My 5-year-old niece Danica is quite the cookie.
She’s not really a warm-and-fuzzy type of kid – at least not with me, her beloved auntie! On the odd day, she’ll be cute and cuddly and “madly in love” with me, but those days are rare, so I soak them up when they happen. As she gets older, she does seem to have a more pleasant demeanor – a little more skip in her step and more of a smile on her face - but honestly, I’ve always kind of liked the kid’s edge. She glares at people when she’s not impressed. Glowers, in fact. She can be crusty and surly, and there’s something about that that I really like. (Maybe because I can be crusty and surly, too… a child after my own heart!)
But when Danica’s excited about something?
Her blue eyes twinkle.
This past Saturday? The twinkle was there.
Because this girl was TOTALLY pumped to be playing her first “real” hockey game.
It was about a week before that my sister told my mom and I to plan on coming to Dan’s hockey in Cantley on March 22nd. She’s been taking part in a learn-to-skate hockey program for girls (approx age 4-6) this winter, but up until now, they’ve just been having little drills, practicing skating, and having little scrimmages amongst themselves.
At this age, it’s about having fun and learning… not about winning or losing.
That being said, they had recruited an Aylmer team to come and play against her group of girls on March 22nd, and Kara thought it would be fun for Danica if we made a big deal of it – we’d all go and watch her play, then go out for pizza afterwards to “celebrate” her first game.
When Mom and I showed up at their place Saturday afternoon, Danica was already wound up and so excited. I honestly think the highlight of my day was when Mom said to her, “Are you going to score a goal for Grandma today?” and Dan matter-of-factly replied, “Grandma, I was born to score.”
Seriously. No idea where she heard that, but I’ve been giggling about it all week. What a kid!
We all packed up and headed for the rink. We got out to the stands early to get good seats under the heaters, and then waited for the girls to hit the ice. It was really cute to see all these little kids lined up waiting behind the boards to get on the ice – they were so tiny, all you could see was the tops of their helmets! Danica and her girls hit the ice, and then the Aylmer team came spilling out the gate too.
Imagine our surprise when we discovered the Aylmer team was actually a team of boys!!
A group of teeny tiny little boys who very clearly had been playing in a league, and were a little more advanced in their hockey-playing and skating skills.
Right then and there, I figured the girls might be in trouble.
Well, that, and the fact that as the other girls slowly made their way in circles around the ice to warm-up, while Danica instead set up camp at center ice and had a nice big chat with her best buddy Rowan.
(That’s her in the middle with the white helmet)
When the puck finally dropped to start the “game”, the fun started. Apparently at this age, they don’t have a real goalie – just unlucky little kids who take turns standing in the little wee nets holding a regular stick. The boys were a little more accustomed to handling the puck and…well…shooting the puck, so it became quickly apparent that this might be a run-away game for the little boys. Their goals came fast and furious.
Don’t get me wrong. These boys weren’t exactly tiny versions of Wayne Gretzky or anything. They fell down a lot. And they crashed into the boards a lot. They couldn’t carry a puck, and they often whiffed on their shots. And sometimes they even skated in the wrong direction.
But they were a tad more advanced than the girls.
It was entertaining, nevertheless. I especially enjoyed the little boy who totally body-checked one of the little girls… hey, if you’re gonna play with the boys, you gotta be ready! I also really liked the little girl who, upon her turn in nets, discovered the best way to stop the boys from scoring five goals in one shift was to simply lie down in the crease. At this age, they can’t put ‘er upstairs, so by just lying down and blocking the goalmouth, she managed to pretty much stymie them. I say pretty much, because I do recall one sneaking by her, which resulted in her angrily grabbing the puck in her little glove and chucking it down the ice.
They were priceless, you guys. Some serious quality entertainment on a snowy Saturday afternoon. And the girls were having a blast. At one point, as Danica waited in the line-up to get off the ice after her “shift”, my sister remarked that she was smiling from ear-to-ear. “This is the happiest I’ve seen her all year!” she laughed.
“Eat my dust, boys!!!”
Unfortunately, Little Miss “Born to Score” didn’t live up to her prophecy on this day. She didn’t even really get much of a chance. Most of the girls really didn’t get much of a chance. Danica’s big brother, 8-year-old Caden, was keeping track, and nearing the end of the 50 minutes, he declared the score was 20-0. ( He was, quite literally, the ONLY person in the stands who was keeping track).
Too busy looking at the camera to be bothered with the game!
But with 30 seconds left in the game, one little girl finally put a puck past that stinky little Aylmer boy, and the cheer that went up was loud & proud. Her arms went up in the air and the celebration was worthy of an overtime winning goal in the playoffs.
Danica emerged from the dressing room shortly after the game still beaming and totally thrilled. Caden was taunting her, as brothers are apt to do, saying, “You lost 20-1! You lost 20-1!”
To which she snarled back, “NOOOO! It was FIVE to one, Caden!!! And they were BOYS. So it was HARDER.”
The final score didn’t matter.
The post-game celebration pizza tasted just as sweet as a win!