Last Sunday, I took my son to his weekly “learn to skate” class. I parked the car, grabbed his gear, and we walked through the automatic doors in to the lobby. Tracking a four-year old through the chaos of a hundred other kids coming and going takes most of my attention, so I don’t usually notice any of the other parents until my son is on the ice. But as I pushed through the double doors heading to the rink, I found myself face to face with another parent that happened to be a player on our local NHL team.
When I take my son to his class, I stand at the glass for the entire session. I want him to know that I am there to support him, and that nothing is more important to me for those 30 minutes than him. I do my best to not be a distraction, but I will give him an encouraging smile or a thumbs up when he does something that I can tell that he is proud of. While he’s waiting for other kids to catch up, we’ll do a fist bump through the glass with our signature “boom!” at the end before I point his attention back to his teacher.
I’ve often dreamed about what it would have been like to be an NHL player — playing a game that I love for a living, representing my country in the Olympics, scoring the game winning goal in overtime, and winning the cup. But the other side of that is the travel, being away from my family, and the lack of privacy. Sure, few NHL players have the recognition factor of a George Clooney or even a Peyton Manning, but the odds are that walking around town in the city where you play or in a big hockey market, you’re going to get recognized and, inevitably, your life off the ice will get be less and less private. It’s one of those pieces of the professional athlete’s job description that makes me grateful of being just a guy with a normal job. I can go out to dinner with my wife or watch my kid skate without being stared at or asked for autographs and being unable to be truly present in those moments with my family.
Fortunately, everyone left him alone, and midway through the class, the NHLer reached through the door to give his kid a tap on the helmet and a “good job”. Well, it was in French, so I’m assuming he said good job. But I smiled at them because for 30 minutes on a Sunday, he wasn’t a celebrity or a professional athlete. He was a dad cheering on his kid in a “learn to skate” class, just like me.