Unofficially, January is the start of the hockey tournaments in our house. It’s not that there aren’t any before that, but the bulk of them happen in the second half of the season.
Tournaments are a beast of their own in the hockey world. They don’t factor into the league standings for the season, but there is a vibe around hockey tournaments that you don’t see during the regular season. It’s almost like playoffs.
Except that it all happens in the course of three days.
You can imagine what kind of mess arrives home after a tournament weekend. And I’m not just talking about the laundry.
But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
For reasons I have yet to understand, most hockey tournaments start on Fridays. During the day. Which means that parents are pulling their kids out of school.
My grandmother (who was a grade 1 teacher for a good chunk of her career) would be ashamed of me.
Last year it worked out quite well as we only had one tournament that interfered with school. It diminishes the guilt I have about prioritizing hockey over school. It also means that I save some of my vacation days to handle tournaments. #hockeylife y’all.
So, the first game is usually on the Friday. And it has always been only one game on the Friday, but I’m sure there are cases where there are more.
Most tournaments guarantee a certain number of games. The only time there were fewer than three guaranteed games was during a one day tournament. Of course, we won one and lost one game and ended up playing for third place. It was a long day.
When we know how many tournaments the team is participating in, I count on the team being in three games spanning the Friday and Saturday. The schedules don’t get set until much closer to the tournament weekend, so I mark the date on the calendar and move on with my life.
For out of town hockey tournaments, the team manager typically will reserve a block of rooms for the group, so at some point, you will need to reserve your hotel room. In all likelihood, you’ll end up staying one night more than you really need to. I call it a mini-vacation and try to not worry about it too much.
Also, because hockey is primarily a winter sport (shocking, I know), the less driving I have to do, the better. Inevitably the day we are to leave for a hockey tournament, the forecast will call for ridiculous amounts of snow and/or freezing rain.
My next vehicle will be all wheel drive for just this reason. I can handle snow (because #countrygirl), for the most part but I tap out at freezing rain.
There are five tournament milestones that your team might get to experience:
- Losing each and every game for the entire tournament by a lot (been there, done that)
- Winning (this one caught me off guard. We didn’t win many games our first year of novice)
- The first out of town hockey tournament (this one is at the discretion of the coaches and team manager. We’ve only ever done one a season. There were many hungover parents on the Sunday morning. Yours truly included. HockeyDad had zero sympathy for me.)
- Playing in the last game of the tournament (we’ve gotten as far as the second last game of the tournament. That was long enough.)
- Spending hours just hanging out because the tournament schedule has you playing hours apart but not long enough apart to go home between games (this, of course, doesn’t apply to out of town tournaments)
The best piece of advice I can give you for surviving hockey tournaments is this: clear the calendar. Just write the whole weekend off and be done with it. To do anything else is an exercise in frustration. That one day tournament I mentioned? Happened on the same day as our extended family Christmas potluck. So we went from the third place finish straight to the get together.
And both Boy #1 and I were walking zombies for the party. They clapped and cheered when he walked in like he was some kind of superstar. In my exhausted state I almost cried when they did that. Sorry, family. We love you, but the hockeymom feels are at an all time high on tournament days and I’m a mess.
What happens if you win your allotted games, I hear you ask? Well, then you play more. You play in the quarter finals. You win there, you move on to semi finals. And if the team wins at semis? You got it, you’re in the finals.
Somewhere between the quarter finals and the semis I have discovered that my anxiety hits a high and the consumption of coffee will make me nauseous. No coffee for me after the quarter finals. I don’t care how early it is.
In novice, any win after the allotted games is a big deal and must be enthusiastically celebrated. And that, my friends, is the very best part of hockey. Watching them latch on to that feeling and chase it for the rest of the tournament.
There’s also the post-tournament crash. Because only one team can win, so the odds are not generally in your favor, but that’s not the point. Tournaments give a team a chance to bond. That hotel room booking? It usually has a pool. And on a tournament weekend, that pool is full of kids. They eat together, they play together. For our one out of town tournament, we booked a meeting room and put up a movie for the kids to watch.
You make it what you will.
And we try to make it a lot of fun. I mean, that’s what it’s supposed to be, right?
See you at the rink.