Have you ever had one of those months where you feel like you just can’t get out of a hole? Well, I have had that month for seemingly the last two. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but Tuesday night, I remembered why we do this.
The Capital City Crew is a new hockey team comprised of 33 kids from different Boys and Girls Club locations from around Wake County. The ages range from 8 to 13 and the sizes range from cutely small to sadly larger than me. Most all of these kids have played street hockey, some for years, but none had played ice hockey until seven weeks ago.
My main role for the Capital City Crew is that I am one of only a few people who can drive the big Canes truck which carries all of the team’s equipment (thanks to years in promotions, the truck and I are old friends). This role is not all that important to the education of the hockey players, but I am glad I have it because it has forced me to go to practices when my work load was telling me I shouldn’t.
Every Tuesday, we arrive around 4:15, and there are kids from across the Triangle following closely on our heels. Neither Katharine or I are USA Hockey sanctioned coaches, so we stay off the ice, but that does not keep the kids from calling us coach.
I guess I do serve one other purpose for the Crew, official skate tie-er for most of the boys in locker room 3 (Kat gets the girls in locker room 5). In the locker room, the players have quickly transformed from hockey equipment newbies to gurus. Yes, there are still a few elbow pads put on upside down or a few shoulder pads on backwards…but for the most part, these young players know THEIR equipment.
Like any great team, “The Crew” consists of many great personalities. The Crew has the mini-Chad Larose/Scott Walker, who is always around the net with the puck due to sheer hustle. Our version even showed his hockey toughness on Tuesday as he took the biggest head first slam into the boards I have seen in a few months. Before the coaches could even get done with a simultaneous “Ohhhh”, and begin to skate over, he was already back up chasing the puck.
We have an Eric Staal. A tall, lanky young man whose skating stride is so natural it looks like he has played since he was walking. Just like Eric Staal, he is as happy to set up a goal for a teammate as he is to slam one in himself.
One assist he dished out Tuesday went to one of the youngest yet most tenacious players on the Crew. He scored, and quickly followed the puck into the net with his body as he couldn’t stop in time. Don’t worry though, it didn’t keep him from celebrating as he already had a hand in the air as he crashed into the back of the net. I guess you can say he is our Erik Cole, fearlessly bull rushing the opposing goalie.
We definitely have a young Ray Whitney. Small in stature, but huge in confidence and talent, he is the first one to the rink and typically the last one to leave. He loves to stay and watch the Bantam Jr. Canes team practice after we finish. I know he is intimidated because the players are twice his size, but that doesn’t stop him from chirping to them that he can skate better (always helps when they are on the other side of the glass and he has already packed his skates away).
These kids are all just happy to have the chance to play. They have checked out all of the hockey books from their school libraries, they have found Fox Sports Carolinas on their TVs, and they have definitely learned how to smell like hockey players.
No, none will probably go on to score 40 goals in the NHL, but hopefully all will take the confidence that comes from taking a chance on something and experience positive results.