Are hockey moms across the globe really aggressive, loud and ornery? When Republican vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin took the podium at the Republican National Convention, the mother of five made an attempt to answer that very question.
"The difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom -- lipstick," the Alaska governor joked during a speech.
Perhaps you've encountered a hockey mom at some point. Odds are they weren't like the ones Palin portrayed.
Then again, maybe they were.
"I would probably say there are some moms you could put in that category but, over the years, I wasn't one of them," said Linda Staal, the mother of three sons (Eric, Jordan and Marc) currently in the NHL and a possible fourth (Jared) down the road. "I pretty much stayed out of the main crowd and was off to the side with a few other mothers and I enjoyed it that way. But I know there are a few who are over the top."
Liz Goddard, the executive director of the Edmonton-based Web site hockeymoms.com, realizes Palin's comment was said tongue in cheek. She also understands that hockey moms are extremely passionate individuals.
"I think if you take (Palin's comment) the wrong way, it's an unfortunate stereotype of both hockey moms and pit bulls," Goddard told NHL.com. "Most pit bulls are very pleasant depending on how well they're trained and managed. Hockey moms are community-minded, family-loving people.
"While there may be a dedication and more of a financial commitment, I do think hockey moms are just like other sport mothers. They really help keep things in balance for their children through school, family, hockey and community."
Hockeymoms.com, launched in October 2007 by co-owners Kim Stubbs and Debra Wood, offers mothers around the globe a place to discuss their hockey-crazed lifestyles. It also provides a few pointers for rookie hockey moms.
"A hockey mom is a mother or stepmother who is supporting her child at any level of hockey, even back-yard hockey as beginners and all the way up to the NHL and Olympic teams," Goddard said. "So if your son or daughter plays hockey in any shape or form, then you're defined a hockey mom.
"A lot of hockey moms might also be operating on their own; some might be single or in the military or have husbands who travel often. Hockeymoms.com is also a great resource for those moms."
"Every so often I would go and support my daughter, a competitive dancer, and have to miss a few of Steven's hockey games," she told NHL.com. "But Steven understood this. Other than that, my husband and I have been very fortunate as we both work from home and can make adjustments on the fly."
Lesley feels her son, the No. 1 pick at the 2008 Entry Draft, has taken on the persona of his parents.
"We always taught Steven to never get caught up into what other people were saying about him," she said. "We told him to respect his teammates, coaches and parents and to be a good role model."
She said Palin's pit-bull comment wasn't too far-fetched, either.
"It's very difficult for hockey moms not to get caught up in emotions because that's what we're like," said Stamkos. "I've always tried to maintain that you're not there to watch your child, you're there to cheer on the entire team, because, after all, this is a team sport. Everybody makes mistakes, but that's how kids learn so it's just best to stay neutral. The pit bull seems to come out when the team is losing. It you're winning, no one is going to complain and everyone is happy, so it's really hard to try and balance those two."
According to Goddard, having a son or daughter involved in hockey also can impact family life.
"It certainly forces people to become more organized and more community-minded," she said. "One also learns to become more resourceful as far as time and financial management is concerned. Also, there's an extra layer of complicated logistics right over the existing logistics of family life that must be dealt with and, like it or not, it's quite demanding."
Tammy Palmieri, whose son, Kyle, recently was named to the U.S. National Under-18 Team, has enjoyed following the journey her son has taken to reach this stage of his career. Kyle, a resident of Montvale, N.J., could be a first-round pick at the 2009 Entry Draft in Montreal in June.
"Hockey is very time consuming with regard to the travel and the hours spent in the car," Palmieri said. "But all that time is well spent, whether it be early-morning lessons or on the road traveling to a tournament; it's quality time when the family is together. We have always discussed the possibility of taking a family vacation one summer, but hockey has become such a big part of our lives, vacation time just hasn't fit it."
The Stamkos family has enjoyed the ride Steven has taken in his quest to play in the NHL.
"I think if you take (Palin's comment) the wrong way, it's an unfortunate stereotype of both hockey moms and pit bulls. Most pit bulls are very pleasant depending on how well they're trained and managed. Hockey moms are community-minded, family-loving people. -- Liz Goddard, Executive Director of Hockeymoms.com
"A better question might be how hasn't hockey impacted our family," Lesley Stamkos said. "But it's all been very positive. It's been great watching Steven from the time he stepped on the ice at the age of 3 to what he's accomplished today. We've had an opportunity to travel to places all across Canada, the United States and, more recently, the Czech Republic for the World Juniors, so hockey's been a big part for me and my husband and I wouldn't change anything."
Linda Staal said the best advice she received was to never get too caught up in the game.
"Enjoy the time you have with your kids and just have fun watching them, taking it year by year and not looking too far ahead," she said.
"Just kick back and watch the kids develop at their own pace," Tammy Palmieri said. "I've seen my share of moms and dads trying to sell their kids and it's really sad. These kids form friendships and it's amazing to see how so many people think highly of Kyle wherever we go. I got real emotional when he was given his scholarship to Notre Dame and he asked me, 'Mom, why are you crying?' I just told him that it's so special, as a parent, to see the dreams and wishes of your children come true."
Lesley Stamkos feels parental involvement at a young age is the key.
"There were a lot of sports that Steven played and we always gave him that opportunity, but he really took to hockey," she said. "We did our best as parents to make sure that if that's what he chose to do, he needed to remain focused and had to balance his education and hockey practices. We told Steven that until he finished homework, he could not go to practice, so he always finished his homework."
But what about those last-minute moments when a mother needs to stir up a quick meal or snack before their son or daughter darts out the door for yet another shinny game on the frozen pond?
"The boys ate pretty much anything I put in front of them, but if something needed to be done last-second, a bowl of cereal usually did the trick," said Linda Staal.
"I grew up on a farm, so a lot of fruits and vegetables, bananas and apples, were always part of Kyle's diet," said Tammy Palmieri. "But sometimes he needed something with a little more substance so he'd grab a bagel and drink lots of water."
Lesley Stamkos always was prepared for the gourmet snacks Steven preferred.
"The thing is, I was never rushed to the point of telling Steven, 'Oh my God, here, throw this peanut butter sandwich down before you get to the rink,' " she said. "In fact, I remember back in his minor-league hockey years, he always wanted chicken alfredo with pasta. Today, he's a lot more health conscious, so alfredo isn't a normal part of his diet."
Now, how many of you out there can admit to having a dish of chicken alfredo for a snack? Oh, those hockey moms.
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.