Ice, Ice Baby!

I first read about Special Hockey on my friend Jean’s blog.  She raved about the effect Special Hockey had on her and her son.  I cheered along when they went to MA for a hockey tournament and I cried when I read about Jack scoring his first goal.  When we decided to move to a “hockey state,” (Where there are community ed programs that teach preschoolers how to ice skate!) Stimey forwarded me a link to MN Special Hockey.  I got excited, but after all of our selling our town home, moving across the country, and buying a new home expenses, we couldn’t cover the registration fees and buy all the equipment the Roc would need, and you need a lot of equipment to play hockey.  I put Special Hockey on the back burner until the spring when I spent some time talking with a coach, a player, and her dad at an autism resource fair, then I got excited and started talking to GC about signing the Roc up to play.  Then my neighbor gave us first dibs on the hockey equipment her son had outgrown, which was just the Roc’s size, that she was selling in our neighborhood garage sale.  We were able to get almost everything the Roc would need…

Last weekend was the MN Special Hockey kick-off event down at the University of Minnesota Mariucci arena.  After a quick meeting there would be an open skate.  We bought the Roc a helmet, the only piece of equipment he was missing, and the morning of the event we had him try everything on to make sure it fit.  He was pretty happy, and upon seeing himself in the mirror, he stated, “I look just like a real hockey player!”

When we got near the arena the Roc started to get agitated, telling us he was nervous over and over again.  He gripped my hand and I could feel the anxiety humming off his body as we walked to the arena.  I hurt for him when he is so anxious, and wish so badly that I could take that fear and anxiety away.  We wound our way around and found the gathering of special hockey people, and the Roc was introduced to some of the players on his team.  Everyone was very happy to meet him, and he mustered up the courage to say hello back.

After a quick meeting it was time to suit up for the open skate.  The Roc immediately started to say that he was nervous, and as GC laced his hockey skates the Roc began to cry.  “I don’t think I can do this!” he wailed.  His coach came over and pointed out a few different people who could help him, and then a woman, Miss M, came over and started talking to the Roc.  She was saying all the right things, and the Roc was still crying, but she didn’t give up.  I was just about to tell her that he wasn’t going to do it, to give us more time, that there were too many people talking to him at once, but I bit my tongue.  GC got him up on his feet and the Roc grimaced and yelled that his feet hurt.  Tears filled his eyes and he was completely rigid   We body walked him towards the ice, him yelling and carrying on the whole way.  I let Miss M who was still talking with him take over, she wasn’t giving up, and I kind of wanted to.  He yelled louder the closer they go to the ice.  He was shaking, going slow, holding up the other players who were eager to get on the ice.  In any other location, around anyone else, I would have felt anxious, wanting to allow the others to pass.  But there is no judgement in this crowd, and everyone was so patient with the Roc.  The other players quietly stood behind him, waiting for their turn to get on the ice.   Miss M convinced the Roc to sit on a folding chair and GC and I went to take a seat against the glass.  I thought he would want to get off the ice right away, and my stomach twisted with worry.  He looked so scared, gripping onto the chair, as Miss M began to slowly push him around.

It didn’t take long before that look of fear started to ease and his face started to relax.

Oh my God, and then this.

Every time they got to a line, Miss M would help the Roc stand up and then sit him back down.  He was grinning.  I was grinning.  He was so very proud of himself and I choked back tears behind my camera.

GC and I kept exclaiming, “LOOK! OH MY GOD!  LOOK AT HIM!” to each other.  GC commented that his face hurt from smiling.  Mine did too.

Pretty soon the Roc had one of the players from the women’s gopher team helping him too and I wiped away tears over and over watching everyone encourage the Roc.  The little girl in red, a sibling of a player, stayed with the Roc the whole time, cheering him and helping him.

It was awesome.  For the Roc to go from total terror, practically having a panic attack, to getting out there, trying, and smiling.  He was loving it.  As the ice cleared out, the volunteer from the gophers started pushing the Roc fast on the chair.

Back and forth down the rink she pushed him, he didn’t want to stop, he didn’t want to get off the ice!

When the open skate time was up, the Roc was so wound up and excited.  As we walked to the car he said, “I did it!  I had fun!”

“Are you proud of yourself Roc?  You were so scared at first, but you did it, and now it’s not so scary anymore right?”

“It’s not so scary anymore Mommy.  I did it!  I am proud of myself!” he exclaimed.

I am too.  So very proud of my guy.  We decided to celebrate and took the Roc out for pizza.  He deserved it.  As we were eating GC said to me, “What a good day.  One of the best in a long time.”

Yup.  It was.

Miss M and I have exchanged a few emails since Sunday afternoon.  From Miss M:

I wanted to follow up, because I forgot to tell you this and it keeps putting a smile on my face whenever I think of it-

I lost count of the number of times Roc exclaimed, “I’m doing it!” He said it the first time that I picked him up so he could stand on his skates, and just about every single time he “skated” from there on out. He was so stinkin’ excited.

I wrote her back and sent her a few of the pictures I took of them together on the ice.  Not enough can be said about people who volunteer their precious free time to organizations like Special Hockey.  I thanked her multiple times on Sunday for helping the Roc and again in an email.  Her response,

It truly truly is my pleasure to help. This will be my fourth year volunteering with the organization and being a part of it has been, without question, the best thing that I’ve done since moving to Minnesota. It helps me remember why I’m here doing what I’m doing. (I am currently a doc student in School Psychology at the U.) 

Good luck with your season, and I look forward to seeing you when the Stingers and Wildcats play!

Not enough can be said about people like Miss M.

We look forward to seeing her and all of the players, coaches, and volunteers in November when the season officially starts.

Go Wildcats!

 

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12 thoughts on “Ice, Ice Baby!

  1. I cannot properly express how full this makes my heart. There is something about hockey and our kids. Special hockey is the one of the most incredible things I have ever been a part of. I am so happy that your family gets to take part. I am so glad that you get to be a part of that non-judgmental community. And I hope to run into you at a tournament sometime. Congratulations to the Roc. He should be so proud of himself.

    p.s. I can’t believe I never used Ice, Ice Baby as a title for a post about hockey. Honestly, I’m kinda mad that you thought of it first. 🙂

  2. Wow… Tears of joy for you and your ROC this morning. Way to go Big Guy!!! You should be proud of yourself. YOU… DID… IT…

    Blessings!

  3. I LOVE this. My son also plays hockey — it’s the main subject of my blog (http://pucksandpuzzlepieces.com).

    I have so much more to say, but no time to write. Congratulations, and please feel free to reach out. My son is playing a “regular” house league and I carefully weighed the pros and cons of that vs. special hockey. But Special Hockey is an incredible program run by amazing, caring “hockey people” (ask Stimey about that term).

    And a Devils jersey to boot! Love it!

  4. UGH! I could only read this about two paragraphs at a time, because at MY company, apparently they consider it “unprofessional” to cry like a 10 year old with backstage passes to see Justin Bieber while you sit at your desk “working”.

    Magnificent story. And it’s got Neil AND Stimey’s seal of approval? That’s like the special hockey dream team!

  5. Bawling like a baby as I read this! When my husband saw the picture of The Roc in his hockey gear, he exclaimed over how big he has gotten, how grown up. Love. SO much love.

  6. I found this through Alysia. I love this post!

    We just started our 6 y.o. in special needs soccer. There is absolutely NOTHING more amazing than watching our kids get to experience team sports…and the volunteers are priceless.

    What a tremendous experience for your son…and for you & your husband!!

  7. The Roc rocks! This makes me so so happy!!! Yes, so thankful for organizations like this and people like Miss M.
    (And thank you for the term “body walk” – that’s a perfect description of what we do!)

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