Towards the end of the season last year, a parent on Danny’s Pee Wee team (ages 11 and 12) sent me this photo of Danny. It was taken during a game at our home rink and the first thing I noticed was how clear the picture was – most of the photos I have taken in a hockey rink are shadowy and out of focus.
Hockey rinks do not lend themselves to good photographs due to their poor lighting, marked up glass, protective netting, and cave-like confines. It might also just be that I am a lousy photographer. However, after noticing the clarity of this action shot I began to notice some other things about the picture – things that may not be so obvious or significant to anyone else but that are, I think, part of a greater story and that have significant meaning to me:
The Skate Laces From learn to skate clinic on up through his years as a Squirt (ages 9 and 10), I always tied Danny’s skates for him. In fact, as a coach I probably tied 4 or 5 players’ laces at every practice or game. I always enjoyed this act. It’s an intimate moment, when you stoop down, eye to eye with the player with their skate wedged between your knees. You have their undivided attention and it’s a chance to talk to them one-on-one about all things hockey or about the bologna sandwich they had for lunch. But at the beginning of last season Danny’s new coach instituted a ‘tie your own laces’ policy – and rightfully so. You have got to cut the cord (or the lace as it were) at some point.
But Danny has a tendency to assume he can’t do something before he even tries it. He stressed about tying his own skates as the first week of practice approached, and he practiced in the living room while watching television and was frustrated at how long the laces were and how loose they were after he tied them. Of course he figured it out. This picture was taken seven months later and he ties his own skates without a second thought. Look at his right skate’s laces, pulled tight and looped, just barely skimming the surface of the ice. Looks like Danny and tying his own laces are a good fit to me. This picture makes me think about how I miss tying little Danny’s skates, but also how I relish his independence and growth.
The Tape Job Now here’s another thing he doesn’t need me for. Taping the blade of a hockey stick is an art form. You do not casually wrap up the blade, as if it were just a package you were sending in the mail to your sister in R.I. A tape job on a hockey stick requires concentration, care, and precision - so much so that I wrap the blade and stick my tongue out of my mouth at the same time – most hockey players do the same. Watch them, you’ll see.
People get creative with their tape jobs now-a-days: Irish kids use orange, green and white tape; I’ve made red and white candy cane stripes for Danny at Christmas time, and have embedded his jersey number into the front and back of the blade with multi colored tape. The picture above happened to capture the first time that Danny peeled off my tape job in the locker room and taped his own blade, complete with Chelmsford maroon and black colors in his own unique design. Danny has always been so proud of his team and of his town. It’s part of who he is and what he will become.
I’m still the one who primarily tapes his stick, only because I like to do it and because the coach hasn’t made a rule saying I can’t. But Danny is capable and the moment he first did it is captured on film…or whatever sorcery is used to make digital photos.
The Nameplate When I was a kid I never had a shirt with my last name plastered across the back, in any sport (but I played at a time when it was acceptable for my little league baseball team to be called The Apaches). Having your name on the back is a cool thing, and I think all kids should have a nameplate – no matter what activity or sport they play (nameplates for the chess club and swim team might just catch on). Each kid deserves to be recognized – whether they fail or succeed – for trying and for doing the best that they can do. When I hear a parent yell out Danny’s name after he makes a play, I love it. When he coughs up the puck on a weak backhand pass I cringe and wonder what he was thinking. Either way, that’s my son…and the nameplate in this picture proves it.
The Follow-through The final thing I noticed about this picture is Danny’s follow-through on his shot. All the weight of his body has been transferred through his stick and on to his front foot, and his head is looking up at the net – that’s textbook form and what we have spent years telling the kids to do in practice. Danny usually patrols the right point position for his team and as a defenseman he is a natural. He sees the ice better from there and makes good decisions in both zones, but one of the things he needs to improve and work on is his shot. Sure, getting a good hard shot off requires strength that his wiry body may not yet have, but it also requires nearly flawless technique and total commitment by the player– you can’t second guess yourself or suffer from lack of confidence as you wind up or set the wrists to snap one off. Like all things, if you think only about failing you most likely will. But here in this photo Danny committed his body and his mind to doing it right.
The 2010/2011 youth hockey season is underway. Danny is another year older and his practice and game times are getting later; the emphasis on having fun is still very much there but it's shifting to pressure to play better, and it shifts more that way each year. Enjoy your mite or your squirt aged hockey player, Boy Scout, Girl Scout, or trombone player. Let them do what they love and cherish all the innocence that comes with the age...and take lots of pictures.