I would take a total of six trips back to watch my son play that first year of prep school. This was just at the beginning of the financial crisis so I could still afford it. Also, this was pre fasthockey.com days.
Fasthockey.com was in its early stages. The Western State Hockey League, the tier 3 junior league I was involved with adopted their technology for that current season. It was a pretty good deal but the quality of the webcasts were inconsistent. It ranged from acceptable to just god awful. If you aren't familiar Fasthockey.com is a tech company based in the Boston area run by Marc Ruskin. They provide the equipment, basically a pc, and the technology to allow any rink, team or league to live stream the games to anyone with an account and about $7 bucks. The team or rink needs a decent Internet connection, a camera and a shooter. That was me. The first year or so we just shot video. Later the audio broadcast was added. I learned to shoot video, record highlights and call the play by play after memorizing the rosters of both the home and visiting teams for each weekend series. The Gulls typically played three games, Fri and Saturday nights and Sunday late morning.
The visiting teams came in from Phoenix, Fresno and Boise among other cities. The games were physical, nasty and included plenty of fights in the earlier years. They've toned it down in recent seasons.
By Sunday morning both teams were usually so sick of each other and beat up that they just wanted it to end. Then the visiting team would hop on their team bus for the five or eighteen hour bus ride back to where they live.
At any rate, there was no fasthockey.com at Tilton that first year. Some schools used it or had other streaming services such as Ustream or B2networks, so I got to catch a few away games. But there was nothing like being there and be there I did for quite a few games that season.
My next trip was about a month after my first. The prep season still had yet to begin. The Monarchs 91s AAA midget team was playing in the New Hampshire state playoffs. They tied their big brothers, the 1990 birth year team in the standings, but seeded second due to the tie breaker. The 91s did well earning their way to the finals where they met the Monarch's 90s team. They lost in the finals but still qualified to go the the New England regional playoffs the next weekend. I showed this earlier, but it was such a sweet goal and it happened during this weekend so I'm forced by my fatherly pride to post it again. http://youtu.be/deu5EeOkTXQ
I don't recall how they did in the regionals. I'm certain that Mid-Fairfield won and went on to nationals after the prep season was over. Mid-Fairfield is always stacked with top prep school players, mostly from Connecticut schools like Avon Old Farms, Kent and South Kent among others.
The Monarchs had a few solid prep players but mostly public school kids.
Max didn't attend a single practice for the Monarchs. I don't think this was unusual for the prep school kids. It was hard to get away mid-week. However at Tilton the boys had ice four mornings a week for an hour an fifteen minutes for "captain's practices".
I watched a couple of the games with the Tilton coach. He was not impressed with the speed or physicality at which these games were played. I was like, "really dude". Looks pretty fast to me." He was right.
Tryouts for the school started right after the regionals ended. They would have a week of tryouts. Then a week to practice before hosting The Northeast Hockey Showcase.
Tryouts were nerve wracking for me. I had no idea what to expect. Tilton is a co-ed school with 260 students. 120 boys would show up for tryouts. They field an Varsity A team and a B team. Max wasn't the only player Coach Norton had recruited. There were at least three or four kids from California alone. I held my breath.
I'll let you know how it went in the next chapter.