You see, yesterday my nephew Nathan played his first real hockey game. Pitted against other kids his age (about 5 years old) and dressed in a hodgepodge of sweaters, socks, sticks and helmets, the 10 players, who were eventually exhausted from picking themselves off the ice every couple of seconds, put on quite the show.
Players slid into the boards, got their sticks stuck in other players' skates and swung mightily at the puck (only to be swinging their stick in the thin cold air while the puck never moves an inch) which was only collected by the kid that stands up the fastest. Kids got their sweaters stuck in the gloves and yelled when they scored. They celebrated as if they just won the Stanley Cup and were about to enjoy a ticker tape parade in their hometowns, while riding on top a fire truck with all their teammates too.
The kind of passion, determination and fun these kids displayed on the ice yesterday is a relief to any sports fan. Dave Mast and I recently watched a video of St. Louis Cardinals outfielders Allen Craig and John Jay run to the infield after Craig caught the final out of the World Series. If you watch the look on their faces, you know what sports is all about, and I wish it was more like that all the time for professional ballplayers… that they understood how blessed they are. If you watched this pee wee hockey game yesterday, as a sports fan, you would get that same feeling.
Photos Submitted by: Tammy Barnhart
So how did Nathan do?
Well, of course with his talent being driven by more passion about hockey than anyone I know, he did an amazing job netting three goals. Unfortunately, due to his fathers influence, Nathan is a Chicago Blackhawks fan. So after each goal, Nathan did his Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane goal celebration, skating on one leg while pumping the opposite fist Kirk Gibson like. Then of course giving his Dad a thumbs up under his stinky hockey glove - an act I hope to watch him do hundreds more times.
Last winter, Nathan was a part of the Little Penguins program where he traveled to the Wheeling and Pittsburgh area several consecutive Sundays to take part in, that's right, the Sidney Crosby's "Learn to Play Hockey" hockey camp. In the program, boys and girls, aging from 4-7 years old, are enrolled in a camp where they learn to skate, stickhandle and more from some of the best coaches in the world.
The Little Penguins program also supplies the kids a Penguins jersey, helmet, stickers, skates, gloves, shoulder pads, shin guards, elbow pads, pants, equipment bag and stick. Yes, all that! And maybe the best part about of the equipment is that every piece has an 87 on it! Sidney Crosby's number! Crosby pays for all the equipment for each camper. Yet, Nathan continues to be a Blackhawks fan and doesn't root for Sid, which deep down inside kills me.
While taking off his bag of equipment after the game, the first thing he asked for is his Patrick Kane jersey. Addicted? Just maybe.
Even though Nathan kills me that he isn't a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, he made his family and relatives super proud of him scoring goals, and even though we all love Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, I think Nathan is everyone's new favorite hockey player in our family.
Published: November 14, 2011