The view from the arena side

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Angie Abdou

Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom

$21.95

240 pages

ECW Press

Abdou will be in person at the St. Albert Public Library at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 12, with host Thomas Trofimuk. Attendance is free but people are asked to pre-register at the customer service desk, by calling 780-459-1530 or by visiting www.sapl.ca.

Novelist Angie Abdou is breaking free of fiction for the moment so that she can tell her own story, and it’s one that should sound familiar to so many others across this country.

Having a kid in hockey is full of challenges, not the least of which is figuring out how to get all of that gear in your car. Then there’s the expense of it all, the long hours of travel often on precarious winter roads, and hanging out in the bleachers with many other hockey parents, some of whom don’t know how to chill out while their kid is on the ice.

“Each year, the ‘Have fun! Try hard!’ slogan feels less relevant to our experience of the game. I have arenas full of reservations,” she writes in the prologue to Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom.

The word “reluctant” stands out in that title. She said that it was because she wanted to be protective of her sensitive, artistic son in that physical, rough world of organized sports, even though playing hockey was his idea.

“I would prefer my children do other sports. I find the culture around hockey a bit much sometimes. I also think ‘interrogating hockey mom’ or ‘questioning hockey mom.’ I just would like to question the way some things are done. I find a resistance to that questioning especially when it comes to women. I think we should always be willing to evolve with sports culture, improve our children’s experience with sports. But there’s a lot of people who defend certain things in hockey because that’s the way it’s always been done,” she explained.

As a proviso, she adds that her son loves playing hockey. After all, you can’t choose your kid’s passion, she continued, and you have to support them in their choices, even if it means that one parent stays at home with the other children while the hockey parent is off taking the kid to games hundreds of kilometres away.

“I said, ‘OK, I’ll do hockey duty as long as he loves it, but as soon as he only kind of likes it, we’re done.’”

After a few years, he’s still in hockey. Abdou said her son doesn’t only appreciate the activity; it offers him lessons that he wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. There is a kind of education that can teach about controlling emotions, channelling energy, and getting along with others.

“We have a lot of great moments in hockey. I’ll see him learn that over the course of a tournament when teachers couldn’t teach it to him in a whole school year. I think sports have lots to teach people.”

The author herself has learned a few things from the whole experience, too, and that’s what compelled her to take on this project. Writing the book was a way for her to step back and think about how hockey fits into her family’s routine. It also made her think about how everybody’s experience of a child in hockey could be better.

She even delved hard into the academic research, taking a good, long look at what the experts say are best practices so that Home Ice could offer valuable information interspersed with all of her personal anecdotes and thoughts. The book is meant to be a bridge so that some of that valuable information would still be accessible to the hockey parents themselves.

She quoted John O’Sullivan’s Change the Game Project, which offers two pieces of advice.

“After your child finishes playing,” Abdou relates, “you should only ever say, ‘I really love watching you play.’ You shouldn’t critique them or criticize them or have any feedback. That’s the coach’s job. While they’re playing, you should watch silently and enjoy. The other thing he said is ‘parents do not create athletes.’ Imagine how different it would be in the hockey stands if all parents could let that sink in. In one way, that takes a bunch of pressure off the parents. There’s a man from the Ontario Hockey Federation board of directors  who said he wished that every parent could have this book.”

She has a piece of advice herself: schedule your relationships, just as you would schedule hockey practice or trips to games.

She also learned that she has a knack for memoirs. Memoirs, after all, aren’t just about putting your own life on paper: it has to be relatable to the readers, too.

At the very least, she enjoyed the experience.

“I felt like I was learning something important from my own life as I wrote it. It felt like even if I didn’t publish it, this would be a worthwhile exercise.”

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About Author

Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.