I went to open skate this afternoon just for a little exercise. I left with a lot more.
A father brought his just-turned-3-year-old son out for the first time. Little skates, little gloves, little helmet. There was a lot of falling -- crumpling, really. Often kids are taught to skate by pushing a chair or cone. Maybe if he was the first child he would have been eased into it that way. But no, it was sink or swim for this little guy. He was picked up when he fell down, then was on his own again.
When I chatted with them, the dad, who plays in two men's leagues, bemoaned the fact that the kid seemed more interested in everything around than actual skating. Sitting in the penalty box? Wow.
I saw the boy take his very first strides. He made these little happy sounds when he knew he got it. I'm going to try to remember that sounded like, because that kid had what so many of us have lost lately -- the simple joy of hockey.
There are a lot of people in and around hockey who don't seem to even like the sport anymore, if they ever did. Everything becomes about something other than hockey. It's especially easy this time of year, when huge contracts are signed to pay people to play a sport they once did just because they liked it. Loved it.
I would just encourage everyone to take one little step back towards what made them become a fan of the game in the first place. There's plenty of summertime left to do it. One little step, the size of a 3-year-old stride.