Alicia Urbain is a hockey mom from Brighton with a story that many hockey moms (and dads) can full relate to. Here’s the story of her son Drew’s journey through youth hockey. He’s graduating from eighth grade this year and will enroll at Detroit Catholic Central in the fall, where he plans to try out for the Shamrocks’ hockey team next winter.
I remember the day as if it was just last year. It was the first Saturday in September of 2008. My son Drew was 3 years old and he couldn’t wait to play hockey. My husband and I signed Drew up for the Learn-to-Play program. He couldn’t skate, his equipment was a hodgepodge of used stuff, his pants were even missing a pad, but, he was ready to go.
He started by pushing a Tonka truck around the ice and the first two years of Learn-to-Play turned into two years of cross ice Mini-Mite House League that turned into his first travel team, the 2005 Mite A Rebels. My husband volunteered to coach and the group of 16 kids, many of whom played together and against each other over the years, along with five other dads who said they would coach, too, somehow became our family.
The early Saturday morning Learn-to-Play sessions were the first semblance of family. The only other 3-year-old on the ice with Drew that had a sister who played dolls in the stands with my older daughter every week for months. That same 3-year-old decided to take a break from hockey, but joined back up in the second year of Mini-Mites all the way up through the final skate as one of the five players to start and end as an original “OG” 2005 Rebel.
Another family member gained was in first year of Mini-Mites when his dad was helping coach with my husband. He lived near us, and our boys started to see each other in the community and found their way skating on an outdoor lake rink, the basketball court, and the ball fields. Our daughters, even with a few year age difference also became friends.
They played together through Mites when he left for another team, but that dad wrote the most sincere letter to my husband before parting ways, thanking us for the time and memories and promising to stay in touch (and they have kept every word).
The next year, Drew’s best buddy from the time they were 4 and 5 months old joined us for Mini-Mites, not having much experience with hockey at all. They were already family, so that was easy. This family lasted all but the last season with the 2005 Rebels.
By the summer of 2012, our hockey family was well on its way to being formed, but there were still some of the 16 families we hadn’t met yet. As the kids started practicing and doing team building activities, you could see personalities and friendships forming.
I am going to be honest and say there were times when I would see some of his teammates and hope they weren’t the ones my son would be asking to ride to the rink with or sleepover. And seven years later, some are the same kids I am shedding tears over that I won’t see next week or next month because they will skate out of a different rink as my son next year.
Their families all became our family. Somewhere between the tournaments, mini-sticks, team dinners, 3-on-3s, apple pie shots, grandma’s sunflower cookies, golf outings, sibling limo rides, mom-nights out, and the annual New Year’s Eve parties, the boys grew as a team, and we grew into a family.
As a family, you share in what you have, and that was never more evident than the time two Rebels took off alone down the street in Canada looking for other teammates at dinner. One had shoes, the other didn’t. They decided the best course of action was to share so each would have one shoe. There was also the mom in the stands that was a “mom” to everyone, especially the younger siblings. We always looked forward to see her and getting mints or gum.
The Mite A 2005 Rebels were very successful, only losing one game to an American team. Most of the families stayed together another year, but after that, a few would leave here and there. Some moved onto to AAA teams, some found a better fit on another team.
A new kid would come, but this was a hard group to break into it. Their bond was strong from the start. A few made it into the inner circle and stayed like a couple of lovable goalies, a big kid with a hard shot, and a small, but fast kid out of Ann Arbor.
Through the years, the family grew, and even the ones that left usually remained “family.” There were many of them that fit into the category of “once a Rebel, always a Rebel.” The hockey family was there when a younger brother of one of the players was facing a life-threatening illness.
In the matter of hours, prayers and helping hands were organized. When my mother-in-law passed away, the hockey family was one of the first to show up, even though many didn’t even know her.
The 2005 Rebels rotated coaches every few years, but the core remained, and the team manager was a constant. Other parents stepped up to handle the money, collect the payments, organize team building activities, drive boys to games, cheer them on, text the mom who wasn’t able to make it to a game for updates, or even drive the boys home. But most importantly, they would genuinely treat each boy as their own.
Nothing to date compares to the bonds we made through hockey. Drew has friends in baseball, friends in school, and elsewhere, but the hockey bonds are special. Of those 16 players from the fall of 2012, five finished the season together this year.
While my son will always have a lifetime bond with them, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the one that has had the most influence, the one that started with hockey sisters using window markers on the rink glass, countless sleepovers, and now going to high school together.
Speaking of high school, five current Rebels are going to be entering Detroit Catholic Central together this fall. Together they will learn the “goodness, discipline and knowledge” of the CC brotherhood. I can’t wait to see how these boys grow.
Whether they play hockey together for the next four years or not, they will always have the Rebels. And many will go on to play against each other over the next four years, too. My hope is that they leave it all on the ice, play hard, work hard, and hug after the game.
While this team continued to be highly successful, it isn’t their wins and losses that I recall sitting here reminiscing, it’s the families, the memories, the friendships, the bonds for life.
Thank you, 2005 Rebels, for ride and the memories.
– Alicia Urbain, hockey mom