she adored, and she wanted in…literally.
By the time she strapped on the goalie pads for her turn in the rotation during her first season playing hockey, she had watched and studied so much of the ways goalies move, that she naturally slid, pushed and took on a butterfly stance that none of the other girls had even tried. She found success and encouragement practically from the moment she stepped into that crease.
“It’ll never stick,” I would quip. I was sure the truest version of our middle daughter was most comfortable in pink sparkles. If you have a middle daughter like we do, you know she can be unpredictable and oh. so. stubborn.
That stubbornness, in the form of internal grit and fortitude, likely made her a good goalie. That and the special bond she built with her dad.
Goalie pads are heavy. Goalie bags are heavy. Skating is hard and carrying all of what you wear as you move is hard. She wanted to prove to her dad and to the world that she could do hard things. And she can.
Being a goalie and being her father’s daughter taught her how to stand up.
She learned to stand up when she fell down which, as every hockey player knows, you do a lot. She learned to stand up in pads on thin blades and hold a two-minute squat while pucks were shot at her. She learned to stand up and go toward someone barreling down on her at full speed. She learned to stand up at the top of the crease to make her 5’2″ self as big as possible. And she learned to stand up and get reset when her role as the last line of defense failed and the other team scored.
Her dad stood by her through all of it. He stood by her through the emotional and challenging journey that is her hockey story and he supported her in all the ways the game worked at growing her. But he has done more than stand by and encourage her, he has taught her how to stand on her own.
Because he chose to coach her, to stand on the ice a couple days a week for four years and to gently cheer her on through the ups and downs, she had access to all the best parts of him. They molded and shaped one another because of the times they stood together, looking at film, dissecting shots, consoling hurt feelings and loving a game and position that they intimately share.
I’ve abandoned predicting where this kid will go with all she has observed and acquired because of this game, but I do know a few things. She has a special bond with her dad that will carry her anywhere she wants to go, she can do hard things, and she has strength to stand up in all sorts of circumstances both on and off the ice.
I could not ask for more as I’ve stood on the sideline, watching in awe and making notes of appreciation for the man and the game that grew her.
Meagan Frank copyright 2020