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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Her First Hockey Game

It has been over a week since we went to watch the hockey game. My brother-in-law bought us tickets for Christmas. We left for the game allowing plenty of time for slow traffic. Good thing we did. It was agonizing, creeping slowly forward inch by inch getting closer to the parking ramp but still so far away.

Finally we turned to corner to enter the ramp! No, the entrance there was blocked so we creeped on. It felt like hours, but in fact was just moments of time, when we finally entered the ramp. Magically all the cars in front of us had disappeared. Up, up, up we went into the ramp and then we found the traffic again.

We saw the entrance to the arena, just to the left of us and I was temped to jump out of the car and run inside. Then the traffic moved and we were motioned around the bend. All the cars ahead of us proceeded onwards and they all passed an empty spot. Our little car fit perfectly in it. Was the spot left just for us? It felt like it. When we turned around the entrance to the arena was mere steps away. We had found the Holy Grail of ramp parking spots.

The air was so cold, our breath was visible like tendrils of clouds leaving our bodies. I held my children's hands as we navigated ourselves around moving vehicles to get to the door and the promised warmth behind it. At last we were inside and warm. My daughter held our tickets and passed them out to us with great pride. This was her first hockey game and she was bursting with excitement.

Daddy led us to our seats. He knows how the arena is set up and has no problem navigating the crowd to find our seats. My daughter was bouncing up and down. She often watched hockey with her brother and father on TV and was thrilled to be in the arena where the actual players were. I was thrilled because I learned we had waitress service and they would bring the arena food right to me.

The players came onto the ice and my son who is forever in motion stopped. His face turned toward the ice and he focused on the activity that was occurring there.
It is not often that he tunes into his surroundings as much as he was in this moment. He might love the game as much as his father.

I was the only one that wasn't lost in the moment. The rest of the family was focused on the ice, I focused instead on the family and enjoyed seeing the excitement on their faces. The national anthem for both Canada and the US was sung and the game started. I finally got the attention of the waitress and ordered freshly made potato chips with Bison French Onion chip dip. Food at the arena was meant to be enjoyed, I was ready to enjoy.

One period was over our team was behind. You could feel the disappointment in the crowd. My son wanted to watch the commentators being filmed so Daddy took him. My daughter and I went exploring. We dodged people as she skipped ahead eating from a bag of cotton candy the size of her head. She was giggling and spinning and people all around us would pause and watch her bliss while I somehow managed to keep up with her in the crowd.

We went all the way around the arena and I managed to pause at our seats as I left my coat behind. Off we were again, lap number two. We passed Daddy as he and my son went back to their seats. The second period was starting and they didn't want to miss any of it. I tried to get her to go back to our seats, but she had something else in mind. Off she went so I followed.

Lap number two was finished and we paused at a railing where we could look down to the section below. There was a play house and she saw it, now she had a goal in mind. We went back to the seats to get our tickets, I wanted to make sure we could get back to our seats. We talked her brother into joining us and off we went. Our goal was the playhouse. The only trouble was that I had no idea how to get to it.

Near the restrooms was a staircase, we were close to where we saw the playhouse from above, so down the stairs we went. My son now started to protest. These stairs looked ominous. They were stark and grey and when the door closed they seemed so removed from the brightness and glitz of the arena. We could not hear the sounds of the crowd and we were all alone. Down we went and he was sure we were going the wrong way and were lost. The contrast was too much for him and he was starting to have an aspie fit.

Then we got to the bottom of the staircase I opened the door and the arena was visible again. The sights and sounds soothed him and we turned to the left, there was the playhouse and our journey was over. I signed the kids up for the kids club and they played inside.

There was a sign with trivia questions about the mascot and signs around the clubhouse with the answers on them. The only problem was the clubhouse was old, signs had disappeared and were not replaced. A slight annoyance to an average fan. To my son it was a tragedy. He wanted to know what Sabretooth's favorite cartoon was. The question was there for all to see. The answer however was missing. He wanted to go back to watch the game, but first he had to find the answer.

We searched for the missing sign, we asked the people working at the clubhouse. The answer was not revealed. He was focused on it and wouldn't let it go. The he decided that he would ask Sabretooth. So now we went on a Sabretooth hunt. The only problem, he was nowhere to be found. The period was almost over and I wanted to get back to our seats before the crowd descended on us. So I suggested that we look back upstairs on the level our seats were at. Back to the stairs we went.

The anxiety started as soon as the door closed. He was sure these were the wrong stairs. We were lost and never going find daddy or our seats. He was no longer focused on Sabretooth and his favorite cartoon. But he was ready to fall apart. We were just steps from the door, I managed to get him those final steps and never again would I take the stairs with him. The change is just too much for him. We open the door into the familiar sights and sounds of the arena and the anxiety is gone. Back to our seats we go, there are just moments left in the period. I order a soft pretzel and relax in my chair. I finally focus on the game and hope I can relax.

My daughter is six. So much has happened this night. We took forever to park, walked through traffic in the cold to the arena. We watched the game and explored the arena. She played in the clubhouse and joined the kids club. It is after bedtime and she is ready to go home, NOW. The only problem is that Daddy is not ready to go.

Of course she tries to persuade him. She tries to snuggle and use hew powers of cute against him. However they have ho effect on him. Hockey is his passion, his life and his everything. He does no waver and stays focused on the game. She tries blocking his vision, but he foils that plan and still watches the game. She tries punching him, which is actually cute because she is so small. This does make him smile, but he will not budge from that seat until the final whistle is blown.

So what does a six year old do at a hockey game when she is ready to go home and no one else is? Why she runs up and down the stairs in the aisle of course. Luckily this entertained her for the rest of the game and I didn't have to chase her around the arena for a few more laps.

The game is almost over finally the team we came to watch gets a goal then another one seconds later. Alas it is not enough and they lose. Now the part I dread, getting out of the arena. I don't like crowds. I don't like walking in wall to wall people. I have death grips on the kids, it would be so easy for them to be lost in this crowd. We pause at the souvenir shop conveniently placed near our seats. The kids talk daddy into buying them something. They are closed! Lucky (not my choice of words) for us the shop all the way down on the main floor is open.

My quick exit and short walk to the car plan has been foiled. We have to find the elevator, No more stairs tonight. Go down to the store and find the two little items my husband told the kids they could have. On they way into the store I see a DVD that my husband loves and it is just $1.00. I am not sure if we still have it so I point it out to him. Of course he is upset. Why do I bother? We find the treasured items promised to the children and stand in the line to pay. I just want to go home.

Finally we get out of the store, the crowds are gone. We ride the elevator back up to our level and find the exit to the parking ramp. The warmth of the arena is left behind as we open the door to the ramp, luckily our car is right there and we get in. Her first game is over. We head for home. Both children are sleepy when we get home and the bedtime struggle is almost nonexistent. My husband and I have a surprisingly good night watching TV together on the couch. I wish we could have nice days like this more often.

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