Sunday was always the day when Belleville Minor Hockey Rep teams played their home games and my mother could always be found sitting quietly, alone in her single seat in the second row at Belleville Memorial Arena.
Since I came from such a big family (nine kids, seven boys) she would sometimes watch as many as seven games in a row as her boys played Atom, Peewee, Bantam, Midget and Juvenile games against teams from all across Eastern and Central Ontario. My mother had married a hockey player, a career Minor Leaguer for the Montreal Canadians and after stops in several different towns she followed him to Belleville where they made their home.
She wasn’t unfriendly but my mother always sat alone at games. I never knew why. Maybe it was because she was a Francophone who spoke English with an accent or maybe she just liked to concentrate on the games minus the chitchat with other parents. But either way I have a vivid memory of her in that lone seat.
Whenever any of us scored, made mistakes, got injured or got into a fight I would always look over to see her reaction and I always saw the same calm look with a slightly Mona Lisa-like smile. As I look back now I’m struck by how reassuring her presence was. She never had to say much, I gained my confidence through hard work and determination, but my mother’s support and the subtle dignity she demonstrated each and every time she watched my game was hugely important in developing my love for hockey.
My mom is suffering from Alzheimer’s now, and my hope for this Mother’s Day is that we would all take the time to thank our moms for their unwavering love. Hockey is a great game and the lessons we learn from playing it stay with us our entire lives. I know that somewhere deep in my mom’s mind she has great memories of her children enjoying themselves playing the game they loved.
Thanks Mom, for always being there.