Hockey’s back, which is reason enough for celebration in our house.
The NHL season actually began Tuesday night, but last night was the first that all of our favorite teams were in action, and tonight is the Devils’ home-opener, meaning we will spend the evening together as a family at the site of some of our happiest moments.
This is our third year with season tickets, and our fourth with a ticket package of some kind. If you had asked me if I would ever be a full season ticket-holder to an NHL team five years ago, I would have laughed at you. But as I have covered many times in this space, hockey games are where our family works best. Attending a game is the one activity we have found where we have a common interest and bond, and so I view investing in season tickets as investing in family time.
When we first bought the tickets, I also figured that the clock was ticking. Our kids were at an age where they didn’t mind spending weekend evenings with us, but surely that would not last long. A friend relayed a story about how, after years of having tickets together, he had split his plan to allow his kids to sit with friends away from their parents. I cringed, but knew a similar fate probably awaits us at some point.
The signs are already there. A popular Friday night activity among the middle-school set in our town is to go public skating, which both Ryan and Riley have done the first few weeks of school. Both protested to some degree that they would rather go skating than to the Devils game tonight before relenting. I’m thrilled that they want to pursue a social activity — especially Ryan, for whom such expressions are rare — but selfishly, I would love to be able to keep them both inside the protective cocoon of our family unit a little longer.
That can’t, and won’t, happen, of course, so I will just vow instead to cherish the time we spend together even more, starting tonight.
I know that once we are seated together in the arena, we’ll be back to our “safe” space — the place we first found delicious three-hour blocks of family “normalcy.”
There have been intrusions in that safe space before — whether a disruption in routine or a bout with shots-on-goal induced OCD — and there no doubt will be again. The first three nights of the NHL season have passed relatively without incident for Ryan, but he still keeps a very close eye on the shots-on-goal totals, in a way that suggests the lack of incidents has been a matter of luck more than a change in his point of view.
But I will fight to protect this safe space that has been so wonderful for us. Of course I understand that there’s a natural, unstoppable progression that will lead to both of them wanting to spend more time with friends and peers than their parents, and we will find ways to accommodate that. Some games we’ll take one child and a friend. One of us will stay home some nights. But attending as a family of four will remain a part of our routine. It has simply been too important to us to let it go.
During last year’s NHL lockout, the Devils offered several gifts to season ticket holders. Among them was the chance to inscribe something on one the bricks that make up the plaza outside the arena. We debated for weeks what to put on ours. This is what we came up with (keep in mind we were limited to three lines of no more than 20 characters):
OUR SPOT FOR FAMILY
MEMORIES. GO DEVILS!
THE [our name]
We’ll see that brick for the first time tonight. We have to walk through the plaza on our way into the arena — to begin making some more family memories.
POSTSCRIPT: Found it!