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The Hockey Game Lesson
Teachings of a Child

by Hal Evan Caplan
August 20, 2011

My child is my teacher and Like it or not, I do learn or I am reminded of "life's little lessons" from him. These lessons I learn from my child sometimes come at my expense. But then again, the classroom happens to be where ever we are at the moment the lesson is taught. There is no structure tied to the lesson. There is no timeframe in which the lesson will be taught. And there are no identifying indicators allowing me to recognize a lesson is in the making. The lessons just appear, they are brought to my attention and then thee quickly disappear as quickly as they appeared, leaving me stunned at what just took place. That is why he is the teacher and I am the student. And for the record, I do enjoy learning from my teacher on a regular basis.

I play ice hockey on an adult men's league. Each Thursday night we play a game. This is something that me and my friend Mark look forward to, as he and I are on the same team and on the same forward line. Mark plays left wing and I play right wing. He and I work together and at work we get each other excited about the game that will played later that night.

Hockey is very important to me for many reasons. One, I love the sport in general and follow the NHL (National Hockey League); two, I love playing the game; three, it is a great stress reliever and finally it is great exercise.

On game nights, my teammates and I take the game seriously. We are hard on ourselves and each other if we make bad plays or mistakes. And yes, there is always the fact that we don't like to lose. Each player on the team has their own ritual on how they dress out and how they act just before game time. Some players put all their pads and gear on first and their skates on last. While other players do the opposite. And of course there are other variations as well. Call it a ritual, call it superstitious, call it weird... but it happens.

Rarely does my wife or teacher get the opportunity to come watch me play on game night because the start time of the game is a little before his bed time. If they were to come, they wouldn't really get to see much of it anyway because my wife would need to get my teacher ready for bed. We keep him on a schedule for good reason. But, like I said they do come on the rare occasion and my teacher just stays up late. He loves to run over to where I am sitting, while I'm on the bench to talk to me. I do have a hard time hearing what he has to say because the glass is so thick, but I later find out he had been critiquing my playing and offers advice.

On this game night I was very frustrated with the way that we all played, especially me -- I played horribly. Of course it happened to be on the night when my wife and teacher attended. My wife even mentioned that see saw me shaking my head after most shifts. For those of you that may not know, a shift in hockey terms is a certain amount of time a player is on this ice at a time. Usually a shift ranges between 45 seconds to 90 seconds.

After the game as I exited the ice and headed toward the locker room, my teacher ran from the bleachers to greet me.

"Good game, dad." He commented.

"Yeah... sure...whatever." I mumbled as I walked past him.

Once I was dressed in my street clothes, I headed out of the locker room with my head hung low. I think the hardest part was the fact that we had just lost to our biggest rivals with a score of 2 to 4. Did I mention that I don't like losing to those guys.

I finally caught up to my wife in the main ice rink area. She expressed that I looked good but tonight was just not our night and that we would get them next time. All the while my teacher continued to ask me why I was upset.

"I'm just mad at the way I played." I explained.

"You didn't play that bad, dad." He smiled. I knew he was just trying to make me feel better. I nodded my head as if I was a zombie in some sort of hockey trance if you will.

"Thanks dude." I replied.

We had dinner plans with a friend after the game and we needed to get going rather quickly. In an effort to get to the restaurant on time to meet our friend, my wife expressed she would run out at that moment and meet our friend. My teacher and I would see her at the restaurant soon thereafter.

As my teacher and I walked to my truck he continued to recap that night's game in a commentator-like manner and feed me several compliments. I knew he was just trying to cheer me up and I did very much appreciate him doing that. I threw my sticks and hockey bag filled with sweaty gear into the bed of my truck. I opened the back door for him, and then I climbed into the driver's side. The radio was on from when I arrived 2 hours earlier, blaring mind you, getting me pumped up for the game ahead. My teacher and I were running a little late for dinner, but at that moment I had no idea I was about to learn my next lesson.

"Dad, can you please turn off the radio for a second." He requested.

The fact that he asked me to turn off the radio made me think about the times I when I talk to my teacher about something important because I always ask that he turn off the TV or radio or even to put down the book he is reading. That way, I have his full attention. Now he asked the very same thing from me by asking me to turn off the radio. I should have seen a lesson in the making, but I did not.

"Can you please turn around, too?" He asked.

Me and my frustrated-self obliged. I turned to face my teacher as he sat in the back seat. He smiled and then began.

"Dad, I don't know why you are so upset, it's just a game." He emphasized.

"I agree but I don't...", then I paused.

"It' just a hockey game, dad." He pointed out.

"We lost our game and play like a pile of dirt." I noted.

"Dad, winning isn't everything you know." He declared.

I sat there dumbfounded. I was just put in my place by my teacher, and you know what? He was absolutely right. It was just a hockey game, period.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I was reminded of that day was: It is important to always remember that winning isn't everything!

About the Author:

I am happy to share with you, the readers, that the stories of "Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke" has been published into a book. The book is available at: and (though If you would like a signed copy from My Teacher and me, please contact me at and we can work out the details.

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