Last night at 9:30, the phone rang. Nic picked it up and, after a short conversation, he took it to his dad, whispering, “It’s someone calling from the Double C’s.”
Guy took the call and the details, but and as he talked to them, I got that tingle of nervous excitement. Finally, after six years of playing hockey, my kid was being called to try out for the double letters.
The first season we lived here, I was a little disappointed that Nic hadn’t been chosen for a higher calibre team than what he was. Guy wasn’t. He said the calibre here in Canada, and perhaps more so in Quebec, was so much higher than what we’d had when we were in St. Louis. Of course, I can’t agree. I see hockey the way I do, perhaps through ice-frosted glasses, where my kid is a good player, making good decisions and leading the team,
Then last year, things changed. Nic wanted to try being a goalie, but as a 12-year-old with no prior goaltender experience, he was chosen last – for a single-letter, ‘B’ team, and there was already a goalie – a good goalie – to start the Pee-Wee team. So Nic played every second game as goalie, but it became quickly evident that our team needed help, so Nic played defenceman for those games where he wasn’t in goal.
Then he started getting calls to come in as a replacement for the Pee-Wee A’s and the Bantam B’s – and whenever he played with the Bantam B’s, which included a handful of players he’d played with in his first year as a Pee-Wee, he seemed to play out of his skin. Confident. Wiley with the puck. Agressive. They’d put him at his old position, right wing, or sometimes center, and when he played, they didn’t lose.
After Christmas, he was told he needed to make a decision about playing either goaltender or defenseman: he couldn’t continue doing both. He chose defenseman and he was put on the substitute roster for the Pee-Wee A team, freezing him out of the reach of the older Bantam B’s.
The call didn’t allow for much time. In fact, as Nic scrambled through his hockey equipment to make sure he had everything – and everything fit, I looked at the schedule that Guy had written down and it was clear that if he didn’t have what he needed, it would be a scramble to make it to the first practice on time, just over 12 hours later. But everything fit, everything was packed, and Nic was ready.
Walking into that rink, Le Foyer, where there’s a display paying tribute to local hero and AHL star Robin Bouchard, I could smell the underlaying smell of the hockey stink that clings to rinks, mixed with the humidity and the cold. My bare legs were shocked as I sat down on one of the plastic seats, and then, as the boys came out onto the ice, I felt my heart beating faster. When the drills began and Nic was doing his, I felt my leg muscles tense up as he skated around the obstacles that had been set up on the ice. Guy, sitting next to me, asked me how my workout was going so far.
I told him it was pretty good so far, but I’d probably need to do some stretching before my game this afternoon!
There were 12 players and 3 goalies for the drills. The boys who had been on a double “C” team last year had more colours in their jerseys than the boys who had been invited. There were coaches on the ice to run the drills, and high above, in the press box, were the evaluators, watching, noting down their notes, as they do, season after season, as the coaches put the boys through the paces on the ice below.
After the practice, we came home for spaghetti, and Nic is now having a nap, resting up for a 4:00 pm game. There will be another game tomorrow afternoon, and the cut will be announced tomorrow night – on Facebook.
It’s going to be a very busy weekend.