For several years we lived in the Yukon bush, in an area between Carcross and Whitehorse, near what is now the Hamlet of Mount Lorne.
That’s where M played hockey on the outdoor rink. Yes, outdoor hockey in the Yukon!
But it was cold, I’m not going to kid you. Someone always had to get there early to light a fire in the big old wood stove on game days. The kids used to take their skates off between shifts on the ice and hold their frozen feet up in front of the fire. When it was really cold (-25 or so) they could only stay on the ice for about 10 minutes at a time.
During my hockey-mom years, I volunteered many hours in the concession stand, selling hot dogs and hot chocolate, bags of chips and hundreds of cups of coffee. I took my turns driving the carpool, cracking the windows against the overwhelming odour of boys and unwashed hockey gear. Eau de Hockey Bag. Those were the days.
Hockey has its downside, though. Your parents must be moderately wealthy in order to hold your head up amongst your peers. Pity the 12-year old boy who has to shop for his gear at the second-hand sports store and depend on hand-me-downs from wealthy friends.
Thank goodness, most of the families on our team shopped at Canadian Tire – as we did, for the most part. However, there was always one boy who was being fitted for the top-of-the-line brand at Hougen’s Sport Store while another was making do with duct tape and extra socks.
We were not wealthy. We made do. M wore more than his share of second hand gear.
One time, the boys went on a road trip to play a tournament in BC. M was wearing an old pair of oft-mended skates. Wouldn’t you know it; they had to break on the road trip. Rather than poor M having to sit out the tournament, the team’s two coaches took him to town and bought him a new pair. These were not the Canadian Tire, mid-priced ones we would have been able to afford. Oh no – these were Top of the Line skates. Best-skates-money-could-buy skates. Every boy’s dream skates. M was over the moon with pride and joy. When he innocently presented me with the receipt for reimbursement, I burst into tears. There was no way I could pay it. I was angry, hurt and mortified beyond belief. Did the coaches think that we sent our son out in cheap skates because we were… cheapskates?
They were kind men. Good fathers. Great coaches. They just didn’t think –they probably had a limited selection to choose from and very little time to shop. Really, they probably just bought the first pair that fit, in a rush with a bus-load of boys waiting in the parking lot. They were heroes, really. M’s heroes.
They were kind to buy M skates and not make him sit out the game. They were kind to create a scholarship fund (which hadn’t existed before this trip) to help us out. Because what can you say when the mom is standing in the parking lot crying over a bill she can’t pay?
The very next year, the new scholarship fund bought skates for another little boy whose family couldn’t afford them. We haven’t lived in the Mount Lorne area in decades, but I know that that hastily created scholarship fund has probably helped a lot of families out when they needed it.