“Do you believe in miracles?”

“Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!”  I don’t need to tell most of you that those were the words of Al Michaels during the 1980 Olympics when coach Herb Brooks and the upstart USA hockey team filled with a bunch of college kids beat the Soviet Union in what will always stand in my mind as the greatest upset in the history of sports. I’ll never forget being in Denver at soccer practice indoors because there was too much snow outside and Dr. Ezzard, a devoted father of one of my teammate’s, came bursting through the doors screaming over and over “We beat the Russians!  We beat the Russians!”  We all went bananas as did just about everyone across the country that day.  What a moment and what a memory.
 
A happy band of hockey goons

A happy band of hockey goons

Well, fast forward nearly 33 years where it’s late December and there’s no NHL hockey due to a lockout where millionaires are fighting with billionaires. For those that are following it, I’ll spoil the surprise and tell you that they’ll eventually get it settled and union leader Donald Fehr will get himself and only the top players a bunch more money, but to the detriment of the sport just like he did with baseball – a league now comprised of haves and have-nots.  But enough about the NHL lockout because here in Georgia we’ve got no labor unrest and that means it was the perfect time for the Dads’ Bucket List to stage a little Winter Classic of our own.  That’s right this experience would be a glorious game of hockey taking place here in the very mean streets of Dunwoody, GA.  We met up at my house in the late afternoon on Dec. 23 (9 dads, 15 kids and 1 grandpa imported all the way from Canada) for a little pre-Christmas street hockey.

 
"Is this how Wayne Gretzky got his start?"

“Is this how Wayne Gretzky got his start?”

When we started making plans for this game several weeks ago I thought the biggest hurdle was going to be either getting the ESPN broadcast rights finalized or making sure that our guest singer, Bono, knew all the words to the ‘Star Spangled Banner‘ and ‘O Canada’.  But those two details came together pretty easily compared to answering the roadblock questions my wife started firing at me, “What if it’s cold?  What will the kids wear?  What if they get hurt? What’s the medical evac plan? What if it’s against the law? What if 2 + 2 doesn’t equal 4?  What if an alligator crawls out of the sewer and snatches one of them?”  I tried to cover most of these bases to include hiring a trapper from the Everglades.  However, for the ones I couldn’t satisfy I figured we dads would improvise in the moment. And so somehow, some way the show would go on.

 
Once the troops started showing up, they immediately threw on jerseys, grabbed sticks and started beating the hockey ball around the street like a merry band of marauders.  And then the kids joined in.  I watched fathers’ instincts kick in with some quick pointers about how to hold the stick, hit the ball and in the case of George Markley the proper way to drive a 7-year-old into the sod of my neighbor’s front yard with an illegal cross-check (who knew, tax accountant by day and hockey goon by night).  After some warm up time, we divided these mini mites into two teams and let them go at it.  We dads for the most part stayed on the periphery to watch the game while enjoying some holiday adult cabbage juice.  A couple of the local dads who’d never seen a hockey stick much less played with one didn’t let that stop them from coaching their kid, like native Atlantan Mike McIntosh who kept telling his 4-year-old to “use that thar stick of yours like a meat cleaver and that’ll keep them Yankees away from ya” (hey, who says they’re not still fighting the “War of Northern Aggression” down here?).
 
Adult swim time!!

Adult swim time!!

After the kids had a run for about an hour or so we decided it was adult swim time and sent the little ones off so the dads could have a little contest of our own.  We divided up teams so we could battle for the mythical Dads’ Bucket Cup.  You’d have thought we were really playing for one of those million dollar contracts because as soon as the ball dropped we started banging and smashing our wooden sticks so much we nearly started a fire.  You really had to be part of it to  appreciate the intensity of the experience, but this band of middle agers were all breathlessly going at it while laughing the whole time.  Dave Rickell was manning one of the nets and by the looks of it channeling his inner Jim Craig from the 1980 Olympics with multiple amazing saves (and without a cup on I might add).  Then there was Kevin Watts who couldn’t figure out how to hold a hockey stick and ended up looking more like a Venetian gondolier guiding a couple lovebirds than a hockey dad trying to light the lamp (I’ve got to cut the guy some slack though because when you don’t have cable TV there’s a lot of important things you wouldn’t know like how could they stop filming such a quality show like “Jersey Shore”).  Anywho back to the dads’ game, after a ferocious ten minutes the game was knotted at 2 and you just can’t end it with a tie so we went to sudden death where Good triumphed over Evil as the Justice League pulled out the victory over the Legion of Doom and celebrated with high fives, chest bumps and piling on our goalie.

 
The kids took over from there and continued to play into the dark.  The rest of us tried to catch our breath and make sure everyone was having fun.  That included me filling the kids up with hot chocolate and conversation.  One of my favorite ones was with second grader Charlie Rickell and went just like this, “so Charlie, you ready for Santa Claus to come?”  “Yeah, but not as ready as I am for you to give me some marshmallows for this hot chocolate”.  Let it be stated for the record that next time we’ll be sure to have marshmallows on the menu.  You’ve got to love the unfiltered honesty of a child.  At the end, we polled everyone with our traditional rating system and scored a unanimous two thumbs up.
 
 

"Hockey Town, USA"

“Hockey Town, USA”

So it’s time to wrap up another experience and think about what we might have taken away from it.  I still vividly remember the moment, the setting and the emotion when I learned that that 1980 US Olympic hockey team achieved what we all thought was impossible.  It really did seem like a Miracle and it’s one of those moments in life I’ll always remember.  So let me ask you, what are some of your greatest memories?  What will your child’s greatest memories be?  And, maybe more importantly, as a father, will you have been there to be a part of them?  Merry Christmas!!  Go. See. Be. Do.

 
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About Matt Boettcher - Dads' Bucket List

Husband and dad to two boys who's always trying to enjoy the humor and meaning in the journey of fatherhood. Check out how things are going at: http://dadsbucketlist.com In addition to these responsibilities I'm also an avid (some would say obsessive) sports fan, very amateur gardener, aging but still active runner, and an always willing to experience a new country traveler.
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