I crept downstairs this morning to get to the gym, trying not to wake you as my Size 12s creaked past your door.
No luck … you were already going through your wakeup routine, which at this stage involves gratuitous babbling and rolling around in your crib.
And what sound did I hear? Not a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, but “awk-ee” and “goal-ee” over and over. Safe to say, you’re in love with my favorite sport. It’s all going according to plan.
— Jillian Gajtka (@Jillian_Gajtka) December 4, 2018
I’m only half-kidding about that last part. Your obsession with hockey has come about rather naturally, as our living room TV was frequently tuned to games and highlights before you arrived. My job with the Robert Morris University men’s hockey team means there’s even more puck talk around the house.
But I’d be lying if I wasn’t — shall we say — encouraging you to fall for hockey like I did two decades ago. I brought the knee hockey set up from the basement a few months back, so your playtime usually has a sporty vibe. Not that you’re resisting, since you’ve been throwing/kicking balls and swinging clubs/sticks for about a year now.
This is all rather ironic, because my own romance with hockey, and sports in general, lagged about 10 years behind your pace. For the most part, I was a Lego kid, a book kid, a stay-inside-in-July kid.
At least I was all those things until around age 12, when I started to show an interest in those black and gold teams playing on Fox Sports Pittsburgh and, on fall Sundays, NBC. It was also around that time that I started taking golf more seriously (with help from your Great-Grandpa Lisheski), so it wasn’t just spectator stuff, either.
Still, my fixation on observing the games was what pushed me to get into sports media, which has provided a fun career and adventures I can’t wait to tell you about. And that initial spark really ignited on a wintry night 20 years ago.
On Dec. 22, 1998, Grandpa Ray and I made the drive up from Weirton, W.Va. to Pittsburgh to see the Penguins play the Kings at the old Civic Arena. My first live hockey game finished in a 3-0 loss for the home team, but I can still recall the sight of a diehard L.A. fan dressed in a purple robe, the smell of nacho cheese and popcorn, the sound of skates cutting through the ice surface below.
It’s a cliché among hockey fans to have this as their ‘origin story,’ but after seeing the sport in person, I was addicted. Maybe someday you and I can share a similar father-son moment down at the new Igloo; I know I would love it.
At this point, though, it’s doubtful you’d need an experience like that to crystallize your feelings. You definitely have me beat in getting to a game early in life: Your Mom and I took you to Penguins-Stars the day before Thanksgiving, even though there’s little chance you remember it in a few years.
I’m trying not to get too carried away. We haven’t bought you ice skates or ordered Tyke-sized goalie pads yet.
After all, we’re still right at the start of your hobby timeline. In six months, you could very easily ignore hockey and embrace baseball. Toddlers have been known to be obsessive about things, especially those introduced by their parents, but those fixations aren’t guaranteed to even last into your grade school days.
In the meantime, I’ll enjoy how you’ll tear through (sometimes literally) my copies of The Hockey News and try on my skates in the garage. Hockey has been a joy and a blessing to me, giving me self-confidence as a teenager and an area of expertise as an adult.
I suppose it could’ve been any sport that captured my imagination. But it wasn’t, and so I’m geeked about your, uh, choice. Yeah, we’ll go with that. 🙂
Calories burned: 1,156
Minutes exercised: 72
Hours stood: 15
Steps taken: 11,962
Activity: Forty-five minutes of pick-up hockey, plus a couple miles of walking through the mall (Hello, holiday shopping)
Semicolon Count: 1