by Lance Bradley
Like most good Canadian kids, my three-and-a-half year old daughter Elizabeth loves hockey. She’s been to somewhere close to 175 hockey games in her young life, beginning when she was just three months old. With credentials like that she’s about ready to adopt a pseudonym and start her very own NHL trade rumors blog.
All joking aside, about two weeks before the Sochi Olympics began, Elizabeth asked my wife Kristi and I, “Do just boys play hockey?” Shocked, we quickly explained that in just a few short weeks she’d be able to see, to use her words, “girls” play hockey on TV.
When the Olympics began we made sure that she got to see as much of the women’s hockey tournament as possible. Making it clear for her that those were women playing. She watched the gold medal game between the U.S. and Canada and cheered hard for Canada. She was pretty happy when they won.
The Games were a great opportunity to reinforce with our daughter that girls can do anything boys can. There’s still some disconnection with reality though. Even to a three-and-a-half year old, the games are just more real when you see them live. She’s also watching the hockey players on the same TV where Doc McStuffins or Dora the Explorer entertain her daily.
We moved from Vancouver to Atlanta about ten months ago. Saturday night we made the 2.5 hour drive from the Atlanta suburb we live in to Columbus, Georgia to see two-time gold medal winning Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados suit up for the Columbus Cottonmouths in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Elizabeth was excited when the puck dropped and after Szabados made the first few stops Saturday night against the Knoxville Ice Bears, we heard our young daughter say “good job Shannon”. Like most kids her age Elizabeth’s attention wavered throughout the game. The Cottonmouths started the third period down 4-2 and Elizabeth was really into it from that point on.
“Go Shannon Go! Go Shannon Go!” Elizabeth was cheering on her hero without any coaching from Mom or Dad, or any of the other 4,294 fans in attendance. For the first time ever, Elizabeth had her very own hockey hero. The Cottonmouths added another goal to get within one, but never scored again and left with a 4-3 loss.
Szabados made 27 saves and skated off to a great ovation. After the game the team held an impromptu meet and greet in a hallway leading to Elizabeth coming face-to-face with her new idol.
While standing in line we rehearsed what Elizabeth would say to Shannon because she can be a little shy in situations like this. Before Elizabeth even got the chance to speak, Szabados took control, asking her name, how old she was, all the questions you ask a little one when you’re a big one. Elizabeth answered each question and, suddenly feeling super comfortable, looked Szabados in the eye and said, “Good game Shannon.”
We don’t have any grand delusions that Elizabeth will grow up to be an Olympian but seeing Szabados play “on the boys team” is more about letting her know she can do anything she wants to in life. Walking back to the car though, Elizabeth had a moment of regret. “I didn’t tell Shannon I wanted to be a goalie – or a soccer player.” We buckled Elizabeth in for the drive home and a few minutes after we left the arena parking lot she was fast asleep.
A girl’s gotta dream, right?