Question: Did hockey just change my son’s life? (Answer: Maybe)

“Hey, daddy, I’m really excited about playing on next year’s team already.”

It was a sentence I could not have imagined coming out of Milo’s mouth just five months ago. Then, just barely a first-grader, he was the “added bonus” to the hockey lifestyle.

Our youngest, a preschooler with the kind of hockey hair most NHLers dream about, had professed his love for a sport he had only seen on TV. So we signed the rough-around-the-edges little guy up. And tossed in his older brother, so as to avoid any potential sibling jealousy.

Little did we know, half a year later, it would be Milo (and not Calder) who was among the strongest skaters in his crew. Ironically, just hours before Milo’s proclamation in my otherwise quiet car, Calder had held a teary-eyed press conference in our kitchen, during which he announces his retirement from the sport.

As for my big guy–and he is a big guy–he was already dreaming about his next jersey and his first goal. It was the realization of an incredible transformation.

What’s been most incredible for me to watch has been how a child who still has no real athletic interest has taken to the physical demands of a sport that is so fundamentally difficult. He leaves the ice on Sunday afternoons a different child than when he arrives that morning. The physical demands put on his body center him. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually.

It is magical for me. I can only imagine how soothed he is internally.

I’m also well aware that this entire transformation might have little to do with the sport. First grade has been a truly transformative year for the little boy who transforms everyone he touches. His teachers, his friends, his family, have all been wowed by his development.

I’m not immune to this awe. I’m honored he lets me drive him to and from practice.

Kyle Belanger

Written by: Kyle Belanger

Proud father to three children (in order: one deceased, one adopted and one biological), Kyle is constantly navigating the worlds between actively grieving and openly gloating. Learn more about Kyle here.

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