Monday, September 9, 2013

Chapter 30: Slip Sliding Away

I was meeting lots of new folks, players and their dads mostly. A few mom's here and there.  I became friendly with the other California dads.  There was one whose kid was a returner. There were two returning SoCal players, Evan Hudson and Ryne Lupert.  The other two Cali kids didn't make the A team.  It was frustrating, painful and heartbreaking to watch them and their families struggle through this time.  It was also tough watching one of the goalies not really get a shot.  I've always heard about "politics" in hockey.  It kind of like its only politics when it's your kid not playing.   Well my kid played.  I was happy about that.  But it pained to watch both the players and their dads suffer.  And from my viewpoint it didn't seem all that fair.   

One of the kids, Jake, really deserved to play.  I don't know what the coach's reasons were for not giving much of an opportunity. He was big and strong.  He got into penalty trouble, not the most disciplined player. Maybe that had something to do with it.   He did play a few games with the varsity the first year. He made the A team the second year and played but again he didn't get as much of a chance as he would have liked.   I know there was tension between the coach and his dad.  It was terribly frustrating.  Jake went on to be an impact player for two years of junior hockey and again as a freshman last year at Potsdam State. Who knows, maybe the tough times at Tilton made him want it more. But it's great to see him thriving now. 

It was especially hard on the goalie, Lenny.  I have no idea how good he may have been because there was always someone ahead of him.  Again, I spent many games with his dad.  I watched my kid having a blast and listened to the dad gripe about politics. 

This was the first time we'd encountered this kind of bias.  At the competitive youth travel levels everyone plays.   Yes, benches get shortened, but development is the name of the game.  At the prep level it was much more competitive and and it really was put up or shut up, even when you may not have the chance you think you deserve.  

None of this applied to Max, thank god. He played on a line comprised of all juniors( the high school junior, not junior hockey juniors). They were the first line for most of the season.  He got power play and penalty kill time. I was happy.  No politics here!

The first game of the season was, as I mentioned away, at Exeter.   I had a couple of dads I'd befriended text me updates.  The game was scheduled for 3:30 est.  that was 12:30 my time in San Diego.  I got my first text at about 1:00.  Tilton up 1-0. Goal scored by #20 Max.  Cool. Leading the team in scoring already.  They ended up losing 5-2 to Exeter.

He went on to  repeat this little exercise for the next four games. They lost 4-3 to Cushing. After a slow start and falling behind 4-0...goal #20.  All four games followed a bit of a pattern as the Rams got of to a rough start. They often outplayed their opponent but suffered penalty troubled and kept coming up on the short end of the stick.  

Against Proctor, Tilton blew a lead.  They were trailing with under a minute to go.  Coach Norton tapped max on the shoulder for the extra attacker and said, "go get me a goal".  So he did. Fourth goal in four games. Tilton tied the score and posted a scoreless overtime.  But they earned their first point of the young season. It would get better. Much better. Although Max's goal scoring pace simmered down. 

The Governors Tournament was up next. It was the weekend before Christmas and the winter break.  I caught the red eye into Logan arriving at 5:30 am. I'd planned to work at my company's office in Boston, but due to the approaching of a monster storm, I decided to head north and go to the UBS office in Peabody, Mass...for the uninitiated, Peabody is pronounced: Pee bu dee....(rhymes with puberty)...don't say Pea Body....people will look at you like you have 2 noses.

So on very little sleep I worked until noon and then checked into my hotel, also in Peebudee. I crashed for about an hour and then awoke to a fierce snowstorm. I had 3 hours before Tilton faced off against Northwood, but I decided to head up early to avoid any problems with the weather...I got to Byfield, Mass(pronounced just like it looks) early enough to stop at Spuds and have some fried clams.

The tournament was structured with 2 brackets of 4 teams. Each plays 3 games in its own bracket then on Sunday there is a crossover and you play your same seeding in the other bracket. Championship game, top two teams, was scheduled for 2:30pm on Sunday. Tilton has been playing well, but has found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in just about every game. I say this because when I booked our flights home for Sunday, I made the bet that Tilton wouldn't end up in the championship game. This was important because the latest Jetblue flight out of Boston left at 5:50pm on Sunday and there wouldn't be time to get from the game back to the airport if they made the championship. My plan b, should they somehow make the final was to pay the $100 fee to change our flights to Monday morning

The first game of the weekend was at 5:30pm on Friday night against the Northwood School from Lake Placid. I was hoping Tilton would do well and my kid would play well against both Northwood and the next morning's game against Governor's academy because he applied to both of those schools, well past the deadlines, and not surprisingly didn't get into either. But I was hoping that Tilton would do well and they would realize what a huge mistake they'd made. 

My son's line is made up of all Juniors. The other 3 lines on his team are mostly PGs and seniors. They have been the most productive line of the young season and they started all three periods of all the games. Northwood had as they always do quite a few D1 college recruits. Tilton went up 1-0 and then 2-1 and were tied 2-2 in the third period. The game went into a 10 minute over time without a goal. It then went to a five man shoot out. Both teams sent four players without a goal. Northwood hit the post on one of their chances. John Hyslip,(just finished a four year stint at St. A's) Tilton's 5th skater came down and shot five hole to score what looked like the game winning goal. It turned out, that officially the game ended in a tie, but the shootout was conducted as a tie breaker in case it was needed for the crossover bracket. So, what looked like Tilton's 1st win of the season turned out to be "officially" a tie.  

The team headed to the home of one of the players family that lives in the area for pizza and pasta. I ended up leaving my son with ten or so of his teammates who stayed over night at this house. I got on the road at about 10:30 for the drive home through the raging blizzard in my rental four wheel drive Subaru. I drove three or four miles through barely plowed side roads until I got to the 95 south to Peabody(remember to say it properly).

I grew up in New England and driving in the snow is not new to me, but this was one of the worst storms I'd ever driven in. I crept onto the highway barely able to see out of my windshield, literally relying on my navigation device to see which way the on ramp was turning. I got on the freeway and you couldn't tell where the lanes were. Nothing had been plowed. Every so often I would find myself driving on the ridged right hand emergency lane and correct back to the left. Earlier I remember telling my son that driving in snow was pretty easy as long as you didn't go too fast. Uh oh..spoke to soon. I was creeping along in the right lane, trying to figure out how to make my defroster melt the ice that was building up on my windshield. The wipers were completely covered with ice and weren't helping at thing I know a semi-truck comes barreling past me on my left...I already could barely see when the snow he blew up in my face completely snowblinded me...Now I can't see a thing and I started sliding sideways down the highway...damned Ice Road Truckers!

I had no idea if there was any traffic around me. I couldn't tell if I was heading toward a light pole, a cliff, a lake...I had no idea where I was going, but I was going...I felt myself go off what seemed to be the left shoulder and I continued until I came to a stop in the bottom of a ditch in the center median. The snow came up almost to my window. Within a few minutes someone in a truck pulled over to help me. He yelled down to see if I was alright. Soon a highway patrol pulled over and then a couple of minutes later, Scotty's towing was there. The highway patrolman made fun of me...he says.."isn't that a Subaru? doesn't it have 4 wheel drive...I've been driving for 8 hours with rear wheel drive and haven't had a problem yet". The tow truck guy winched me out, my Triple A  covered it and I was on my way. I Called my son and told him to forget what I told him about how easy it was to drive in the snow.

The next morning I was recounting my experience to some parents.  one of my son's team mates dads laughed and said "That was you?".  He drove by me laughing and telling his wife, "look, there's another one". He didn't realize it was me at the time...i don't think..…

Anyway, back to hockey. Tilton played Governors and played very well, winning 5-3. I had a smile on my face in both games as my kid shook the opposing coach's hand at the end of the game. 

Our final game later that day would be against Pomfret, the weakest team in our it looks like we will actually get to the final, so I called Jetblue to see about changing our flights to Monday morning. Also, there is another major snow storm heading into New England and it is supposed to hit on Sunday afternoon and could be another huge problem as far as getting out of town before the holiday travel crunch starts.

Jetblue only had one seat available on Monday. I put my son on that flight figuring I could catch as much of the final as possible before heading back to the airport in Boston. Soon after I heard that due to the weather, Culver and the Hill School were going to leave and not play in the crossover games on Sunday. OK, so now our 2:30 game was rescheduled for 12:30. I called Jetblue back to see if I could get Max back on my flight to San Diego at 6pm but it was now sold out. So I rebooked us to fly back at the same time but into Long Beach instead of San Diego.

Saturday night, with the snow still coming down, Tilton played and beat Pomfret 5-1. In between the 2nd and 3rd periods the tournament director announced that Sunday's games were all being cancelled. much for changing my flights. Tilton would have played Culver in the final. Max almost got to see his buddy Jason Torf (now at Air Force) who was the goalie at Culver. Max and Jason roomed together when they were twelve years old at the Quebec Peewee Tournament. All of Culver's games were at the Lawrence Academy campus and rink. By the way, the Governor's rink is beautiful. You can see it in the youtube videoclips.

No games on Sunday, we slept in and then crept through the snow back to the airport following the Chargers/Denver game on our Iphones. The travel miracle of the weekend, possibly of my entire life, is that when I was checking our bags with Jetblue, I asked if there was any way to get back on the San Diego flight and lo and behold we were able to. Not only that, but they waived all of the change fees and they didn't even charge us the $20 bucks for Max's hockey sticks/extra luggage.

So, great weekend. Lot of fun. Great hockey, lot of college scouts at all games... Crappy weather. Max is heading home for the holidays and is excited to see his buddies. Back to dealing with the global economic collapse for me. 

No comments:

Post a Comment