Moms continue to play a big part in the lives of the Nashville Predators
To an outsider, the job description is one that is enough to scare just about anyone away. There are long hours, you have to endure frigid temperatures, frequent long commutes, and then there is the large financial commitment that will more than likely never be repaid.
No, being a hockey mom in not for the faint of heart, but for those who accept the challenge, the benefits far outweigh the 5 a.m. wakeups, the rinks so cold you can see your breath, the long rides to towns so far away you are not exactly sure how to pronounce the names, and the constant reach into the wallet for everything from high registration fees to Icees from the concession stands.
By virtue of advancing to the Western Conference Semifinal round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, the Nashville Predators are playing hockey in the month of May for the first time in franchise history. Each year, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May, and for the players in the Nashville locker room, their mothers not only accepted the challenge of being hockey moms, they embraced the role.
As a 7-year-old, Joel Ward learned quickly that his mother Cecelia took her job as a hockey mom seriously. Ward came home from school one day anticipating a phone call telling him that he made the all-star team for his minor hockey league. He received a phone call, but the message was not the one he was expecting.
“I got rejected playing hockey,” Ward said. “I was looking forward to playing in that game, but I got the call saying I didn’t make the squad. I kind of curled up in my bed a little bit and was a little wimp about it. I shed a few tears. “
After comforting her son, Cecelia chose a tough-love approach and took his hockey stick away from him.
“My mom had to calm me down and tell me it wasn’t the end of the world,” Ward said. “It was a tough pill to swallow, but she had to kind of shake me out of it a little bit and wake me up.”
After a stickless couple of days, Ward’s stick was returned to him.
“My mother, being from Barbados and not knowing hockey at all, it was a different thing for her,” Ward said. “She just fell in love with it. She used to be a screamer at minor hockey games, now she is more sit-back and be quiet. Now that she knows all the rules. She is different.”
Being a good son, Joel still takes the advice that his mother sends his way from Toronto.
“She will send me text messages and give me phone calls and lets me know what I did wrong,” he said with a laugh. “Her go-to line is to make sure I trick the goalie. I always get a text saying, ‘Make sure you trick the goalie,’ so that is what I try to keep in mind.”
Defenseman Shane O’Brien fondly looks back at all the hours his mother had to log in the car to enable her son to play the sport he loved.
“My mom is awesome,” O’Brien said. “She is the best. I lived in a small town, so we had to drive an hour to practice. She would work all day and drive me there, watch practice, and drive me home. Without her, I would have never made it.”
Even though she is no longer driving him to practice, O’Brien’s mother Pam still keeps close tabs on him.
“With all the attention paid to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, she is the biggest fan out there,” O’Brien said. “She knows all the little stats. She will know stuff sometimes that I don’t even know. She is coming down for Games 3 and 4, so she is excited.”
The pride in O’Brien’s voice reveals that Pam is not the only one excited about her trip to Music City.
Like O’Brien, Steve Sullivan’s mother was the family’s primary chauffeur.
“My father kind of worked out of town, as he was kind of a traveling salesman,” Sullivan said. “I remember her driving us all over the place too. Back in the day, my brother and I used to skate before school. She used to bring us to the rink before school and then take us to school. She was extremely dedicated.”
Sullivan is not just the son of a hockey mom; he is also the husband of one. Sullivan and his wife Kristen have four children; three hockey-playing boys and a figure skating daughter.
Sullivan’s day job as a professional hockey player keeps him on the road quite often, but even when the Predators are at home, the team’s games and practices mean he can’t be at the rink with his kids all that often, meaning Kristen is extremely busy.
“It is not like it is a summer sport,” Sullivan said. “They are doing exactly what I am doing the same time I am doing it.
“She is amazing. She really is. She truly is a mother. She loves being a mom.”
As if keeping track of her own children is not enough of a responsibility for Kristen, she is also willing to lend a hand to others as well. One day early last season, a new hockey mom was struggling to get her Termite-aged son’s skates on to his satisfaction. A nearby Kristen heard the interaction and volunteered her years of skate lacing experience and quickly corrected the issue.
“I give her total credit, it is not an easy job,” Sullivan said. “Every child of ours is at the rink three times a week. To put it in perspective, Friday night is the only night she is not at the rink all winter long. With me being on the road, most times, she is by herself. She has to pack up the kids in the car and everybody has to go. She does it with love. I have the biggest admiration for what she can do.”
There is no doubting the fact that hockey moms are special people. At the minor hockey level, they frequently they have to wear many hats; transportation provider, equipment manager, skate lacer, and most importantly, super fan. If their child happens to take a hard fall, they also fill the role of trainer. After all, no one can comfort like a mom.
The second Sunday in May is a day to celebrate all mothers, especially the coolest of all mothers, those amazing hockey moms. Read all of Jim’s Predators and local hockey coverage at examiner.com/nashville-predators-in-nashville.