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We are family!

Cam Tait writes about hockey families as Family Day approaches

by Cam Tait /

Talk to anyone in the hockey world and they'll tell you with conviction the hockey family is a tight group.

We see it time and time again: when someone - a player, a coach, a general manager - needs help, cell phones start buzzing and texts are sent. Then, like a power play clicking on all cylinders, assistance comes from all over.

It's fitting we reflect on those acts of kindness in Alberta this weekend as we celebrate Family Day.

The holiday was started by the late Alberta Premier Don Getty in 1990 to celebrate the time we share with our families.

Growing up in west Edmonton in the 1960s, I experienced first-hand how we gathered around the Lynnwood community rink shack and quickly became a family.

Those were the nights when the majority of minor hockey games were played in outdoor rinks and under those big bright lights.

In between periods, my parents followed my brother Brad and his Mite A teammates off the rink, then on to the packed snow and into the shack.

Mom and Dad took Brad's skates off as soon as they could - and started rubbing his feet warm. Some nights Mom even had an extra pair of socks in her jacket pocket and put them around Brad's feet.

I quickly found out that the hockey family gets stronger with time.

From Mite to Midget: families gather at rinks, on snow banks, in arena lobbies, in dressing rooms, on team buses and hotels and, wherever minor hockey takes us.

In those conversations, hockey families share so much more than the game itself.

They share great joyous events - like birthdays, graduations, marriages and in later years, births.

They share life's rough moments, too - the first broken heart of a teenager, a declined application to a post-secondary school and funerals.

Somehow, we found solace in friends who listened and then comforted us with their support in a hockey arena.

The magic of the hockey family doesn't only ring throughout minor hockey arenas.

It's been in the Edmonton Gardens, Northlands Coliseum, Rexall Place and now, Rogers Place.

And, the really cool thing is this: many of those relationships aren't related by blood.

We hear stories, time and time again, of Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Oil Kings Season Seat Holders and Season Seat Members becoming great friends with other fans.

You can see them at any game. They walk in together to their seats. When the horn goes to end a period, they either walk out together for a refreshment or stay in their seats.

And they do one thing: visit.

The game of hockey touches many of us on many different levels, even as fans.

It connects Canadians like nothing else does.

And, we may not share the same last name or be related by in-laws, but we are family…the hockey family.

How fitting that this annual holiday is in February.

Happy Family Day weekend!

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