Four a.m. wake-up calls? Endlessly schlepping duffel bags? Blankets as outerwear? If any of this rings a bell, you’re probably part of the esteemed — yet strangely under-appreciated — tribe of Canadian hockey moms. Go team!
Your unofficial queen, of course, is Kelly McDavid, hockey mom extraordinaire to rising NHL star (and Edmonton Oilers captain, natch) Connor McDavid. We figured if anyone knows hockey mom life, it’s McDavid, and we recently had the chance to chat with her about the ins and outs of hockey mom life, how to handle that notorious hockey bag stink and other rink-centric realities that every true-blue hockey mom will identify with.
1. WEEKEND SLEEP-INS ARE A THING OF THE PAST
If you thought you’d get more shut-eye on the weekends after your kids finally got a bit older, think again: hockey moms are regularly up at the crack of dawn, ferrying their stick-wielding offspring to arenas near and far. “Games and practices are typically early, with a practice one morning and a game the other. So yeah – sleeping in just never happens,” says McDavid.
2. BUH-BYE, SUMMER HOLIDAYS
Hockey in the summer? Well, duh. If your kids are anything like McDavid’s, your summers might be just as hockey-filled as your school year. “It used to be that we didn’t get summer at all because of hockey,” recalls McDavid. Her family’s solution: “We made a rule that there had to be at least one month in the summer when there were no tournaments, no hockey, no nothing.” Her kids did find a way to skate, though. “They rollerbladed,” McDavid admits. “But at least they were outside.”
3. EVERY DAY IS A HOCKEY DAY
Indisputable hockey mom truth: the higher your kid’s level in hockey, the greater the chance that you’re on the hook for weekday practices and games. “As the boys got to higher levels of hockey, they were both probably on the ice 4 or 5 days a week, always after school,” says McDavid. “It was a lot of juggling.”
4. YOU KNOW MORE ABOUT HOCKEY THAN YOU EVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE
Did you ever imagine you’d be able to tie skates, tape sticks like a pro, rattle off the names of hockey teams and players, the various age groupings and levels or how tryouts work? We didn’t either – but like McDavid, we even kinda love it all now. “It’s been years of education for me,” McDavid says.
5. HOCKEY CAN GET SERIOUSLY EXPENSIVE
Let’s face it, having kids in hockey is not for the faint of heart or the shallow of pocket. “It’s not just the hockey equipment,” says McDavid. “It’s the travel, the tournaments…there’s so much money involved. If you can do it, great, but it can be difficult.” Is it worth it to see your kiddos so happy, passionate and committed to something? Sure – just maybe don’t check your bank balance too often.
6. THERE’S NO SMELL QUITE LIKE THE HOCKEY BAG SMELL
You’re well familiar with that horrifying stench emanating from your kids’ hockey bag and equipment. (Honestly, how can one normally nice-smelling child cause anything to stink so badly?) But you’ve probably got the know-how to deal with it, too. “One thing I did was use Febreze with OdorClear,” McDavid says. “We’d open the bags, air them out, spray the equipment with Febreze and wash [everything]. Doing that regularly really helped keep the smell down.”
7. YOU EVENTUALLY GET USED TO SNACK BAR FOOD – SORT OF
With all the planning, packing, driving and cheering you’re doing every week, you probably work up quite an appetite by the time you hit the bleachers. Too bad the food and drink on offer at most rinks is so bad. “You do get used to it,” says McDavid, “but we try to find better options.” Very wise.
8. YOU WILL ALWAYS BE COLD. SO VERY COLD
Remember the olden days, when you could wear one layer at a time? A t-shirt, even? A cute dress? Remember not needing a parka or gloves indoors? Nope, us neither. “There are some rinks that are so cold you just dread going there,” says McDavid ruefully. “You just have to wear everything and wrap yourself in blankets.”
9. 6AM IS NO TIME TO CARE ABOUT APPEARANCES
Even the most style-conscious hockey mom has to give up on looking good when that early practice time rolls around. “It’s a non-issue,” laughs McDavid. Think oh-so-glam fleece on fleece, turtlenecks, toques, wool socks and a steaming mug of watery rink coffee as your main accessory. You’re going to need it.
10. YOU’RE PRETTY SURE YOU COULD DRIVE TO EVERY HOCKEY ARENA IN THE PROVINCE WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED
North, south, east and west: we’re willing to bet that you’ve driven all over your province – and maybe further afield – in pursuit of the mighty puck. Heck, you’re probably a pro at navigating the highways with a car full of rangy kids, duffle bags and road trip snacks. We’ve been there, too. “We probably know where all the arenas are in Ontario…there are tournaments all over the place,” says McDavid.
11. THERE WILL NEVER, EVER BE ENOUGH FOOD
If you’ve got hockey players in the house, you know what to do: stock the fridge and pantry as though you’ve got a ravenous horde staying long-term. Frankly, you kind of do. “We always had a ton of food around, but it never seemed to be enough. They ate constantly,” McDavid recalls. “One day when he was about seventeen, my older son actually said, ‘Mom, I just never feel full!’ They just need to be eating pretty much all the time.” Truer words were never spoken.
12. WHEN IT COMES TO LOSING, EVERY KID IS DIFFERENT
Maybe your kiddo is the type that honestly doesn’t care if they win or lose on the ice; on the other hand, maybe they’re highly sensitive and need a little extra love after a big loss. McDavid’s advice: know your child’s needs, trust your gut and respond accordingly. “Be able to recognize when your child is feeling down, listen to them, talk to them, try to stay positive and remind them of the positives,” she suggests. “You have to be able to recognize when your children need more or less support.”
13. THE COMMUNITY OF HOCKEY FAMILIES IS IMPORTANT AND REAL. MAKE THE MOST OF IT
Hockey’s a huge commitment, and even with the whole family on board, it’s hard to go it alone. That’s where your extended community of hockey families comes in. “We had a lot of support,” says McDavid of her many years in the hockey mom trenches. “Other parents on the teams would help us get our kids to and from practices and games. You have to be supportive of each other, take turns, and help each other out for sure.”