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Chandra's Blog


Entries in ice hockey (7)


Monday Musing -- Dressing a Goalie

Last night was my last time lacing up the goalie pads for another hockey season. I started dressing a goalie twelve years ago, when my aunt and uncle went to Africa and I was responsible for their kids. Little Graham, the baby I rocked to many a Billy Joel song, was in goal for the first time that year. I had no idea what I was doing, so Graham's big brother had to come along and help me out. Who knew that yesterday, we would make a sign and stand out on the road, me and all the kids, and welcome Graham and his returning champion college hockey team back in town with police escort and parade? 



A town welcomes home the hockey heroes

Bryn Athyn College wins the championshipThat cute goalie with the black baseball cap, number 42? That's Graham, all grown up. 


My boys love to watch their big cousin play, in part because they can sympathise with the pressure on the man between the pipes. 

They have told me about the moment of the dreaded breakaway, when it is a one on one match, and the other team's player is skating right at the net, and they are the last line of defense. They describe the look in the eyes of their teammates giving chase, watching, trusting them, to make the save. They say they can see it before the shot even happens, that they know whether or not they will come through. 



Mites on Ice--Hayden at the Flyers, 2009It's nerve wracking for the boys, but not nearly as hard as it is to be the goalie's mom. Every weekend morning means an alarm
 hours before the sun to drive to a rink an hour away where the puck drops at seven a.m. There is much lugging of gear. I have never forgotten the first time when Hayden was a Mite goalie. I remembered to pack the gear bag, the helmet and the bulky leg pads. I remembered snacks and water bottles, coloring books and layers of clothes for the little brother and sister. I remembered directions to the rink forty minutes away and the GPS. And I forgot... the goalie stick. 

Then there is the dressing of the goalie, which I can assure you is ALWAYS better if Dad, or even just another dad, does it. First the cheetah print protective cup under hockey pants, then the loosening and relacing of skates, often still sweat-wet from the last game. Then the pads, with the intricate weaving of the toe ties, and the seven straps and clips each up the back, during which it is nearly impossible to keep wiggly Max lying flat on his stomach on the locker room floor.

Next, he's up for the chest protector and jersey, the blocker and glove, and the helmet. I always estimate it should take me about ten minutes to dress Max, and I am always wrong. I forget to factor in for the posturing and trash talk, the tape ball throwing and the flexing, the, "Hit me as hard as you can, right here! Kick me in the shins! Harder! I didn't even feel that!" 

And then comes the game.

You want them to see shots, so you didn't drag them out of their warm bed and drive all this way and haul all this stuff and dress them for a blowout where they fall asleep in net, elbows resting on their thighs. But you also don't want your boy to get completely shelled. You want their defense not to leave them standing there alone like they're waiting for a date to the dance on a sniper breakaway. You want their offense to light up the scoreboard, but not too much, so you don't start feeling bad for the other team's goalie, and his mom. She's not hard to spot in the sea of moms clutching Dunkin Donuts coffee cups and wrapped in Flyers print fleece blankets grabbed off the foot of her son's bed on the way to the game--she's the one calling out, "Hang in there, buddy!" so earnestly after every one of your team's goals. 

Hayden as goalie Mite of the Night with a kicksaveWith Hayden, I didn't worry as much. He had the perfect personality to play in goal. His sense of self is rock solid, and he never takes anything home with him. He didn't care when the announcers at the Wachovia Center made a crack about his size, that he didn't even reach the top of the pipes standing upright on skates. He could lose or win, eat some donuts on the car ride home, and move on to the next game.


I'll admit there was some relief for me though when he played out for a season and got a taste of goal-scoring fever. He hasn't put on the pads since.

(Huge thanks to Robin Trautmann for capturing this great photo of Hayden's first hat trick this past weekend.)

Hayden's first hat trick!


My respite as a goalie mom was short-lived; half a season. Last year, Max decided he wanted to follow in his brother's path between the pipes. I worried. If Hayden's sense of self is titanium, Max's is more tin foil, prone to creasing and wavering in the lightest breeze. 

But maybe hockey is changing all of that. I have seen Max flash the leather for a sweet glove save, and then spike the puck to the ice. I have seen him moonwalk gleefully in a little backwards celebratory circle in the crease after a kicksave. I have seen him dance during the intermissions, and I've seen him smiling at the bottom of the puppy pile at the end of a great game. 


Max's goal tending debut, 2011Last night, I laced up the goalie pads for the last time this season. Max was playing up a division for the Squirt team and they had a great offensive game. He had his first shut-out, 11-0, and a sweet little glove save where I thought he might break into a juggling routine. He looked right at me as he tossed the puck to the ref and his expression said, "Did you see that?"

Max came off the ice ruddy cheeked and beaming. In the car ride on the way home, I could feel the joy radiating off him. He was singing along to Swedish House Mafia, a little smile on the corners of his lips.


For this, I will drive to New Jersey in the icy dark. I will down gross coffee and dry donuts. I will lace skates and pads with numb fingers. I will watch endless games with a tiny pit of anxiety, and cheer him on after saves or shots made, because last night, when we were sitting at a red light, he said softly, "Now I know what it is like to feel important." 



* *** * 

the Mighty Max




Pond Hockey

I live about a hundred yards from the house where my family moved when I was three. At the center of the property is a large, spring-fed pond that nearly a hundred years ago was dammed to soak the timber for the Cathedral. For many years after, this pond was the town's winter skating rink. 

However, the shift in climate and the constantly running water means that in all the time I have lived here, it has not been safe to skate on the pond. My grandfather, whose job it was as a boy to check the ice on his local skating pond outside Chicago, shut this pond down and built a safer, outdoor skating rink where we all currently enjoy our hockey season

Last weekend, J flew home from Utila. The temps had not gone above the teens for the past twelve days so after Max's early game he and Sampson set out with his drill to test the ice. My grandfather, now almost 93, drove by to see what he was up to and assured him that 4-6 inches was safe for backyard skating. What followed is one of the best winter days we have ever had. Friends and kids arrived at the house all day. Gear bags exploded on the grass. I tied a dozen skates at least a dozen times. Max braved his first day out of goalie pads. Hot chocolate and soup bubbled and flowed. The ice held, singing its unique pond hockey accoustic twangs. Sampson was in his puck-stealing, kid-chasing glory. Youth hockey boys got back from their early NJ game, and some left to head up to the home rink for their late games, and came back to play more. Little girls alternated between skating on the side rink and indoor Valentine creations. Baby Harper snoozed, and the big boys played hockey until J brought out the construction lights. As darkness fell, the parents shivered outside in shifts, sipping hot soup and cold beer. 

By Monday, it was raining, and yesterday, a warm wind from the south melted the last of the ice and whipped the water into waves.

It was a day we may never have again; one which we won't soon forget. 


J and Max prepare the icesweeping the snow 

 Mama Max and Pip play early morning Piper in "full gear" Max's first day out of the pads the big boys get back from NJ and join in

Teams are made and the games go into the night



hot cocoa on tap and endless chips and queso

Niece Quinn joins in!



J shovels a side rink so the girls are out of puck range

Sampson takes a break from playing defense


pond angel* *** * 



Guest Dog Blog--Anna Cole and Claude Giroux

This week's guest dog blog is a young German shepherd named after the Philadelphia Flyers hockey phenom Claude Giroux. His owner Anna Cole plays incredible defense and is a natural leader on the Blizzards womens hockey team with me. Sampson and young Claude have met once or twice at the local rink (with mixed results) when we cheer on our sons or our husbands are there to cut the ice. You can read Anna's post about a recent training lesson with Claude below, or follow along on her Life Coach website and blog.




Claude Giroux -Gets a Quick Lesson -Easy Puppy Training

This is our baby, Claude Giroux, he is quick, agile, smart and very loyal to his team.
We are his team and we want to train this guy.
Look at his face, he wants to work and please.
It's a spring-like day in mid-February and I take him for his morning walk, to practice heeling, him walking by my side on a leash and following my lead. He generally does well at the heel as long as there are no other dogs around.
I quietly pray today this will be the case.
The sun is shining, and the air is clear. Everything is going well, until we both realize there is another dog walking in front of us. Margo, a community acquaintance of mine, walks her puppy whom is so very obediently at her side.
Margo's puppy reminds me of Lady, from Lady and the Tramp, as she elegantly and obediently walks beside her owner.
Claude, on the other hand, begins pulling and lunging, as normal, wanting to approach the dog ahead of us.
We eventually catch up to the Lady like dog and her owner, and my embarrassment shines bright as I apologize for my lack of control over my thirteen month old shepherd who would love nothing more than to initiate a play date with this adorable female puppy.
I come up with a few excuses for Claude's lack of restraint, He isn't fixed yet, other dogs are a challenge for him...
Margo requests, "Can take him for a bit?" Surprised by her offer, I consent, and we trade leashes.
She proceeds to walk with Claude correcting him with quick jerks to his collar while simultaneous giving him immense amounts of praise and treats. She basically teaches me the ropes of what a walk with Claude can look like, and she seems to do it effortlessly.
AND Claude listens and responds to her methods.
She returns Claude and we decide to walk together.
Whenever Claude begins to lunge out of line anticipating a romp with a dog passing by I use Margo's teaching techniques and this makes for an enjoyable walk.
I am grateful to have met my town's own Cesar Millan.
[About+Anna+Photo.JPG]BIO: Anna Cole is a Certified Life Coach through premier coaching school Coaches Training Institute. She works with busy moms and professional moms to strengthen their relationships, let go of guilt, improve self confidence, and make time for themselves so they create lives and careers they love.


 You can find out more about Anna here on her website



Three years ago, as we played our final game of the fall field hockey season in freezing November rain, a few of the women on my team talked about getting ready for the next hockey season--ice hockey. They asked if I would play, and assured me that not knowing how to skate would not be a liability. 

"But... I can rollerblade," I offered hopefully, thinking of my mornings in grad school pushing the kids in a double jogger as I hack-hacked along the Santa Monica beach path in rental blades.

"You'll be fine!"

I mentioned it to J that night and he said that it might save our housebound sanity over the long Northeastern winters to take up hockey as a family. We live close enough to the town's outdoor rink that we can hear the horn between periods and the crash of players against boards on still winter nights.

So we did it. We suited up Hayden, then six, for a Mites team--so tiny as a goalie that when he played Mites on Ice between periods at a Flyers game, the announcer marveled that the goalie actually fit under the crossbar of the net. J, a natural athlete from Buffalo signed up to play Old Mens B-league hockey a few night's a week. I joined the embryonic, newly-formed womens team and we named ourselves the Blizzards (but only because 'Chix with Stix' was taken.)

My first night, J dressed me in borrowed, cobbled together equipment left over from a high school boy, cutting the heavy, old school wooden stick down to size on the basement saw. He used black electrical tape to wrap my gear and because I had no jersey, I put on an XL Cornell sweatshirt. I checked myself in the front hall mirror while butterflies fluttered in my stomach: I looked huge and armored, like a padded Transformer. Before putting on my gloves, I left my wedding ring on the windowsill with the instructions to pass it down to our infant daughter if I didn't come home. The truth: ice skating terrified me. The spring-fed pond next to our house growing up was the town's original rink and I still remember the day someone fell, and another accidentally skated across his eyes, and the four-year-old shock of opening our door to this startling Halloween-horror image as they carried him into the kitchen to call 911. I skated once or twice with my classmates growing up, clutching the edges of the rink and picturing the man bleeding from his eyes. 

The first night out with the Blizzards, I stepped through the rink door clutching my stick. Everything in my body tensed with the warning of "whoa, this is slippery! You could fall!" My toes inside the rusty borrowed skates curled and cramped my arches. I considered backing out--I was in my thirties! What was I thinking taking up a new sport?

"Okay," the coach called, tossing pucks out on to the ice, "grab a puck and skate around!" And one of the pucks skittered in front of me. Drawing on my rollerblade skills, I took a few shaky strides and tapped it with my stick. It sailed in front of me across the nightlit pearly ice. I chased it like a cat after a windblown leaf and batted at it again. Chased it. Tapped it. Tried a longer stride to get there more quickly and kept my stick on the ice like a third leg, leaning on it like a balancing tripod. Tap-chase. Winter wind breezed in through the cage in my helmet--it felt good to be outside in the dark, icy air. Tap-chase-wobble-whoa. I imagined at home there was the usual drama of bedtime going on, dinner dishes soaking in the sink, naked children dripping the suds from their bath down the hallway as J chased them with pajamas. Tap-chase-whack. I passed to myself off the boards. The other players who had come straight from field hockey wobbled by and we gave each other shaky smiles. 

We went straight to scrimmaging and I scrambled to keep up with the rules--there is no off-sides in field hockey, no play that happens behind the net, but offensive triangles were familiar and I could feel where I needed to be--it was just a matter of getting there. The play was so much faster than field hockey, with the added benefit of using the boards and your feet to your advantage. As my competitive juices surged, I found it easier to drop low and draw on skiing and rollerblading muscle memory to propel me to the puck or the position--I just couldn't stop. I used a skiier's snowplow, the wall and frequently, my teammates. An hour and fifteen breathless minutes passed in a moment, and I was startled to see the lights of the Zamboni, to skate on my exhausted, shaky, sewing-machine legs to the door, and crash into the wall to stop. 

In the locker room, the moms talked about whether or not their husbands would have the kids in bed, about how sore we were going to be in the morning, about how bad the locker rooms smelled, about how if women designed hockey equipment, we could surely come up with something more efficient and about how good it felt to get out of the house and sweat on a cold winter night. Already I could feel muscles that would hurt in the morning, not the least of which would be my abs from laughing at myself as I skidded around the ice like a baby giraffe. I was hooked. 


Three years later, I am so happy I decided to try something new. Ice hockey shapes our winter now. On any given week, with the five of us playing on various teams, we can have up to fifteen events. J coaches Hayden's Squirt team, Max is defining himself as the Mites goalie and even little Pip is dreaming of the day when she turns 5 and can play as an official Atom.

Piper on ice



On nights when there is no practice, we watch the Flyers with new interest--they are not just our hometown team, for our boys they are inspirations, they are models for positioning and play. 



Last year J built an ice rink in our backyard and we had early morning husband-wife skating sessions and neighborhood games where I brewed cauldrons of hot cocoa and the boys' teammates gathered for winter hockey as it is meant to be: outside, friendly, windy, ruddy-cheeked fun. 


I look forward to hockey season, to slipping into pants that make my ass look three times its normal size. I love getting out of the house on a starry winter night and exercising in the brisk air, getting better at skating, at stopping and passing and finding I am sometimes even where I am supposed to be, at the right place and the right time. 

Last night, my seven-year-old Mite goalie Max came out to play for the women's team Thursday night practice. On the short drive home he leaned against my shoulder and recapped the game--who were the good players, what I could be doing to put more heat on my wrist shot, how sweet was his one glove save. When we got home, it was late, almost 9:45. We lugged our sweaty gear bags to the porch and left the zippers open to air them out. The house was quiet and dark, the dishwasher chugging and the other two tucked in bed, J reading my latest manuscript. I heard Max slip, sweaty and tired, into bed next to his big brother. Hayden used to play for the women, but after a summer season of playing offense last year, he has mostly traded his goalie pads for the pursuit of a hat trick. I heard Max yawn and tell him, "It was a good game. And Mom only scored on me once!"

* *** *



Blizzards 2012


Monday Musing--It's Just a Number, Right?

A few days ago, I hopped on the scale to get the base reading for a puppy weight check. What? What's that?The scale must have been on a grout line or something, but no... there it was. It wasn't horrible, but it was a number I haven't seen since I was on my way up or down from having a baby*. And while that would be a welcome surprise, I'm pretty sure that's not the case, as a decision we made in early 2008 would make that somewhat of a medical miracle. 

I should be clear here--I'm not popping any buttons, we're talking maybe three (five) pounds, but when I reflect back, I realize that putting on my favorite Lucky jeans has been making me feel more breathless than fortunate recently. 


So what's the story? I read author Nichole Bernier's clever interview about what gives when wearing the hats of writer and mother, about how it is difficult to keep more than three balls in the air at once. This year, I added the new ball of having my kids home all the time to my juggling routine, so there was WRITING/BOOK TOUR, HOUSE, KIDS/HOMESCHOOL. Like Nichole, I watched exercise fall out of rotation more and more. (And if you ask my husband, he might point to a few other items that have been more backburnered this year. Yes, I'm talking about the ironing.)

The kicker is, I do exercise; I still run, but it's the same 3-6 mile routes I have since I was eighteen. In the winter season, I play ice hockey, and there's co-ed field hockey once a week March-November. But I don't go to the gym. I haven't since 2007, when I had my kids on a delayed vaccine schedule and we renamed the day care room at LA Fitness "the germ" for everything they brought home from there. The most serious 'workout' I do is the Gilad fitness show on cable--not rigorous and so ridiculous to squat and curl in my living room where swinging a weight too wildly could brain one of the kids bopping and sweating alongside me. 

While I went through the usual teenage weight angst, rib-counting and dieting dramas, as an adult I have been lucky. Pregnancies were kind to me and breastfeeding melted the pounds right off again. I eat pretty much what I want, play the sports I like, and I look pretty much the way I want to. (Though of course who is ever really satisfied?) Part of this is because a lot of the things I like are relatively healthy--roasted kale, quinoa, grilled tilapia and grape tomatoes with a little shredded cheese stick is one of my all time favorite meals. Our family doesn't eat much meat and we've been gluten free since 2005. As a result, we don't eat out often. My biggest vices are bacon and dairy--I could go the rest of my life without ever having another bagel, but removing cheese from my diet is unthinkable. And then there is the sugar in my tea, a must. And white wine... 

So how to handle these unwanted extras on the scale? Do I tell myself it's just a number, and focus on the more important things? Could it be that I'm crossing over into that new phase of life where, post-35, a woman has to work harder, literally run to stand still?  Or maybe I need to do the hospitable thing and invite these three (five) random pounds to stay? After all, they got up in the dark with me on those early writing mornings and kept me company while I drank sugared jasmine tea and wrote about a fictional marriage falling apart. These three (five) pounds traveled all over the country with me on book tour, eating nachos everywhere from the deep South to the Pacific Northwest. (It's a disorder--if there are nachos on the menu, even in a Chinese restaurant, I am literally unable to order anything else. Ask J about the crab shack in Outer Banks.) I'd like to be a gracious host, but I don't think the pounds can stay. Summer is here and trust me when I say with my short legs, 'mom-style' tank suits do me no favors; I've got to be able to sport a two piece. The extras must be cut.


My first line of attack has been to add a little more intensity to my runs--to pick a route with the hill I mention in this essay more frequently and try, despite the summer humidity that makes it feel more like swimming, to go more often. 

Secondarily, I have examined my diet and I've come up with a few likely culprits:

1.) Nutella--I buy this in the jumbo size jar and Pippi and I have 'tella toast 'n' tea almost every morning. People we stayed with on book tour could not believe the amount of Nutella we can go through in a week. This is not negotiable. Do you see this face?

Morning Ritual

Would you leave this face hanging when it came time for our morning ritual?

2.) Summer mojitos-- every summer, the mint patch under our cherry tree goes wild, and J and I are forced to harvest it, to keep it in check with nightly mojitos during our evening walk. These are his amazing concoction of muddled fresh lime and mint, ginger ale, Bacardi and sugar on the rim. Swoon. There are so many reasons I love this man.


Which leaves us with this:

3.) Grilled vegetables-- this is the only other thing I can think of. It's summer, and we're grilling more, which means asparagus and sweet potatoes and peppers and onions drizzled in olive oil outside on the grill. Olive oil is fattening, right?


So the cut that needs to be made is obvious. It seems a shame, with summer's bounty and all, but I sure am going to miss those veggies. 


* *** * 


*This is not entirely true. Other than pregnancy, there was one other time when I weighed more than 125. It was at the end of my freshman year of college. Seventeen years old, at The University of the South, away from home for the first time, I discovered beer. Thursday nights, my roommate and I would buy Falstaff by the $10/case (it's no wonder I still don't like beer with that as my intro!) and there was no amount of D3 field hockey or dining hall salad bar (albeit with liqui-lard ranch dressing) that could combat guzzling those before heading out the ATO house to drink more of it while standing on our heads. A complete cliche, I gained the dreaded freshman fifteen.