Amy Chan
Firstly, ice-hockey should be classified as an extreme sport – extremely expensive, that is.

Deborah Ross once wrote an article for The Independent newspaper all about the trials and joys of being a football mum to her eight year old son. She bemoaned things like having to travel to away matches in, to her mind, obscure parts of London, the odd pieces of football gear cluttering up the hallway and her inability to understand the offside rule. My immediate reaction was ‘She doesn’t know the half of it’. I have twin lads who have been playing junior league ice-hockey for over four years. So please allow me now to relate to you what a sporting motherhood is really all about. 
Right, for starters, never mind "Walthamstow, Whetstone and Wanstead". In our dreams. Away matches? Away means Isle of Wight, Cardiff and Bristol, or how about Basingstoke, Bracknell and Slough? Mind you, I still maintain that for Cardiff to be classified as lying within the realms of the South East of England, one's vantage point would have to be somewhere adrift in the mid-Atlantic, wouldn't you say?

Well, if Deb's got problems with coming to grips with offside, I'm now into my fourth season as hockey mum and I still haven’t quite figured out when “icing the puck” is not “icing the puck”. This means that 33% of the rules of ice-hockey remain beyond my comprehension. Sad innit? Seeing as there only are three rules in the game. Still, I know a good offside when I see one.

And football mums don't even begin to qualify for starter ranks when it comes to sports equipment clutter. Shin pads and goalie gloves - peuh! We HMs are talking ten pieces of protective body gear plus skates and stick. Oh, and not forgetting pucks, sock tape and stick tape. A modest mention must be made here of my stick taping skills which have been described by the players as being, ‘Cor - nang! Can you do mine? I know your Mum can be the club's stick taper…’

‘No way - get lost!’ And please remember, in my case, to double all of the above.  Home match days. Seeing as seven off-ice officials are required before play can commence, there is no such word as “volunteering” in ice-hockey clubs; the effective word is “delegation”. Whiny and pathetic excuses like ‘But I'd rather just watch and cheer them on...’ are dismissed with a look of incredulity and a shall- we-run-that-one-past-you-again cock of the eyebrow.
‘You can be a goal judge, can't you?’
Also, please note that out of an estimated eighty parents in my boys’ former club, only two have ever done the scoring. There's no pre- or post-match chill out chit-chat over cups of coffee if you're the scorer. It's - collecting licenses from both teams, collecting team lists and starting line ups, filling out team lists on a gamesheet, amending previous neatly written columns on same when assistant coach informs you that half the players' shirt numbers have changed because the shirts suddenly ‘don't fit’. Scorers quickly learn to refrain from asking ‘Er, why don't they fit?’ It has also been well known for coaches to completely forget and scorers become fairly adept at not panicking, having to make do with a muttered ‘Oh shit! Who's that out on ice in a number 12 shirt? There's no *!!* number 12 on this list!’

I won't even begin to take you down the road on the filling out a gamesheet, save to say that the ability to subtract rapidly from 20 and 60 is essential. And the ability to think when rock and garage music is blasting out right next to your ear-hole is highly desirable. The sixty-three or so official penalty classifications in hockey cater for all temperaments, ranging from :
The Gentleman - Altercation, Unsportsmanlike Conduct.
The Warrior - Charging, Slashing, Spearing.
The Hooligan - Head Butting, Kicking, Kneeing.
The Arrested Developer - Refusing to Start Play, Throwing the Stick/Puck.
and for the odd player who instead of playing the game images him or herself to be on the game - Obscene Language, Hooking, Molesting Officials, Interference with Spectators, Adjustment of Equipment.

After matches, data from the goal judge sheets are calculated and added to gamesheet; gamesheet has to be handed to the referee for checking and signing off, which still feels like taking your sums to teacher for marking; pink copy given to visiting team and their licenses returned; top sheet faxed to English Ice Hockey Association “immediately” after game or the club incurs a fine.

At this juncture, scoring mothers usually heave a big sigh of relief, contemplate grabbing a coffee and nipping outside for a quick and much needed ciggie. But, without fail, as a is followed by b, sweaty junior will then appear out from the changing room, staggering, with a touch of exaggeration, under the weight of humungus gear bag (which he’ll dump at your feet), and say querulously ‘Mum, take this to the car. And can I have a pound for a drink please?’

Once again, please do remember that in my case we always have the action replay. 
It is debatable whether getting good at hockey is advisable or not. If that sounds like not fulfilling one's moral duty to one's offspring then pay heed to the Wisdom of Horror Hockey mum.
Firstly, ice-hockey should be classified as an extreme sport – extremely expensive, that is.
Secondly, getting wicked at hockey means that the team's coach will most probably select your child to partake in the South-East Conference Team trials. That sounds rather grand doesn't it? Friends and family are always impressed. You will find yourself delivering players to Ally Pally ice rink at nine thirty in the evening one Friday in four and then sitting in the freezing cold for the next three and three quarter hours. Yes, I know, that makes it about one fifteen in the morning. Tee hee hee – you may wonder why I am sniggering? Well I live near enough to warrant coming home in between. There are those who have traipsed down from Buckinghamshire and other exotic places like that.
In the meantime, your precious undergoes an hour's off-ice training, followed by an hour and a half’s on-ice training and finally, may be required to speed skate x number of laps round the rink; or if they been good, get to have a little scrimmage. And if your poor wee Johnny's shattered and can't hack that final torture, I'm afraid there’ll be no National Tournament for him - or Finland next spring. (Strange things used to take place every fourth Friday; child came home from school, had tea and then declared "I'm off to bed Mum, I'm going to sleep now.") Where was I? Oh yes, Finland… Finland?!!
‘What? You’re both going to Finland for four days, and I’m expected to come too. What d'ya think I'm made of? Money? Oh of course, I momentarily forgot, you do think that, how dumb of me…’

After three days of extensive phone-calls and a handful of begging letters to sports bodies, charities, trusts and Richard Branson, it transpired that funding for under-16s is non-existent. You have been warned. This season, my sons have decided to set their sights higher and have transferred from their old ‘B’ league club, which was ever so conveniently situated five minutes down the road from home, up to one in the‘A’ league (at the invitation of the latter, I may add) thirty six miles away. And involves worming your way through the Blackwall Tunnel during the Monday evening rush hour, or to be more precise, hours. What have I done to deserve all this? I ask myself.

But even to a complete abhorrer of sports like myself, there still exists a certain glamour to my lads’ expensive choice of game. The speed, power and graceful ease with which they propel themselves across the ice, skilfully balanced on fine slices of steel, can approach pure poetry in motion. And to my eye, the ice-hockey stick possesses elegant proportions comparable with an object d’art of the minimalist school. (I certainly hope one day to be seeing them paraded as ultra-cool fashion accessories down some designer catwalk.)

But finally, I’m sure the exhilaration and ecstasy experienced when one of my darlings sends that puck flying into the top corner of the net, is synonymous to any Deb’s felt on a wet and muddy Sunday morning in Walthamstow. 

So if anyone out there wishes a Rough Guide to Ice Rinks or alternatively, a Guide to Rough old Rinks, please feel free to contact me. Also, for any children's author fancy doing a really original turn, insider info. on junior ice-hockey clubs can be supplied on request, for that touch of magic realism. 

© Amy Chan 2001
More from Amy - See Bereaved Kittens

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