The "hockey stick present." According to Urban Dictionary, it's "a gift given another that is really a present that the giver wants for him/herself." I received my first hockey stick present the Christmas after I was married. My husband gave me a sleeping bag. To me, "camping" means staying at a hotel that doesn't have room service. I thanked him warmly, but added that I wasn't really interested in camping. "No problem," he replied quickly. "I'll use it myself. Mine is pretty worn out."
I recently received a variation of the hockey stick present from my son. He had just graduated from college in New Jersey, where he had developed an interest in college and professional ice hockey. For Mother's Day, he handed me a ticket to a Washington Capitals' hockey game; he even included an Ovechkin T-shirt.
Just as I am not a fan of camping, I am also not a fan of watching team sporting events. In fact, I'd much rather be watching a Broadway show. Like all good parents, I sat through my children's many sports activities: baseball, soccer, and the most boring of all, high school crew. But voluntarily attend a professional sporting event? Well, football is just too silly for words and a dentist's drill sounds better to me than that annoying "squeak, squeak, thud, thud" of basketball.
But what could I say? My son explained that the ticket was expensive and hard to come by because it was for a playoff game. I wasn't sure what it was a playoff for (I later learned it was for the Stanley Cup), but I feigned enthusiasm. Then he showed me that he had a ticket to the game as well. And I understood. It wasn't a true hockey stick present because he didn't want my ticket for himself. But it was similar — what he wanted was someone to go to the game with him!
Everything changed the minute I entered the Verizon Center and was engulfed in a sea of red hockey jerseys. I felt the crackling excitement of the fans and the friendliness that comes with a shared passion. And I soon discovered that hockey fans are simply a different breed of sports fans. They cheer louder and with more energy than any other fans. Total strangers become instant friends as soon as they sit down. My son proudly told everyone sitting around us that this was my first game and a Mother's Day present from him. I was welcomed to the fold.
And then I heard the sounds of hockey: the swooshing of the skates; the thwack of the stick hitting the puck; the bang when the players hit the glass; and, most amazing of all, the siren when someone "lights the lamp" and scores. And sometime during the game, they showed the Capitals' Unleash the Fury video — a montage of scenes from sports movies designed to whip up the crowd, and the team, even more. True, hockey is just a variation on the theme of "keep away" found in most other team sports. But it's played on ice! I have enormous respect for anyone who can stand up on ice skates, let alone play a game. I was mesmerized.
The game was thrilling! Sadly, the Caps didn't win. But I did — I became hooked on hockey. Now I follow goal counts for Carlson, Backstrom and the "Great Eight" Ovechkin. I read hockey blogs like Russian Machine Never Breaks. I've only missed one game since that first one. I even watch the games on TV when no one is at home and I scream all by myself. And I know what a power play and a PK (penalty kill) are!
And most importantly, that first hockey game ticket turned out to be the "Stanley Cup" of presents — it gave me a way to bridge the transition into an adult relationship with my son. He and I have a shared passion — we talk and watch and cheer hockey. He even got me to try ice-skating with him. I don't get far from the rail while he skates all around me, but I look great in my Washington Capitals sweatshirt. And for Christmas, not only did we give our dog a Capitals' collar and a road kill penguin (mascot of the Caps' rival team), but my son and I unknowingly gave each other identical Unleash the Fury T-shirts!
I may get another hockey stick present some day... certainly I hope I do!
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