The story behind the stick

The boys have dreamed of having a YouTube account for forever–to share their vast amphibian-growing, stick-hunting, and paper airplane-making knowledge with the world–and about a week ago I finally caved. Since it’s also a place I figured I could share proud parenting moments with friends and family without obnoxiously hijacking everyone’s FB newsfeeds, it’s really a win-win.

So they make videos with our phones, then either Chris or I upload them to the account 3HockeyBoys. It’s working out well so far: the kids are having fun being creative and no internet wackos have posted any inappropriate or insulting comments. And in an effort to subliminally deter any bad behavior, I chose a specific photo with a positive message as the profile picture for the account.


Here’s its backstory.

*  *  *

Before one game last season, Nicholas’ hockey coach instructed all of his players to rewrap their sticks in clean, white tape. He routinely asked the players to check all their equipment and rewrap their sticks before game time, but this was the first time he requested they use a specific color on their sticks.

As we arrived at the opponent’s rink, Coach uncapped a black Sharpie and took a stick on his lap.

“Whose stick is this?” he’d ask gruffly.

After the owner–or owner’s parents–spoke up to claim the stick, he sat thinking for a second before scribbling something down on the white-taped blade and moving on to the next one. Phrases like “passing lanes,” “soft hands” or “get to the puck” were hand written, each carefully thought out by the coach and specific to what he felt the individual player should focus on during the game.

As the boys headed to locker room for their pre-game chalk talk, I caught a glimpse of Nick’s. It read: LEAD BY EXAMPLE.

*  *  *

Nicholas is quick on the ice–a characteristic that earned him the Hustle Award this year–and he’s routinely among the top scorers on his team each season. He’s learning the power of passing though, and  instead of receiving a Hat Trick patch for scoring three goals in one game, like in seasons past, this season he received a Playmaker patch for making three assists in one game. (An assist is when you pass the puck to a scoring teammate, for any non-sports loving peeps out there.)


He stepped it up and really grew as a player–understanding more of the big picture and specifically making plays to help his teammates grow, too. He still had moments of selfish breakaways that resulted in his personal goal-scoring glory, but there were more moments of restraint where he’d pass the puck and give the glory to a teammate.

When a player who hadn’t scored all season finally got a goal, he was so happy you’d have thought it was his goal. And in the rare instances when their goalie gave up a goal, he’d always skate over, pat him on the helmet and say some encouraging words.

Unbeknownst to him, he was setting a good example and becoming a leader on the team.

The coach’s words written on his stick’s blade made sense.

So how’d it turn out, you wonder, with all that pre-game motivational mojo?

*  *  *

The other team, known in the league for taking cheap shots and playing dirty, maintained their reputation. The referees were blind to most of it. Nicholas grew more and more irritated, which only made his game worse. The rest of the players on the team seemed out of sorts, as well. Each was constantly either a step ahead or behind the other, missing passes and shots on goal, and, to top it off, the defense played poorly.

A hockey mom joked that the white tape was a curse.

About midway through the game, Nicholas’ frustration got the better of him. After a play ended, he lifted his stick overhead and slammed the blade down hard on the ice. He didn’t hit anything other than the ice, but in hockey that still counts as slashing.

I cringed as I watched from the bleachers, thinking of the words on his stick.

The ref called the penalty and sent him to the box.

As he skated over towards the penalty box, he smashed his stick on the ice a couple more times, and I cringed some more.

Tears streamed down his red face as he plopped down hard on the bench and did his time. When the penalty clock ticked down to zero, he flew back on the ice, but it didn’t get any better.

It was one of the few games his team lost throughout the season.

*  *  *

Typically our conversations after his games are quick. I ask if he had fun playing, he answers yes–sometimes asking me if I saw a specific play– then I say how much I enjoyed  watching him and that’s that.

But this time we talked about his role as a leader–on his sports teams, in his class, among the kids in the neighborhood, and in our family–and the responsibility that goes along with that privilege. How sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing–whether it’s written down and staring you in the face or not–but it’s always necessary.

It was a short, simple talk, but a good one that ended by getting a Wendy’s Frosty for the ride home.

*  *  *

So now that you know the story behind the profile picture, if you have any chopsticks you don’t know what to do with, any tadpoles you’re not sure how to care for, or are searching for a new smoothie recipe, check out 3HockeyBoys on YouTube.

Just remember to lead by example if you’re posting a comment.


8 thoughts on “The story behind the stick

  1. Great video! The light boys could use a lesson on how to make the best fort if you have the time. Cheerio from London.

  2. Great message to lead by example….Nick is pretty good at that even though I know he slips sometimes, don’t we all.


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