At the end of April (when I was sincerely too busy to blog), the boys skated their hearts out before a panel of coaches in tryouts for the Bridgewater Bears, a travel hockey club. Even at the Mites level not every skater makes the cut, so the boys were very excited when they were both offered spots on the roster!
As if that wasn't enough excitement in that week, 4:00am Friday found us piled into the car, bound for Lake Placid where my hockey team was entered in a tournament for the Lake Placid Cup. Three days in Lake Placid with a pile of friends and their kids, lots of Olympic sights to see, shopping, and hockey games - as family weekends go, there's not much more we could hope for.
The plan was for my team to skate in rounds on Friday and Saturday, with only playoff games scheduled on Sunday. Since my team is extremely recreational, we didn't go in expecting to make the playoffs so, when the boys were given the chance to skate "Mites on Ice" at the Rangers vs. Sabres NHL playoff game in Madison Square Garden that Sunday, Chris and I said yes to it right away! We'd be up at 4am Friday to drive five hours, why not do the same on Sunday? The kids were to watch warm-ups from the tunnel in MSG, first period from an NHL dressing room, skate between 1st and 2nd periods, and then get audience seats for the rest of the game. They might even have a chance to meet some of the players. Each skater could have one parent attend - and, trust me, ALL of us were excited!
And then - huge surprise - my team actually won our first game in the tournament! We played well in the following games, too, and by Saturday afternoon it was pretty clear we'd be in the playoffs on Sunday.
Everyone on my team was supporting my choice to go back to NYC to see my kids skate on NHL ice (and to see the Sabres, of course), but I was feeling awful about deserting my team - I had, after all, committed to skate the tournament with them long before the Mites on Ice NHL opportunity came up.
So, we were wandering the main street of Lake Placid, shopping, having ice cream, and discussing the world when the call came: the ice at MSG was in horrible condition and the Rangers had cancelled all non-NHL activity...including our Mites on Ice. I'm not sure how much damage twelve 40-50lb kids can do but apparently the Rangers were worried. The game tickets were still on offer but the kids wouldn't get to do any of the fun stuff before and there was no chance of meeting players. I can't describe the disappointment!
Poor Chris got saddled with calling each family (he's the team manager) to let them know that skating at the game was off and our family mood was bleak, especially mine. Without the kids actually skating, I had to re-make my choice about what to do on Sunday. An NHL playoff game is a big deal - especially if you have free tickets - and an even bigger deal when the contest is between the Sabres (our family team) and the Rangers (Ross' favorite team). But I'd made a commitment to my team to play for them...and our tournament was also on Big Deal Ice - the 1980 rink in Lake Placid is the site of the single most famous victory in hockey history, where a team of USA college kids beat the Russian professional team who'd long held Olympic gold.
Eventually, I realized my place was there, in Lake Placid, with my own team. I started to tell Chris but he already knew what I'd say. We briefly discussed his driving back with the kids to see the NHL game (I could get a ride home with a teammate), but he really wanted to stay to see me play. It was also a pretty easy call for Lars but it was AWFUL for Ross. His heart had been set on going to a live Rangers game - a chance he knows will not come often. Even without being able to skate, he really wanted to go to the game. After we made the decision (3-1, poor Ross!) to stay in Lake Placid, he was heartbroken. He sobbed on and off for hours - fresh waves of sadness seemed to grip him every time he thought about it...it broke my heart that I couldn't make him feel better.
Sunday morning dawned early anyhow - we got up before the sun to eat breakfast and get to the rink by 7am to cheer our friends playing in a different division. After their game, we toured the Olympic Ski Jump Complex before returning to the rink for my final game.
Chris and the kids cheered their hearts out for my team. We scored first (I got the assist!) and there was much celebration (we were up against a difficult team with a very good goalie) but weren't able to win the game. Still, we won silver medals for second place!
I think we all had more fun staying in Lake Placid than we would have had at the NHL game. I know my team appreciated having fans much more than any NHL player possibly could! Ross is still a little sad that he didn't get to see the Rangers play live (especially since the game went into two overtimes and the Rangers finally won!) and, in the end, none of us (including Ross) have any regrets.
Full picture set here & videos here