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How hockey parents can help kids thrive in tournament time — and beyond

As we savor this most wonderful time of the year, let’s remember what really matters.

With all apologies to crooning Andy Williams, this is the most wonderful time of the year, at least for boys and girls embarking on tournament time.

A winter’s worth of practice and games, questionable arena nachos and knee hockey in noisy hotel hallways culminates now, with the chance to win a state championship.

Jayson Hron

Your kids are excited. They love trophies and banners. Society tells them that trophies and banners are really important, and to a 12-year-old, the only one that really matters is this one. In their eyes, this championship is the championship. It’s their Stanley Cup, their pinnacle, their destiny.

The long-term view

But while our children live for the now, often with a worldview extending just slightly beyond post-game snacks, as parents, it’s our job – and sometimes a difficult one – to maintain a big-picture perspective on tournament time.

Sure, it’s exciting. And we absolutely want to see our children succeed. What parent hasn’t imagined their child scoring the winning goal and then flashing that 100,000-watt smile your way as they hold the trophy? That’s your flesh-and-blood, your progeny out there – the champion.

But how much does that 12U trophy mean in the big picture?

I recently attended a youth hockey event in New York, where a parent asked Martin St. Louis, an NHL standout, what he remembered most about his childhood hockey. He thought for a moment and said, “I remember my dad coming home from working a late shift, bringing me to the pond to play.”

Then someone asked if he recalled any special tournaments.

“No, I just remember having fun,” he said.

Did he lead his youth team to a championship or two in his day? Evidently it wasn’t worth a mention.

Remembering the pure joy

Patience, passion and long-term development forged St. Louis’ success, not a youth championship. And it was his parents’ support, unstructured play on a pond and the pure joy of hockey that he remembered most.

So as we savor this most wonderful time of the year, let’s remember what really matters. Trophies tarnish and banners fade, but our calm, loving support and big-picture wisdom stays with these youthful competitors for a lifetime.

Jayson Hron manages youth hockey communication for USA Hockey. He grew up skating the arenas, rinks and ponds of Minnesota’s Arrowhead Country, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth and his master’s degree at St. Cloud State University.

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