Sidney and I were sitting in a pair of seats on the glass at the TD Garden, waiting for the first game of a new season to begin.
“Excited?” Sid asked, watching my knee bouncing as I tapped my foot.
“And nervous,” I nodded.
“He’s gonna be great,” he told me, giving me a kiss.
“Ew guys! Keep that to yourselves!” the seventeen year old version of myself yelped as she sat beside her father.
Brennan followed close behind, taking his seat next to me. He was built just like Marc-Andre and I; tall and lanky. Brennan was only fifteen, but he was already six foot two.
“Hey Bren, pass the popcorn!” Avery called over to her brother, pulling up the sleeves of her new Bruins jersey. Brennan, in the same jersey, handed the bag down to her.
In contrast to our children, Sidney was wearing a suit and I was in a pair of fitted black slacks and a tailored oxford shirt. We still had the habit of dressing professionally for games, even though Sidney had retired after the end of last season.
He had no idea what he was going to do with all of his free time.
The buzzer rang and the St. Louis Blues took to the ice, followed by the Boston Bruins.
The four of us were up and banging on the boards as the B’s skated at our end.
Oliver swiftly passed by us, giving us the biggest smile he possibly could.
My little Ollie had shot up to six feet, but he was practically a spitting image of Sidney, from his build to his work ethic to his style of play.
Going into the draft, Oliver was the number one pick, which Boston was lucky enough to get. As soon as he turned eighteen, they decided that they wanted him to be on the team rather than playing in the minors.
Wearing number eight on the back of his sweater, Oliver proudly played as a center. Avery was a left winger and Brennan, who could play in the NHL right now, was at right wing.
Even though Oliver was drafted and he was a great player, Brennan had a lot riding on him. The boy has been scouted since he was five, and for a perfectly good reason. Brennan’s style of play was a mix between my sharp shooting and Sidney’s play making. Needless to say, he was lethal.
A few NHL teams have already started to show interest in him, inviting him to practices during the upcoming season.
Of course, his attendance at the practices would all depend on his grades, like everything the kids did hockey-wise.
The rule was ‘poor grades equals no hockey’. It was that simple.
When the lights dimmed for the opening night ceremonies, I looked over at Sidney and Avery.
Even though she had a lot of my looks, I still saw so much of Sid’s characteristics in her appearance and personality.
She had always been a daddy’s girl and Sidney had taken extreme care when it came to his little girl. When she first wanted to play hockey with the boys, Sidney dismissed the notion until the then eight year old Avery begged for him to let her, and of course he did.
Starting her senior year of high school, Avery was on the hunt for a college. Several had offered her scholarships to come and play hockey, but she wasn’t sure if that was what she wanted to do, and we were okay with that.
The puck dropped soon after the National Anthem played and the game began.
Oliver wasn’t on the starting line, but from what I could tell he was being used on the fly between the second and third lines.
“Look at him go!” I grinned, watching Oliver take the puck over the blue line and cut through the defense, passing to a team mate that put it in the net.
Sidney grabbed my hand and pulled me up with him to applaud our son.
The five guys on the ice high-fived and smiled, but Oliver had the biggest grin of the bunch.
“Mom, you’re totally right. He smiles just like Dad,” Brennan noticed, making a weird face.
“And what’s wrong with that? Your father has an adorable smile!” I said, turning to Sidney and winking at him, earning that same smile.
“Hey Bren, you know who you look like, right?” Sidney asked in between the first and second period and Boston was leading one to nothing.
“Qui?” he asked.
Even though the three spoke both English and French, Oliver was the only one born in Montreal. As another summer baby, Avery was a native of Halifax. Brennan is a Pittsburgh boy and he always took crap from his siblings for being the only American in our Canadian family.
“You look just like your mom,” Sidney told him with a chuckle , making Brennan turn red.
As our kids grew up, we realized that there was a lot of pressure for them to live up to their name.
This pressure wasn’t coming from us though. It was from coaches, classmates and scouts. The kids definitely handled it well though, which they must have gotten from Sidney.
Throughout the second period, Oliver got more comfortable and fell into a groove.
“He’s all over the corners,” Sidney noticed and I saw Avery nod.
“This goalie is giving off huge rebounds. Oll just needs to get in front of the net,” Brennan added.
I could tell he was itching to be out there, but so was Sidney.
After twenty-two years in the NHL, Sid was having a difficult time adjusting to a life without practices and games on the road. He had been spending a lot of time at home and it was annoying Avery and Brennan.
Oliver was now living with a team mate and his family in Boston, but even though it was a little more quiet at the house, the tension levels were increasing more and more.
I was watching Oliver and a Blues’ defenseman in the corner trying to get the puck and Oliver suddenly broke away, skating around the back of the net and flicking his wrist. The puck soared over the goalie’s glove hand and hit the back of the net, setting off the red light. Oliver’s hands went up and he let out a loud, “Woo hoo!”
I stared in awe; this was one of my proudest moments and I could tell that Sidney was thinking the same thing.
The Bruins won four to one and after the game we went down and waited outside of the dressing room for Oliver.
He finally appeared, wearing a suit that I had helped him pick out.
Oliver immediately smiled and gave me a hug. After hugging Sid, Avery and Brennan, Oliver pulled something out of his pocket.
“This is for you guys,” he said; it was the puck from his goal. It was labeled ‘1st NHL Goal’ with the date.
“Hold on, let’s take some pictures!” Avery suggested and took her camera out of her purse.
We had a trainer take a few pictures of the five of us, Oliver in the middle, holding up his puck and grinning brightly.
“I know exactly where this is going when I get home,” I said excitedly.
“Mom,” Oliver groaned, his cheeks turning red.
“Oh Ollie, you only get your first NHL goal once! Let me embarrass you, you’ll thank me later.”
“Ok mom. Just don’t make a habit of it!” he laughed.
I wasn’t the usual type of hockey mom that overcompensated for a lack of hockey knowledge. A lot of the time I had coached the teams my kids were on. I wasn’t embarrassing or demanding. I just wanted them to have fun and learn to love the game.
Now that they’re all older though, hockey is very respected around the house. It’s all of our passions, but we know when not to take it too seriously.
Before we had to leave for the airport, Bren, Avery and Sidney all said goodbye to Oliver, then I was the last to approach him.
“Is there anything else you need before I go?” I asked. Ollie had always been a momma’s boy.
“Nothing I can think of,” he shook his head of shaggy, dark hair, then his hazel eyes lit up, “Oh! Will you send me your poutine recipe? The team’s having a pot luck thing soon and I want to have the best dish.”
“Of course. I’ll email it to you when I get home. You be good now. Behave yourself and play your heart out,” I smiled, pulling my boy in for one more hug and kissing him on the cheek.
“Gross, mom. The guys are gonna rip me a new one if they see you do that again!” Oliver seemed genuinely worried about the opinions of his team mates.
“Calm down, Ollie. Their moms all did the same thing, trust me,” I said, wiping my lipstick off of him.
It took me a few weeks to get used to not having Oliver at home, but he called and texted and even video-called to keep me from going crazy.
Without superstitions, Oliver had no problem calling me before or after a game. Brennan was the meticulous, superstitious one, which surprised me.
After dinner on a Thursday night, I was looking for a spot to put the picture with Oliver’s ‘first goal’ puck. Peering at the shelves of awards and photos in our family room, I smiled at all of our pictures from over the years. We still lived in the same house that Sidney and I bought seemingly so long ago, and we had achieved so much in our seventeen years of marriage.
Sid had spent his entire career with the Pittsburgh Penguins and hoisted six Stanley Cups as their captain.
Even though it sometimes felt like I hadn’t done very much with my life, I truly had.
I raised three kids to be amazing, respectful, ambitious young adults, and worked with Sidney’s charity to bring hockey to children all over Pittsburgh.
I found a photo of Oliver when he was six. It was just after a game where he scored his first goal ever while on a team, so I set the new picture and the puck beside the old ones, then heard Avery from upstairs.
“Seriously? Go away Dad!” her raised voice was just below a shout, but I went to see what was happening anyways.
Sidney was sitting on Avery’s bed while she was doing homework at her desk.
“What’s going on in here?” I asked and Avery shot me an annoyed look.
“I’m trying to finish my physics so I can video chat with Uncle Marc-Andre, but he’s just sitting there trying to make small talk. Sorry Dad, but you need a hobby,” she told him, and Sidney looked like he had just been slapped in the face.
Avery rolled her light green eyes at Sid and I could feel that she was going to keep going at him, so I had to intervene.
“Hey Sidney. Let her do her work. Come help me downstairs. Henry and Vienna called earlier about something.”
He got off of Avery’s bed and I noticed the look of relief in her eyes as he followed me out into the hallway.
I grabbed his hand and shot him a playful smile to peak his curiosity.
“What exactly do you need help with?” Sidney asked; we were now in the basement, also known as our entertainment room.
Brennan was hanging out and playing some video game that involved blowing up zombies.
“Hey Bren, there’s some cookie dough ice cream in the freezer with your name on it. You better grab some before Ave finds it,” I told the boy, and his green eyes briefly broke from the television screen to look at me.
“Awesome! Let’s just keep this whole ice cream thing between us though.. I don’t need Avery hogging it all like last time,” Brennan said with a wink, turning off his game and heading up to the kitchen.
Sidney closed the door after Brennan and I swiftly pushed him up against it.
“So was the ‘help me’ code or something?”
“I think that’s been established already,” I nodded, shutting him up with a hard kiss.
“I like this code,” Sidney chuckled, his entire face lighting up.
He had aged well, which didn’t surprise me whatsoever.
I backed away, taking his hand again and pulling him over to our ancient table hockey game.
“Best of seven?” he asked with a knowing smile as he sat across from me.
“You know me all too well,” I told him, feeling like we were in our twenties again.
I released the puck onto the plastic ice and another one of our many table hockey games began.