Confessions of a Hockey Parent
I love a good hockey book and I don’t think there are enough of them out there, particularly when compared to all the other major league sports here in the states (yes, there are a TON of Canada specific hockey books). I was also excited to see a book that delves into the world of children’s sports as a (recovering) child athlete.
From the publisher marketing:
A New York Times bestselling author takes a rollicking deep dive into the ultra-competitive world of youth hockey.
Rich Cohen, the New York Times-bestselling author of The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse and Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football, turns his attention to matters closer to home: his son’s elite Pee Wee hockey team and himself, a former player and a devoted hockey parent.
In Pee Wees: Confessions of a Hockey Parent, Cohen takes us through a season of hard-fought competition in Fairfield County, Connecticut, an affluent suburb of New York City. Part memoir and part exploration of youth sports and the exploding popularity of American hockey, Pee Wees follows the ups and downs of the Ridgefield Bears, the twelve-year-old boys and girls on the team, and the parents watching, cheering, conniving, and cursing in the stands. It is a book about the love of the game, the love of parents for their children, and the triumphs and struggles of both.
Despite my assurances to myself that I would be better about keeping to my self-imposed schedule for blog posts, I’ve not had the best start to 2021. However! I’m doing what I always wanted to keep up with – review a book the Sunday BEFORE it comes out! And, oddly enough, this hockey book is arriving the day before the truncated NHL season starts – what timing!
While I didn’t love the first book of Rich’s I read (The Last Pirate of New York), I DID enjoy his writing style. When I discovered he was writing a hockey book, I was thrilled. As a childhood skater and athlete, as well as lover of all thing sociology and children’s psychology (it’s the teacher/historian in me, I cannot help it), I was really excited to read about the subculture that is children’s sports leagues. My observations first started when I
was dragged to attended my sister’s soccer games. Laura, who I’m still not sure enjoyed the sport, was frequently a defender and occasionally a goalie in the early days of her young soccer career, and the coach’s daughter was always the star forward. Whether or not she could actually kick the ball.
Children’s sports are weird. There was a whole group of us who were the older siblings of the players who all more or less knew each other. We’d pal around while our parents, who clearly didn’t really like each other, made polite small talk and did lots of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) bragging about how great their child played in last week’s game. Suddenly parents who didn’t know a soccer ball from a football (or that soccer is called football everywhere else in the world), were all of a sudden experts and yelled at the coach to tell the other players to give their child the ball, even if their child was the goalie. Didn’t matter, their kid was most important and therefore should get all the action.
My childhood hockey playing took place on our lake. I loved skating outside, though would occasionally skate indoors but only once global warming prevented our Pennsylvania lake from freezing anymore. We didn’t have any leagues where I grew up so I had to find other outlets for my hockey obsession – I played lots of floor hockey and street hockey, and hallway hockey (an invention of our dorm at Pitt). And I was always a goalie. Because I couldn’t skate that well. And was clumsy, and fell over a bit. Well, a lot when I was little – but I could catch just about anything. My love of the sport was entrenched from a young age, as was the culture. I loved goalie fights (I even instigated one once), hat tricks, and my Hershey Bears (one of the oldest teams in the US). My biggest complaint and childhood regret, one I still complain about today, was the fact that I didn’t get to play in a league with other girls like Laura did with soccer.
So now, I get to live vicariously through Rich and his son, but through the lens closer to Rich’s than his twelve year old son’s. I’ve already been tapped by my friends with children to be their kids hockey aunt at games when they get older, so I decided to read up on what my faux-parental obligations at a game might entail. Rich is an entertaining writer, and while he’s written so many books about historical events and people, I think it is here, as a quasi-memoir/pee wees-expose, that he truly shines.
His humor is spot on, and his ability to satirize and poke fun at himself and other hockey parents along the way is tremendously entertaining. It transcends just the pee wee hockey community, but is the perfect book for all parents of child athletes (it’s a great give for the parents this spring!) as well as for recovering child athletes who got fed up with their parents living vicariously through them.
Pee Wees is a brilliant addition to the (albeit slim) pantheon of great ice hockey books. I know it’s a bit niche, but there are some amazing hockey books out there and I’m so excited to be able to recommend yet another.
Rating: 9 out of 10