For many years I have worked with kids for a living, however I have no idea what it will feel like when it’s my son I am coaching. Instead, I draw on the experiences and memories of my own father, and how he treated me as a son (at home), as a player (at rink), and as a student (at school). Yes, we did spend a fair bit of time together growing up, and for that I am truly grateful. In honour, of all the fathers out there that lend a hand, coach a team, or take time to teach their sons anything at all, here are two reasons I want to be like my Dad.
#1: He left a legacy in Carman, Manitoba.
Growing up in Carman, most kids played sports. I was lucky that my parents were very involved, and their friends had kids my age. We could have fielded a hockey or baseball team using just my parents’ friends’ kids. In the early 80’s when I was in elementary school, my Dad and a few friends knew that if we had better ball diamonds out behind the rink, that we could grow and improve our minor baseball association. Rather than complaining that the town wouldn’t do it, about six fathers (led in part by mine), plowed the field, planted the grass, raised the home run fence (using a snow fence), and built the backstops. They watered, mowed, coached, umpired, hit fly balls, and 10 years later he coached me in the Western Canadians Championships as pure underdogs against big teams from Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. Those teams were worried about where their massage tables were. We were just happy to have fields on which to play.
#2: He traveled halfway across the world to watch me play.
In 1996 I was playing Junior A hockey in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) for the Victoria Salsa. My mother was teaching high school in Carman, Manitoba, my brother was playing college hockey at Union College in New York, and my father was coaching EV Zug of the Swiss National A League alongside current Swiss national team head coach Sean Simpson. Needless to say we were a little spread out around the world. The Swiss National A League was on its ‘national break,’ and we were on a Lower Mainland Swing (Friday in Langley, Saturday in Chilliwack and Sunday in Surrey). My father flew from Switzerland and arrived Friday morning to watch 3 games in 2 and half days. Although nearly every single player on that Victoria team went on to play college or pro hockey, that year we were near the bottom of the standings. The low point of that weekend was allowing Scott Gomez (now of the San Jose Sharks) and Shane Kuss to rack up 7 points in a 14-1 thrashing. The team got back on the bus after the game, tired and humiliated. To add insult to injury the bus broke down on the highway until the wee hours of the morning. Coach Gary Davidson, who played with my father at Brandon University, let me stay in Vancouver for a night rather than head back with the team. While, the boys sat on the side of the road unbeknownst to us, Bob and I enjoyed his last night on the continent bouncing to the Tragically Hip Concert at the Pacific Coliseum! We talked about the game a bit, but as a coach he knew when to let it go. I remember that weekend like it was a month ago.
Time spent with my family, in some pretty interesting places around the world, has shaped me as a young man. My parents have influenced the way I see the world, the way I trained as a player, and the way I try to treat kids as a coach. They have given me perspective, compassion, and I have recently realized they have prepared me for fatherhood. I feel very fortunate to do what I do for a living, what my father did for free, hundreds of hours a month, my entire youth. I get to spend time with kids and if I’m lucky, make an ever-lasting difference in their lives. Mom and Dad, thank you.