Great moments at the rink

The Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association held its annual playoffs last week at the Ice for Kids Arena. As I have for most of the winter, I spent last week in the stands watching as the kids competed for what amounts to their Stanley Cup championship. I have to admit I wasn’t really looking forward to going to the games last week. It’s not that I didn’t want to watch house league hockey or that I had anything better to do. It’s just that I was feeling pretty “hockeyed” out. I’ve watched my fair share of games this winter and the prospect of spending more time at the rink was pretty daunting to me. Now I’ll bet there are more than a few people out there who are thinking, “Is this guy nuts? He gets paid to watch hockey. How can he complain?” I’ll answer that by saying this, “it’s still a job.” And lately, my job has me pretty worn out. Fort Frances loves its sports, and I try my best to get to all of them, but it’s not always possible. The biggest challenge I’ve faced since I’ve been here is trying to strike a balance between giving everyone the coverage they deserve and making sure I don’t burn out. It’s a balancing act I’ve yet to achieve. Someone, whether it’s a parent, coach, editor, or publisher, always wants more and I take it personally when I can’t provide it. Thankfully, there seems to be some higher power that’s always sure to remind me why I do this job just when I need it most. This week, that higher power sent me the minor hockey playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if I look back on this winter years from now and recall last Wednesday’s PeeWee ‘A’ final between Oddfellows and the Lions. Oh, I doubt if I’ll remember the score, or who won the game for that matter. However, I’m fairly certain I will remember Leslie Allen. For those of you who might not know Leslie (and I would be included in that group as I’ve never actually spoken with him), he is a member of the Oddfellows. He’s certainly not the biggest kid on the ice, nor is he the fastest. But even from the stands, it’s easy to see that he’s having fun as he patrols the right wing. This season happens to be Leslie’s first year in organized hockey and, prior to last Wednesday’s final, he’d never scored a goal in a league game. By now I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. Early in the second period, Oddfellows’ forward Tyler Fontana circled in the Lions’ zone and fired a shot on goal. As the puck sped through the air, Leslie, parked just outside the crease, made his move. Exhibiting the hand-eye co-ordination possessed by all true goal scorers, Leslie tipped the puck out of mid-air. It then dove through the goalie’s five-hole and settled in the back of the net for a goal. What happened next can best be described as bedlam. Leslie’s linemates on the ice were the first to react as they swarmed their teammate with congratulatory hugs. A few seconds later, the Oddfellows’ bench erupted as they realized it was Leslie who’d scored. Players and coaches alike jumped around like kids on Christmas morning. And then Leslie emerged from his swarming teammates. I’m not sure I can describe Leslie’s celebration and do it justice. His arms were swinging wildly above his head. From where I was sitting, it looked like he wanted to go to the bench, celebrate with his teammates on the ice, and visit his parents in the stands all at the same time. Let’s just say he was really excited. He skated down the front of the bench and got high-fives from all his teammates, then made his way back to the face-off circle eager to net career goal #2. In the stands, Leslie’s family was ecstatic. In the seconds following the goal, the woman I am assuming was Leslie’s mom turned to who I’m guessing was his dad and asked, “Did he get that?” Once confirmed, she practical jumped out of her seat—unable to contain her excitement. She then started to cry. I don’t have any kids of my own, but I can imagine there’s no better feeling than watching your child succeed. Some of the other parents of team members then came over to congratulate Leslie’s family on his success. It was a great moment and it was one I feel privileged to have witnessed. I’d like to congratulate Leslie on his first goal and thank him for helping remind me why it is I got into community journalism. It’s moments like this that make the trying times a little more palatable.

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