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Cornered Coach: The Wall

 

There was a huge explosion on the other side of the wall.

Two of them, in fact.

The source of the combustion?

Two quick goals by the home team, followed by ear-splitting cheers from the local fan base. On the other side of the wall at the minor hockey multiplex, where I heard the screams seep through, I was watching a Toronto Minor Midget AAA contest. The neighbouring rink that was providing all the noise, meanwhile, featured my son's Atom AA tilt against one of their biggest rivals.

So why wasn't I paying attention to the exploits of my little lad's squad?

It's kind of nice to take a break and watch a game without chewing your nails and worrying about the result; a common affliction that most minor hockey parents (especially those, like yours truly, who have spawned a goalie) can relate to. Besides, watching Minor Midget AAA hockey is pretty darn entertaining – the calibre of play that Don Cherry makes a habit of raving about from his "Hockey Night in Canada" throne.

Every so often I made sure to sneak a peek at my son's game to check on their progress, as they battled back for a hard-fought 2-2 draw. I didn't actually see any of the four goals that were scored, but I witnessed enough of the action to come away with an observation.

The wall separating the two games was enormous, in more ways than simply the physical dimension of the structure.

On one ice surface, a bunch of talented teenagers with man-sized bodies strutting their stuff in front of scouts and agents. Minor Midget, after all, is the pinnacle of the Ontario youth hockey experience, as the best of the best are gobbled up in the OHL draft.

On the other rink, a group of 10-year-old tots still learning about the game they love. Sure, they're talented in their own right. But compared to their bigger and faster hockey brothers on the other side of the wall, the Atom kids looked like a swarm of tiny toy robots still getting used to all of their parts.

The contrast, in fact, was downright hilarious; although I'm sure a number of the Atom parents thought I was off my hockey rocker when I walked in on the proceedings and started to laugh out loud.

That laughter was triggered by a couple of realizations.

First off, the little guys really do look cute when you compare them with the big behemoths playing Minor Midget. As I mentioned, my son is a 10-year-old goalie and as he wobbles towards his crease in his over-sized pads and gloves, it's enough to melt your heart. 

Secondly, it never hurts to chuckle at ourselves as hockey parents. Sometimes, with dreams of Crosby and Connor dancing in our puck-crazed heads, we think that 10-year-olds have to already be at the leading edge when it comes to skill development.

"C'mon, Johnny," scream all of us overweight and under-talented hockey dads. "You've gotta start using your edges!"

But most of us wouldn't recognize an edge if it reached up and slit our noses.

And the fact is, 10-year-olds have a long way to go and a huge wall to scale before they can even think of playing hockey at a truly elite level. By the time today's Atom players turn into teens, a few will be playing AAA hockey, some might be back in the house leagues, and others might not even be playing the game at all.

With that in mind, we shouldn't be in such a big hurry to climb the wall.

There's a time and a place for all levels of hockey.

And if a 10-year-old puck nut is really meant to be the next Crosby or Connor?

Don't worry.

They'll figure out a way to scale the wall, as they take one more step towards their hockey dream. 

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