On Thursday night, I took my son to his second ever NHL game. It did not go well.
At dinner, our waitress asked who his favourite player is. His response of "Lionel Messi" drew a confused look from the poor woman.
En route to the ACC, he said that it might have been wiser to take his friend Josh to the game. Josh is also seven years old, but he is hockey-crazy. He plays select hockey, is on the ice several days a week and every time I see him, he’s in some sort of NHL shirt or jersey. Josh tells me one of his favourite things to do is to watch Doug Gilmour highlight videos on youtube.
Upon arrival at the ACC, my son suggested the evening would be far more entertaining for both of us if only he had his Nintendo DS.
He sulked through the first period. He got good extension on his lower lip pout but fell just short of working up actual tears.
I told him that we could head home and work on his spelling homework if he preferred. I was stunned when he asked for a minute or two to think about it.
I bought him a hot chocolate during intermission in hopes of perking him up. It didn’t work. The pout continued.
What did finally get him into the game were two very nice Buffalo Sabres fans sitting to our left. Their cheers in support of the Sabres so riled up my son he decided the only course of action was to cheer, even louder, for the Leafs.
Yes, the Leafs. The team he doesn’t like. Or follow. Or want to watch in person.
And so, for the final two periods these two nice guys (and they seriously could not have been kinder to my son) yelled "Let’s go Buffalo!" pausing long enough for my son to retort "Go Leafs Go!"
I thought the boy would scream himself hoarse, but he did his best to out-shout those Buffalo fans over the final 40 minutes of play.
In the end, the Leafs won 3-1, my son stopped pouting long enough to shout for 90 minutes at complete strangers and then high-five many of the Leafs fans around us. At the final horn, he consolingly patted his rival Sabres fan on the back.
On the trip home, I asked him if he liked the game – he said he did not and that he felt bad for the Buffalo fans as their team lost.
I asked if he’d write-up or dictate a review of the game and he said no, he’d rather review Paper Mario Sticker Star for DS.
In my final attempt to engage him in hockey, I asked what his one take-away from the night was. Did he learn anything? Would he remember anything from his second time at the ACC?
He thought about for 30 seconds or so and then said, "If you’re going to fight a guy on the ice, you’d be crazy to take your helmet off first."