Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Miracle on Ice

After three days in Denver for Declan's hockey tournament, I was ready to come home for several reasons: a) I'm not a city person, and b) it's totally stressful to be a goalie mother and my heart had taken all the angst it could take. We had our own little taste of Miracle on Ice glory, but first, let me back up to the prior weekend. . .

We were also in Denver for hockey a week ago. It wasn't a tournament--we just played the same team, the Junior Eagles, two days in a row. It's common to do that when you travel or when another team comes to your town. We were anticipating two tough days of hockey because we were playing the only other undefeated team in our division. So we were somewhat surprised when our boys beat the Denver team quite easily both days. Denver is known for it's tough hockey teams.

So fast forward to just this past weekend when we returned to Denver for a tournament. Among the teams we had to play was the Junior Eagles again. Not too unusual, but we knew they'd be really fired up to beat our team this time.

And they were. It was like some kind of grudge match. To make matters worse, the game took place at 11:30am on Sunday morning, after we'd already played at 6:00am--yes, you read that right, 6:00AM, that morning. The Junior Eagles were playing their first game of the day. And our 6:00am game had been a tough one. So it was fresh legs (them) versus tired legs (us).

The whole thing was just surreal. There was a big crowd watching because our Squirt B team (we are Squirt C) was playing right afterwards. So all of their parents and players were there watching in addition to our players and parents.

So the grudge match began. We were up 2 - 0 after the second period. That's always good. And then in the second period (they play three 12-minute periods), it all started to come unglued. You could tell our kids were getting tired and you could tell the Junior Eagles were digging in. They scored two quick goals and our boys started to deflate--you could just see it. That's when you wish you could just open up the top of your kid's head and just pour a little energy in, but of course, you just sit there and watch and shout encouragement if you can.

Time ticked away and we finished regulation play tied at 2 all. I waited for overtime play to start.

But it didn't.

My friend, Leah, whose son is also a goalie for the team, came and sat down next to me and said, "I'm here for moral support."

"Great! Why?" I asked.

"Don't you realize it's going to a shootout?" She asked (probably thinking, duhhhhh, you ding dong). "Declan is in goal for the shootout."

I sat down really fast. My baby was in the goal. I couldn't handle the pressure. I was worried he couldn't handle the pressure. Which as I write that, it sounds silly. It's a kids' hockey tournament for pity's sake, not brain surgery. But it's important to them and therefore, it's important to me.

They shot on Declan first. The player approached in a kind of strange, slow fashion--usually you see the shooter race up and fire the puck in, so it was a weird-ish strategy. And it didn't work! Declan stopped it and the crowd went wild. I jumped up and down, probably squealed a little, and clapped.

Our first shooter, a kid named Zane, who is also the league high scorer right now, dashed up to the opposing team's goal and fired it in. We were up 3 - 2.

It was time for the second shot on Declan. Seriously. The anxiety I had for Declan was unbearable. Again, their player did this crazy slow approach. Again, it didn't work. Declan stopped it. The crowd went nuts and you could have cut the tension in that arena like a bad cliche. I doubled over in agony (it was just stress--I didn't have to go to the bathroom).

Our second shooter took his shot. And missed. It was still 3 - 2 to our advantage, with one shot each left. The stress. How could Declan stand it???? I was struggling to maintain my composure and I wasn't even in the game! My heart was aching for him because he takes goals scored on him so personally. People were screaming his name. How do you concentrate with all of that going on?

Their last shooter began his approach, moving faster than his teammates this time. He fired his shot. . .and Declan stopped it again, clinching the win for his team.

I screamed like I was being drawn and quartered in the stands and I think I bruised Leah's arm by pounding on her. Everyone went completely crazy. Declan's teammates all ran from the bench and piled on top of him. Seriously, I couldn't see him underneath it all. It was sheer and utter madness. You would have thought we'd just played for the gold medal in the Olympics.

It was incredible to see Declan have his moment in the sun. I'm in awe of his coolness under pressure. . .at the ripe old age of 9. I don't have near that composure at my much older age. I'm guessing I never will at this point.

In the end, the boys did not win the tournament. In fact, they didn't even make it to the final because the tournament director changed the rules and apparently didn't see fit to notify the teams. A team we had already beat went on to the final while we played against none other than the Junior Eagles, yet again, for 3rd/4th place. Yep, the same team they'd already beat three times in a week, they had to play again. Our boys defeated the Junior Eagles again to come in 3rd.

Ironically, we'll have to play them again at the league playoffs in March. Think they'll be hungry for a win? Sigh.

Below are a few pictures of the boys playing this weekend. Please note, I was so rattled during the shootout that I didn't take any pictures or video. Nice. Fortunately, a friend recorded the whole game, so I'll see if I can eventually upload the shootout.

And then I guess I'd better make sure the video camera is on my "don't forget" list for the next game.

It's 5:45am on Sunday morning. We got to play in DU's (University of Denver--as an aside, why are they University of Denver, yet called DU?) arena. DU is a HUGE hockey school, so this was a very exciting treat for the boys. Here's Finn posing in our box seats.

It's now almost 6am and the game is about to start. Wow--look at the crowd. Oh wait, everyone sane is still in bed. Here I'm trying to take a picture of Finn and two other hockey siblings (hockey siblings are fondly known as Rink Rats) waaaaaaaaay up in the top row of the seats. They loved this arena because it had endless entertainment opportunities. They ran up and down the stairs so much, I'm guessing they actually burned more calories than the players themselves.

Waiting to go out on the ice . They still go out through the doors during the game, but sometimes they go over the boards when they're at practice, which makes me laugh because they're still small enough that they get stuck halfway over.

Declan warming up in goal.

I think he just made a save here. But then again, I can never tell what the heck is going on when I'm trying to take pictures and watch through that little screen on the back of the camera.

One of our players takes the puck back toward the opposing team's goal.

PS: Does that P&G commercial showing little kids as Olympic athletes and ending with the tagline "To their mothers, they'll always be kids" make anyone else cry? Gets me every time.


Kristie said...

Oh, gosh. I was stressed out just reading about it!! I'm so happy for Declan that they won, and even more thrilled that he played a pivitol role. Personally, I think every time we sign our kids up to play any kind of sport we should get a free water bottle, league magnet for our car, and bottle of xanax. :)

Marci said...

hey as long as you buy something P&G after watching the commerical,I don't care how much you cry! PS--that is so awesome Declan!

Joanne said...

Declan is THE MAN!
Tell him to spare a bit of his composure and confidence with his mother next time


Anonymous said...

Loved this post. My son is a Squirt B (we only have A & B here, and his organization moves you along according to age, not a tryout type thing, so next year he's an A, then on to PeeWees). Can't imagine if he were a goalie, I don't think I'd be able to watch (eyes covered, but peering through fingers). We live in Grand Forks, ND, the home of the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, so yeah, hockey is big here too. Hockey tournament weekends are tiring for the whole family... especially moms. = )

And as Joanne said, Declan is THE MAN!


Lucinda said...


Way to hang in there, Natalie!

Someday maybe you'll get to watch Declan play in the Olympics...if you live through his youth hockey years.

1dreamr said...

Good lord, you had me on the edge of my seat! Way to go Declan!!!!! (That commercial makes me cry, too, but that's not saying much.... )