Hockey parents, the majority of them at least, get a bad rap.

As another season in Wellington County’s house league comes to a close, I’d like to salute the hockey parents who are the norm – the ones who love their kids and love this sport unconditionally.

We often hear stories of hockey arena dramas, parents and coaches exhibiting bullying behavior and obnoxious outbursts. These tyrants do exist, but I say let’s focus on the positive. Let’s celebrate the parents who show up at the arena at crazy hours, often before work or late after an already-long day, all to teach young hockey players the skills required to grow in the game. Community happens at an arena.

Some parents take on roles behind the bench that go beyond what most parents see, taking time away from their own families to manage a team’s ice times, research tournaments, book hotel accommodations and keep the rest of us informed. I am grateful.

As a hockey mom, I love watching the way hockey brings the Carpenter and our young defenceman together. It makes me realize just how valuable this sport is in developing one’s character by teaching our son to deal with the very real challenges life is going to throw at him. On and off the ice, kids learn the merits of team play, taking direction, having a role and above all, setting goals and reaching for them. It’s about the reality of a clock ticking down and the never quit mentality: win or lose.

This is where kids learn there will always be puck-hogs, but nobody wins alone. Petty politics is human nature; deals will go down and you can’t stop it. Just keep doing your best. Prove your worth. Earn respect.  From the ice to the bench, to lectures in the dressing room, kids learn the value of working together, of having each other’s back. It helps them deal with the consequences of the penalty box, of missed shots and bad plays. The whistle will blow, not always in your favour. Life isn’t fair.

There will be injuries and rough plays too. Learning to take a hit is as important as learning to take a loss; neither is pretty. Knowing when to fight back is a tough call in life. Integrity has a price. Best to learn that early. Dedication comes without guarantee of anything more than sweat and personal accomplishment. That’s passion. And if a child looks across the ice and sees their biggest fan, whether it is mom or dad, grandpa or their foster parent, that child knows they have someone in their corner, whatever life throws at them. Love doesn’t keep score.

These are lessons our kids will take into their personal lives and careers. There will be bullies. Someone in head office will always want to be the star. Someone calling the shots will favour one side; it might not be yours. Life has rules, like it or not. Goals count, but so do the lessons of missed shots. It’s not whether you win or lose, but the way you handle what life throws at you. Do your best. Help each other. Take the shot. Pass the puck but not the blame. Celebrate victories. Learn from defeat. Try.

To the hockey parents who love their kids more than the sport they play, my respect. To my defenceman, thanks for teaching me everything I’ve just said and so much more.