38: Little Devil

38: Little Devil

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hooked on Hockey

Little Devil

He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.

~Clarence Budington Kelland

“You ready, bud?” my dad asked, as we glided out onto the ice after one of his big games. Even as a seventh grader now, I can still picture that moment, all those years ago, when I toddled onto the ice rink of the Continental Airlines stadium, home of the New Jersey Devils at the time. With pride, I wore my dad’s name and number on the back of my little red hockey jersey. “Representing #3, defenseman, Ken Daneyko!” The dramatic voice of the announcer echoed as the crowd responded with an exuberant roar. They chanted, “Dano! Dano! Dano!” and when the crowd saw me and Dad, hand in hand, they let out a genuine “Awww!” I felt like a superstar, and from that point on, I’ve always craved that sense of admiration. But with that came expectations.

Since I entered this world, most people have assumed that I would be the next Ken Daneyko, famous hockey star. But watching my sister Taylor and me doing splits and dancing to Britney Spears’ “Oops! I Did it Again” and ’NSync’s “Bye Bye Bye,” my family soon realized that hockey wasn’t what I was destined to pursue.

Despite the different path I began to follow, my dad’s teammates were like a second family to me. At least a couple of times a week, the hockey wives and their “little devils” would eat dinner together at my dad’s old restaurant, Mezzanotte. I also remember hanging out in the Devils locker room before and after games. Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, Marty Brodeur, and the other players nicknamed me “Tank” because I had always been big for my age. They also gave me the nickname “Mini Me” because, compared to my dad, I appeared to be a pint-size clone of him. At one point we even had the same missing teeth, just not for the same reason.

I can recall one time, Scott Stevens, hockey legend and one of my dad’s best friends, gently placed his large hand on my shoulder and asked that question children get asked all the time, half-expecting to already know the answer. “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” I belted out theatrically, “I want to be the next hunka hunka Elvis Presley!” As I was shaking my pelvis in circles, all the hockey players looked at my dad, not knowing how to respond. Dad chuckled and ruffled my hair and said, “Playing hockey is just not his passion. He loves to sing, he loves to dance, and he loves to act.” The players reacted with a look on their faces that questioned, Seriously? Are you okay with that? Dad said proudly, “Of course, I’ll support him in anything he chooses to do.”

By the time I entered middle school, the expectations still followed me throughout my days. As the new kid in sixth grade, I was constantly being asked a variety of questions from my classmates. “Isn’t your dad Ken Daneyko?” “Can you get me an autograph?” “Can you get me a jersey?” “Can you get me tickets to a game?” Surprisingly though, the easiest question to answer was, “Do you play hockey?”

“No, I go to all of the games, and I love watching my dad play, but it’s just not my thing.” The other kids gave me that same look I’ve always gotten, but I can handle it. I inherited that confidence from my dad. Although I have an eclectic personality, I really know my dad meant it when he said he supports me in anything I choose to do. And I thank the Lord every day to have a father like him. You see, my dad and I are both performers, just in different arenas. Although I wasn’t born to live my life on the ice, my name is Shane Daneyko, and I’m proud to be me.

~Shane Kenneth Daneyko, age 13

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