Jennifer Chomen: Hockey is a fun way to learn life’s lessons - The Buffalo News
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Jennifer Chomen: Hockey is a fun way to learn life’s lessons

As a teacher, one of my very first teacher gifts was a poster-size wall hanging of the poem “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. After 25 years of teaching, it still hangs in my classroom and I often look at it for life lessons and motivation. Every once in a while, I think we all need simple reminders of the important things in life. They can happen anywhere – even at a hockey tournament.

Sometime in the past 11 years I earned the title “hockey mom,” and I have to say it isn’t much different from “hockey sister,” which allowed me the opportunity to love the game when I was younger watching both of my brothers play. I didn’t mind missing a school dance because my brother made it to “states” that year. Walking outside in minus-20 degree weather in Quebec City, instead of being at home, of course I didn’t mind. My brothers’ skates are long since “retired,” but my son, Cam, is taking over where they left off. Being a hockey mom is a title I adore, and learn from each day.

During a recent tournament, the teacher in me began to show when I almost told the eight or so hockey players in my room to stop playing Xbox NHL ’14. I thought they should go out, exercise, have fun, enjoy each other’s company – and then I remembered the poem. The boys were fine; in fact, they were better than fine. They had been smack dab in the middle of many lessons. I easily turned it into “All I really need to know I learned at a hockey tournament” and here is why.

Share everything: The boys actually did, taking turns very systematically to play the video game, borrowing iPads, etc., without parent interference.

Play fair: Even though the out-of-town referees seemed to let more than a handful of penalties go unseen, the boys remained calm and played their game of hockey.

Don’t hit people: It was a non-checking tourney and bantam level players are not used to this, but once again they focused on the plays and the teamwork, not the hitting. I think they were able to see the simplicity and love of the game.

Clean up your own mess: OK, this one was difficult. Unfortunately, the parents had to withstand the “hockey bag odor” that only hockey parents understand because there was no place for the boys to air out their equipment other than the car. Yuck! We learned that air fresheners can save our lives.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together: Whether it was deciding where to eat dinner, when to leave for the rink, where to play mini sticks – yes, they still do that at the bantam level – the boys stuck together.

Be aware of wonder: After a failed penalty shot, our player quietly and without fanfare went over to the goalie and congratulated him for a great save.

Remember … the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – look: They looked at each of their parents, coaches, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends who made the road trip to watch as they won the tournament. The boys looked at us with smiles, and we knew then they had learned that hockey tournaments really do teach us a lot.

Most of all, they teach us that families really can have fun together while learning life’s little lessons, even if it is in a cold ice rink miles away from home on an early Sunday morning.

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