By the time this week is done, I will have played hockey three times in three nights, at three different rinks, and with three different groups of people. I doubt I have done this since high school.
Beyond apologizing to Veronica for leaving her with the kids (sorry honey!) I also want to thank three people for this opportunity.
Those people are my wife and children.
I lived for hockey as a kid. I was an ardent fan from age four. I played the game from four through college. But somewhere along the way, I lost some of my passion for the sport.
I stopped playing. I remained a fan — and continued to work in the field — but it wasn’t the same.
It took my kids to reignite that passion. It started with Riley, who loved the game from her first exposure. It deepened when Ryan showed an interest — giving our entire family a common activity for the first time.
It took another step when Ryan decided he was ready to start playing the game, and Riley decided she wanted to learn to skate. I got my high school skates out of the attic. They hadn’t been on my feet in nine years.
Within weeks, I had borrowed a set of equipment and was back to being a regular participant in our weekly office pickup games. Within two years, I was on an adult league team and playing two nights a week, taking Ryan to the rink twice a week for practices and games, and taking the entire family to New Jersey Devils games as season-ticket holders.
None of that would have happened without my kids taking an interest in the sport and without Veronica jumping enthusiastically on board, becoming a huge fan of the game and supporting my playing.
It took them to remind me why I loved the sport so much in the first place. By doing so, I am not only more physically active than I have been in years, but we have gained countless hours of togetherness as family.
That last part is the true reward. Autism offers plenty of challenges to the affected individual — even one towards the mild end like Ryan — and his family. Among the toughest for me was the inability to find shared family time. It seems anything we tried to do as a unit, one child would embrace and the other would reject. This remains difficult, but not where hockey is concerned.
And for that I owe my family a large thank you.