Tournament Trials – Playoffs – Part 6

16 teams. 2 days. Add one motel, one ferry and 16 wild and crazy kids. Yeah, that is a good idea.

16 teams. 2 days. And they were in the finals.

After 3 games, the boys should have been near catatonic exhaustion. I know I was. But no, they were full of excited energy. Hell, they’d just won 3 games in a row and were going to the finals. Top 4 out of 16 teams. They were proud and they were loud.

But mostly they couldn’t wait for the final games. They were sure they had the talent and skills to win.

I forced The-Youngest to be in bed by 7:30. It took him an hour to stop wanting to chat, but that’s ok, he was asleep by 8:30. And was asleep by 8:31.

The first game came at 10am on Sunday, and if we won, we’d go on to the finals at 3:15. Games are an hour long, so we’d catch the 5:45 ferry back, easily. Or so I thought. I forgot that we were on the Island, and Island time is sometimes a little different. If we missed it, the boys wouldn’t get home until 10:30, and they had school the next morning!

However, if we lost that first game, we’d play for the bronze medal at 1:30.

Was it bad of me to hope we’d lose so I could catch an earlier ferry? Am I a bad parent?

The boys, though, were psyched. To quote The-Youngest as I tied up his skates, “So Joe, it feels like I’m at the top of a roller coaster and it’s just about to go down. It feels like that in my tummy. It’s not a bad feeling though. Kinda like being scared and excited at the same time.”

Exactly right. He nailed it. All the boys had nerves. Even the parents.

I'm pretty sure this was the Victoria team picture

I’m pretty sure this was the Victoria team picture

Their first game was against Victoria, a good team with a perfect record just like us. When the puck dropped, our boys flittered around like moths in search of a flame.

Game jitters had gotten to them.

They all wanted to score. They all wanted to dazzle their parents. They all wanted to be superstars.

In the end, they managed to remember to pass, to back-check and play their positions. They played hard and won. Honestly, it could have gone either way, but a win is a win.

That meant we played for the big trophy, for first place!

Now the boys were as excited as I’ve ever seen them. They were sure they could take the top prize. They were so sure they were that good.

Would it be a Mighty Ducks ending?

Only the Oceanside team stood in their way. They, too, had won all their games, even getting a shut-out. These boys came from a small town where there’d be no rep team, all boys, good or bad, would suit up for Oceanside.

We had a LOT of time to burn so we went to Boston Pizza, ate pizza, watched a good 2 hours of sports fails on TV and waited. “Waiting is the worst,” The-Youngest told me. And, again, he’s bang-on.

At 3:15 the final started. Well, let’s say it started to start. Unlike the other games, there was a bit of a ceremony. The teams turned to face the flag. A little girl came out and sang O Canada.

That was cool. Later the Youngest would say it was like a real playoff game. Then the game began.

Within the first minute, it was 0-1. Then 0-2. And it was apparent that Oceanside had a really good team.

Now we have a few good players for sure, and one outstanding one, but even our outstanding one (who could normally skate through the entire opposing team and score), ran into problems. They had 4 or 5 like him. Big kids. Fast skaters. As soon as our outstanding boy would get the puck, he’d be mobbed by those skaters as fast as him.

0-3.

0-4.

I watched the parent’s shoulders slump.

IMG_8402

The Youngest getting some final instructions.

Then we scored one, a brilliant NHL level pass from the boards to the man by the net. Bang! 1-4. But they scored right back. 1-5. Then, 1-6.

Our star player got hurt trying to stop yet another breakaway. He had to go off to the bench. Then another of our players fell into the boards. Hard. He went to the bench.

It wasn’t like the boys weren’t trying. They were. They gave it their all. But we were simply playing a better team.

Before the 1st period was out, we got another goal. 2-6. At this point, just keeping it close would be a win.

And they played even harder in the second period. We got 2 goals, they got 2 goals. The-Youngest even made one of his most epic saves of all time! Having his stick knocked away from him, he fell on his side and failed his arms and legs, somehow managing to block not one, but two shots.

Then, for some reason, when the play moved away from him and one of his players had pushed his goalie stick back within reach, he just stood over his stick and looked at it. Like he was talking to it.

“Bad stick. Bad. You shouldn’t go walkabout. Bad stick.”

He stared at it for a long time as our team fought hard at the other end of the ice, the coach shouting for him to pick it up. Maybe The-Youngest was debating whether or not he even needed a stick. Maybe his epic saves had convinced him sticks were unnecessary.

Then the play shifted and the other team roared back down the ice towards him, fast skaters skating fast. As they reached our blue line, the Youngest slowly bent down and picked up this stick like he had all the time in the world, and prepared to make another save.

Such things make my hair go white.

The final was 6-10. From the 2nd period on, we matched them goal for goal, an amazing achievement in my mind, but we couldn’t overcome the 4 goal lead they got in the first period.

As the boys skated to the trophy ceremony, I wondered how they would take it, and as I looked up at the clock, 4:35 (far past the time the game should have ended and there was still the medals to be given out), our chances of making the 5:45 ferry were fading fast.

About Joe Cummings

Aquarius. Traveler. Gamer. Writer. A New Parent. 4 of these things are easy. One is not. But the journey is that much better for the new people in my life. A life I want to share with others, to help them, maybe, to make them feel less alone, sure, to connect with the greater world, absolutely.
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