Shoot the puck

My daughter is six years old, and for the past two Winters my husband has been her hockey coach.  She plays for a local girls hockey league, and this year she’s got one hour of practice and one hour of a half-ice game per week.  If there’s anything cuter than a pack of ponytailed Grade 1-ers chasing a puck, well then I’ve never seen it.  She’s been on skates since she could walk, like a true Canadian kid, and she’s well-versed in Hockey Night in Canada and the Leaf’s Stanley Cup drought.  With sport-obsessed parents, she’s come by it honestly.

The improvement in her skills from the start of the season, at only two hours of ice-time per week, are incredible.  She’s gone from wobbly and timid to confident and sure-footed.  She can put her gear on entirely by herself, except for skate laces and helmet snaps.  She can pull her hockey bag, carry her stick, and she can last the full hour of ice-time.  She’s a dependable, capable competitor.  And yet, we’re teaching her to pass the puck….

Let me explain.

In a recent hockey meeting that my husband attended, it was pointed out that as our girls are growing into hockey players, they are often taught to pass the puck to their teammates.  In amongst the skill-building, they’re being told to give everyone a turn, to share the puck around, to not leave anyone out.  All good things, yes.  However, this has led to older players scoring less, favouring the pass over the shot.  Now, I have a son in hockey too, and I attend most of his practices and games; I see that he too, is told to pass the puck.  But not as often.  And not in the same situations.

You see, these instructions are heard differently through the ears of a young girl.  These words are spoken within a society that teaches girls to be polite and kind and teaches boys to be forthright and determined.  And while I’m not going to delve deep into the gender equality conversation on this chilly Tuesday morning, this post is a snapshot of what’s been on my mind.  I’ve got Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” and Kirstine Stewart’s “Our Turn” on my bedside table and I’m fresh off a Mexican vacation where women in the workforce was a big topic of conversation.

So I hope that my words make you think.

This small example, using the metaphor of hockey as life, shows me that there’s still work to be done.

Let’s teach our girls to shoot the puck.

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Three years ago, learning to skate.


It’s April! It’s sports!

I live in a competitive household.  Case in point, the recent CrossFit Open competition that my husband and I participated in.  I won.  Ahem.  Cough, cough.

The upcoming NHL playoffs bring out our competitive nature as well, especially since our loyalties lie on polar opposite ends of the fan spectrum.  I’m from Southern Alberta, and the Flames are my team, while he’s a true-blue Leaf fan, born and raised in the GTA, where Stanley Cup parades are planned every October.  Our children are not immune to this rivalry, and they’ve staunchly aligned themselves with their same-gendered parent, although my five-year-old daughter has been known to change her team weekly.  Her Uncle’s influence makes her a current Oiler fan.  I often joke about how my husband says the kids can “cheer for any team they like,” and then boos and moans if that team is any other than the blue and white.

But the reality is, April is the best sports month of the year.  The Flames have clinched, and we might have six Canadian teams lacing up in the playoffs.  Let’s not forget the Raptors, who’ve also guaranteed themselves a spot in the NBA post-season.  The BlueJays have just begun, it’s Master’s weekend ahead, the Boston Marathon runs on April 17th, and the NCAA basketball champion was crowned last night.  Whew!  ‘Tis a great time to be a sports fan.

And if you need another visual, take a look at our rainy driveway this morning: a Leaf flag on his car, a Flames flag on mine.  


“Being a sports fan is a complex matter, in part irrational but not unworthy; a relief from the seriousness of the real world, with its unending pressures and often grave obligations.” ~ Richard Gilman  

#goJaysgo #goFlamesgo 


Dear Toronto Maple Leafs

March 10th, 2015

Dear Toronto Maple Leafs,

This is not a letter from a fan.  In fact, if I’m being honest, I always cheer against the Leafs.  But the thing is, now I’m raising two little Leaf fans and I adore my Leaf-loving husband.  The Leafs have entered my life, and they’re here to stay, or so it seems.  And so I put pen to paper, or cursor to screen, and here we are.

I am a Canadian-girl and a hockey fan through and through.  I was raised inside cold rural Alberta arenas with french fries, penny candy, and hot chocolate in styrofoam cups.  I saw Gretzky and the 80’s Oilers when I was too young to know what that meant.  As a nine-year-old, I remember watching Fleury’s Stanley Cup winner in my cousin’s basement.  My family had season tickets for the Red Deer Rebels (yes, Phaneuf’s old stomping grounds) and we saw Hockey Night in Canada (or Hockey Night in Toronto?) every Saturday.  I still have Rubbermaid bins full of alphabetical hockey cards from my childhood.  Get it?  I love this stuff.  Okay, has my credibility been established?

So I’m writing to you as a hockey fan, as a mother of Leaf fans, as someone living in the middle of Leaf Nation.  Something needs to change.

The Buds have grown on me through my twelve years as an Ontario resident.  I even cheered from my couch and sported Leaf blue during their 2013 playoff run.  This is not something that most Western Canadians would admit to.  But it’s become increasingly obvious to me that the Toronto Maple Leafs will never be a winning team, and even as an ‘outsider,’ that gets frustrating.

So, here’s what you do:

  • You slash ticket prices.  I mean slash.  Forbes magazine lists the average price of a Toronto Maple Leaf ticket to be $446; far and away the highest in the NHL.  Yes, your bottom line will suffer, but you’re the richest franchise in the NHL, so you can afford a one-year experiment.  Stay with me.
  • You halt corporate sales.  Let’s fill up the ACC with people who’ve paid for their seats and show up for the start of the game.
  • You stop the media circus.  Need I say more?
  • You end up with a building of hockey fans who will cheer loudly and support their team from the stands instead of from their couches at home.  People who start the wave and bring homemade posters and spill popcorn when they jump up to cheer for a goal.  You bring passion.

And the players will play.  And the players will want to play for a franchise as steeped in tradition and as full of history as the anointed Maple Leafs.

Guess what I did when I first moved to Toronto, at 22 years old, all alone and not knowing anyone?  I took the subway down to Carleton and Church and walked beside the old Maple Leaf Gardens.  It gave me goosebumps.  I want my kids to have those goosebumps when they reminisce about their Canadian childhood hockey experience, rather than frustration over another missed playoff run or a team that didn’t try.

Let’s give it a year.  If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to ‘rebuilding.’

Thanks,

Ashley Worobec

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My husband and kids supporting their team.