June 29, 2014
An incredible thing happened at the rink today. My son got to see three former teammates he hasn’t seen in over a year. Okay, it’s not so remarkable that four kids who once played hockey together ran into one another at a hockey rink.
But what you might find amazing is one kid traveled from North Carolina to spend two weeks with his hockey buddy. They’ve known one another since they were mites and they’re now 15. He’s returned to San Antonio every summer since he moved away five years ago.
Another kid drove to Texas from Montana with his entire family just to see his hockey “family.” Last year this family of five moved 1900 miles away, yet they still felt the need to pack up their van with a whole bunch of hockey gear, and a few change of clothes to spend a full week in the car with a five year old – for HOCKEY.
You see, the amazing part is that hockey, the sport we love so dearly, has the power to bring people together, to reunite kids and their families from thousands of miles away, to create a bond so strong that neither years nor miles can diminish the connection. (Hockey. Seriously? You mean that sport that's know for dropping the gloves, bloody knuckles and toothless grins? Huh. Who woudda thought.)
Well, my son has played a lot of sports and we’ve met some fantastic people through the years, but the hockey bond always seems so much stronger than any other. It’s not that my kid makes friends better than most, or people miss beautiful San Antonio, or everyone who leaves has an obsessive desire to spend time on the amazing ice that you can only find at Northwoods…nope. It’s hockey.
Maybe it’s not just any brand of hockey that creates this bond. Maybe there’s something special about San Antonio hockey that unites people in this way. I have some ideas why this happens here and maybe not in other cities or in other sports:
#1 In San Antonio, we have to travel to play. When we travel, players are together morning, noon and night. They eat together, play together, win together, lose together, relax together and sleep togeth… in close proximity. Parents get to know parents. Siblings bond, well for lack of a better term, like siblings.
We all stay in the same hotels, stand around the same rinks, and eat at the same restaurants, (whether they like it or not). We text, email, Facebook and sometimes even call one another to confirm these plans, times, locations...
We spend so much time together we know one another better than we know our co-workers, our neighbors or our kid’s teachers and classmates.
#2 The same kids play year after year. Call it a blessing or a curse, but in San Antonio, there are only so many kids who play hockey and these same kids play hockey year after year. Oh sure, occasionally there are those military families who find it necessary to move away. (Did I hear someone say disloyal?) But for the most part, you’ll find the same kids on a team from one year to the next – the two-year age division varies it enough to keep it interesting.
#3 There’s only one rink. Who wouldn’t love to have a rink closer to their house? However, having only one rink gives our kids a common ground, consistency and familiarity. San Antonio is a big city and players live as far away as Helotes, Schertz, and even Laredo. Yet there’s only one place where they meet and skate and play week after week. I like to call it “my second living room.”
All of these things build unity, camaraderie, chemistry. It’s why “little” San Antonio can complete with “big- market” Dallas. It’s through our shared experience that creates a sense of family.
And most importantly, it’s why four kids who haven’t seen one another in over a year care enough to see one another. And it’s why they have such a hard time when they have to say goodbye -- even if it's only for a while.
It’s the bond of the San Antonio Jr. Rampage Hockey family.