Sometimes when you’re in the thick of the day-to-day, you fail to notice significant changes that are happening right in front of you.
Most of this NHL season, Ryan had a routine. After finishing his homework and eating dinner, he would head to the basement to watch hockey, by himself. He said he preferred it that way. There was a computer nearby for him to type stats between periods, but I also think he just wanted to be alone, perhaps to enjoy the freedom to experience the games the way he prefers.
Often, we were watching the same games in the living room, but he refused to join us.
Always a creature of habit, Ryan headed to bed at the same time every night, long before the first batch of games ended. We always tried to convince him to use the DVR to record his favorite team and watch its game before school in the morning — without knowing the result. This seemed impossible for him. Checking scores — and stats — was part of his first-thing-in-the-morning routine.
Sometime over the last month, all that changed.
He began to watch games with us, in the living room. He began to record them when he went to bed, and watch them in the mornings before school — without knowing the score.
When he decided to root for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final against Montreal, and Veronica jokingly told him that a Ranger fan was not welcome in our house, he even watched the first period of one game with our neighbor the Ranger fan, having invited himself over. When I dropped in to check in on them, he shooed me away.
This scene was repeated day after day, but it didn’t dawn on me until this morning as he watched the overtime period from Game 7 of the West Final between Chicago and Los Angeles, that his new normal was a far more social way of enjoying games. It was something we hoped for when night after night he descended to basement stairs to watch by himself. And when it arrived, and repeated itself to the point it became routine, we hardly noticed.
I don’t know how long this will continue. There are at most seven games left in this hockey season. As we are every year, Veronica and I are both saddened by its impending end. Hockey is where our family finds its common thread. It sparks conversation and provides context and relevance. It creates opportunities for togetherness. It gives us a shared interest.
Those conversations will continue, of course. It could be the middle of August, and Ryan will ask a question about some game from November. But without the games every night, we have in some ways lost our anchor until October.
One thing I no longer fear — that the summer will come and go and take with it Ryan’s love of hockey.
We are, as he once declared, a hockey family, and I know now that will not change even if the details of what that means are changing all around me.