Princeton Minor Hockey is enjoying a lot of success this year – and it’s always fun to get pictures of our local players sweaty and smiling after a game. Some wear black helmets. Some wear pink.
Those photos reflect the very best of what minor sports in general and minor hockey in particular contribute to families and the communities where they live. They speak of physical excellence and health, friendship, sportspersonship and good clean fun.
For sure there is a well-publicized malignant underbelly to kids sports, the dysfunctional and driven Moms and Dads, the cutthroat machinations to secure more ice time and maximum advancement. That’s to say nothing of the out-of-control costs of playing at the highest level, and the politics of association management and coaching decisions.
Back to the bright side – there’s those tournaments.
For a hockey family of a certain income tournaments fulfill a wide scope of needs that in other households are generally met by theatre tickets, all-inclusive trips to sunny beaches and intimate dinner parties with friends.
A hockey tournament satisfies the need for recreation, travel, entertainment and socialization. And that’s just for the parents.
Case in point – the DeMeer family has participated in dozens of hockey tournaments over the years. There are very few lasting on-ice memories attached to those experiences but a whole emotional scrapbook of hilarity around hotel pools, mini-sticks in the hallways and questionable behavior in team party rooms.
Skipping over the more salacious misbehaving – what happens at the hockey tournament stays at the hockey tournament – one of the most unforgettable weekends for the DeMeers occurred when the star goalie was eight and we were playing in Buffalo, New York.
We’d only just checked in on Friday afternoon. All doors on the floor were cracked open slightly to allow for unrestrictive movement of players, moms, dads, and (of course) alcohol.
The windows had a fine view of the parking lot. Suddenly the room was thrown into commotion and panic. GUNS – MEN WITH GUNS – HIT THE FLOOR. Bodies dropped all around. Peering over the sill, with hand planted firmly on the back of the goalie’s head so as to grind his face in the carpet, there they were. Five people dressed in fatigues carrying assault rifles and walking along a railroad track at the back of the hotel property.
After commando crawling to the phone by the bed – still holding onto the goalie’s hair and giving him a brutal case of rug rash in the process– I dialed zero and was connected with the hotel operator.
GUNS – MEN WITH GUNS – EVERYONE IS ON THE FLOOR.
It can’t have been the first time the operator there ever received such a call, because she responded with the same kind of disinterested tone she might have used to respond to a complaint about unclean sheets.
“Where are these men, ma’am?”
GASP. SWALLOW. THEY’RE ON THE RAILROAD TRACKS, BEHIND THE HOTEL.
“Sorry ma’am. That’s not hotel property.”
ARE YOU CRAZY? WHO CARES? DO SOMETHING. CALL THE POLICE!”
“Well ma’am. I could send our security guard out to have a look.”
Had to wonder how much hotel security guards earn in Buffalo New York, all the while entertaining images of Barney Fife pulling up to take on Rambo.
One of the braver and thirstier dads from the team risked getting up and walking past the window to open another beer.
The security guard arrived in due course and was met by three police cruisers. Apparently guests on several floors had reported the men with guns (obviously there were a lot of Canadians there that weekend) and we all watched with interest as officers disarmed a cell of paintball gunners who were engaged in some kind of tournament of their own.
How were we to know?
Recreation, travel, entertainment, socialization and a little bit of fear for your life – that’s minor hockey to be sure.