Snow Sunday: Finding Fun At A Vail Hockey Tournament
I have to admit. When I discovered my older daughter Siri had a weekend-long hockey tournament in Vail, I wasn’t thrilled. Time is precious. But it is especially precious during the holiday season when there are cards to mail, cookies to make, and parties to attend. And it was Vail! A town that had won as many hockey tournaments as they had ski competitions. Why spend ten hours in the car to get destroyed?
I resisted, trying my best to design alternative scenarios. “What if we just go for half of the tournament and race home Saturday? That way I can still make my party Saturday night and we can get a tree on Sunday?”
“Mom,” she said, “It’s hockey.” I looked at her blond hair swept up in its usual tangled ponytail. Hockey was her scene. A place where she was safe to be her tomboy self. A place where she was embraced as one of the two girls on the entire team. I knew it well. It was exactly what I loved about the sport myself.
I picked up Siri and Ellery, the other girl on the team, from school early Friday afternoon. If I was going to go, I was going to do it my way, which meant breaking up the drive with some fun activities. Luckily, one of my closest friends from college runs Avalanche Ranch, a hot springs retreat just outside of Carbondale. We soaked all afternoon, had dinner with our friends, and returned to the car much refreshed. The trip was already looking up.
It was a tone that continued throughout the entire weekend. The Telluride Squirts lost all of their four games. (Telluride never scored a goal, while the Vail team consistently climbed into the double digits.)
But the weekend was larger than that. Running up and down the halls of the hotel (amid the other guests’ tense grins), gathering in the lobby for a team member’s birthday, splashing in the hotel pool, the team bonded in new ways. And I bonded with the parents. We drank beers together, laughed about the boundless energy our children seemed to have, celebrated the game of hockey which is as simple as it is complex. (Turns out, there are many ways to get a puck into a net.)
The final morning, I drove around Vail trying to find a decent cup of coffee. After getting turned around (literally!) on the town’s many roundabouts and parking illegally, I gave up trying to find something unique and settled on a Starbucks, where I again had to park illegally. (Vail’s whole Euro-town idea is great in concept until you stick it next to a major highway and overrun it with too many people.)
Returning to the rink with cups of coffee in hand (one for me, one for a new friend), I heard cheering voices of kids outside the rink. As I got closer, I recognized the call: “Let’s go Telluride, let’s go!”
It was Siri’s team, preparing for another day of battle. Getting fired up even though they knew they were going to lose. Stepping inside the rink, I paused, feeling great pride for the sport my daughter has chosen, for the new community of friends we have because of it, for the town I get to call home. I was glad we had come.