Sarah Simpson Column: Heart attacks and hockey: it’s not what you think

I’m a worrier by nature, I have no problems telling you that. All sorts of random things set me off. Big crowds, airplanes, raw chicken…any number of situations both real and imagined. But I’ll tell you, I’m not so sure I’ve ever been as worried about the outcome of a sporting event before in my life than I was on the long weekend and it really had nothing to do with the score.

My nephew was on our beautiful Island over Thanksgiving weekend to play in a hockey tournament down in Greater Victoria. My sister’s eldest and the first grandchild in our family (which makes him somewhat of a Golden Boy) is playing his first year at the Bantam A1 level on a team that’s made primarily of second-year kids. I like hockey. I love my nephew. My kids miss their cousin. I miss my sister. Naturally, we went to watch him play.

It was terrifying.

A funny thing happens to teenage boys when they get to be a certain age…well lots of funny things happen I imagine…but the one I’m talking about this time in particular is that they tend to have significant growth spurts sometime between ages 12 to 15. The problem is the fellas can’t seem to time their spurts together so once they gear up and hit the ice it can look like a father-son game with some boys closing in on six feet while others are just eclipsing the five-foot mark.

The first strike against my nephew is he’s got me and my sister’s genes. He has always been diminutive and likely always will be. Strike two came when the other boys shot up and he didn’t. Those are fine, they don’t concern me. You can still hit it out of the park with two strikes against you.

His size doesn’t seem to concern him either. He’s always been a good skater and he sees the ice well. He’s poised with the puck and has a high hockey IQ. But, while he was busy thinking the game, I was busy catastrophizing about his demise.

I’m worried about strike three. Quite literally.

My first-born baby, though not technically my own, now shares the ice with these behemoths in their first year of legal body checking and I swear the bigger skaters are out to smush my beloved boy flatter then my son so proudly crushed that fruit fly on my window last summer.

SEE RELATED: Column: On summer depression, and fruit flies

I thought at first my anxiety about it was because I don’t get to watch him play often and I wasn’t used to the contact, but at some point during the game I discovered it wasn’t just me. I swear I could feel the heartbeats of the entire arena full of moms. Every time the players skated into a corner or near the boards, collectively, the moms would hold their breaths. When the boys emerged they would all exhale. It was unnerving and uncomfortable.

Now I understand why parents have those “Hockey Mom” t-shirts and bumper stickers and coffee mugs and stuff. It’s partly because they’re proud of their children but also it’s a way to alert all of the other moms that they are equal parts tough as nails and terrified. It takes real dedication and determination to endure the constant barrage of mini heart attacks every time their kid is on the ice.

I also now think hockey-mother-panic is also the real reason defibrillators have been installed at most rinks.

My nephew’s team eventually won the tournament. It was one of his first-ever tournament wins and no doubt a feeling like no other for the young forward. I’m not sure what was bigger, the smiles on their faces or the relief on their mothers’.

I never thought I would be relieved that, so far, my son just wants to be a ninja.



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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