5

Dear Dad, Happy Father’s Day

There’s an obvious and often too easy approach to writing about you dad – on Father’s Day – and drawing a correlation between the relationship and sports. That’s not to say my mother and mothers everywhere haven’t had a major impact on sports in our lives. In particular my mom’s love of basketball and volleyball both were vital parts of my life.

Still, right now there’s a lot on my mind about my dad, the guy who I’ve shared a lot of hockey memories with. It’s personal and I hope that it helps frame my relationship with my dad in a way that connects with some of you. Just appreciate what you have now – or what you had – and try to not to take anything for granted.

Hey dad,

Honestly I wanted to come down to Wetaskiwin this weekend and visit, but something came up and I need to be around for a close friend who is going through some life altering news. I hope you understand and we’ll have beers soon.

The last couple years have really been a roller coaster of emotions. The cancer diagnosis a year-and-a-half ago is to this day, the worst day of my life. It easily trumps the day Jarome Iginla was traded. Seriously that was an awful day. I don’t know how you, mom, or Brandy make it through each day but it speaks volumes to the characters you all are. Especially you, dad.

I’m going to call you today even though we both hate being on the phone. There’s still something incredible comforting and safe about your presence, even if it’s over the phone. I feel like a kid again and everything that we’re dealing with as a family isn’t happening. Honestly, earlier this year when I really thought about suicide some of the only things to calm me down were old voicemails you left for me. You don’t know about that – the repeated pattern of replaying the same messages to calm me down so I could get maybe an hour or two of sleep – but I’m indebted to you.

It’s still an ordeal coming to terms with the situation you’re in and it’s not going to get easier. Therapy helps, but we both know that I’ve always struggled with reining in my wandering mind. I still worry about a future without you, a future where I can’t text or call you about my latest accomplishment. Even if it was something so insignificant relative to the grand scheme of things like writing yet another wax poetic about the penalty kill or going on the radio in Calgary to talk about things I’m an apparent expert on.

It’s neat as hell knowing you’re excited to stream it when it’s online and tell me how proud you are of me chasing my passions. I low-key get teary eyed when you like random things I’ve written or when you consult me to help set up your hockey pool. You, rubbing salt in the wound of a first-round sweep because the “fucking Flames let me down yet again” still makes me laugh. But hey, you appreciate Mikael Backlund now as much as I do.

Plus referring to Matthew Tkachuk as “that feisty little shit” really makes me remember the way you often spoke of Theo Fleury at times when I was a kid.

Some of my earliest memories involve you and I watching hockey, unaware of what the future would bring for my fandom and my hobbies. Those early ’90s memories of Joe Nieuwendyk and Fleury scoring goals. You recanting the heroics of Lanny McDonald in 1989 and comparing him to a walrus because of his mustache.

That one time during the 1996 playoffs when I made the bet that the Avalanche would beat the Red Wings and you said I’d be wrong. It’s a shame I was right and you were out $20, but I guess you should have trusted me that nothing would stop Joe Sakic that year. I think from then on, you started to trust me with this sort of stuff.

After that vote of confidence for Super Joe, I think you also started relying on me to set up your playoff pool? A brief aside: I’m not sorry for selecting Zigmund Palffy a few times either. He has a great name and you can’t deny that.

The older I got and you getting the family a satellite dish made these moments even more special. We got to see so many amazing things along the way; picturesque moments in hockey history along the way.

We both chanted and screamed at the top of our lungs when Ray Bourque finally won the Cup with Colorado in 2001. I saw you tear up and dance around the house when Canada won the gold medal in 2002. I know you’d be too proud to admit the former point, but I started seeing you in a different light from then on.

The night that we both thought Paul Kariya died only to miraculously return to score. We both screamed so much that night. It was pandemonium in our house, out in the country. Our neighbors probably had no idea what was happening, but we were witnessing a legend being born. It made the teen years a little easier to work through.

We can both agree that our relationship was volatile at times when I was growing up. We both have said a lot of things we probably regret, but when hockey was on everything else sort of just went on mute. We had each other, the game that was on, and the opportunity to create next to perfect memories. More than any memory, 2004 will always be a range of emotions that we both shared. I’ll never forget it.

Every game was an anxious mess and feelings that were too much to handle alone. But you were there with me through it all. Every big goal. Every elimination at the hands of Marty Gelinas, every otherworldly save by Kipper, the shift, Iggy fighting Vinny, and everything else in between.

I think it was the first time I realized just how much I take after you when we both flew into a blind rage over the no goal. In an instant, those nights of watching the heroics of our Calgary Flames were dashed. It hurt on so many levels. I felt like the Lightning took something away from us personally. It was supposed to be our moment, a moment that we got to talk about for years to come. Something we could recant with friends, family, and random people along the way.

It was supposed to be something that I could tell my future kids about (if I have any). “The time dad and grandpa got to see the Flames win the Cup.” It didn’t happen and even though I try to keep my fandom under control, there’s a fear in the back of my mind that we won’t get to share that together. In my heart, I’m still a fan even though I try to be as levelheaded as possible with this team now.

After all, I’m one of those nerds in the basement who never played the game.

A friend of mine from Twitter recently went through the loss of his father and he mentioned how happy his dad would have been with the Penguins victory (he was a huge Penguins fan). It’s hard not to worry about that sort of thing: you not being able to take part in the culmination of success. It really felt like I got hit by a truck even though the fear of finality is really omnipresent in our situation.

It hurt not being able to afford tickets to games three or four in Calgary this year in the playoffs. I really wanted to experience playoff hockey, with you, in an arena, in our own little bubble for an evening. Even if it ended in disappointment because frankly it wouldn’t matter because it would be our moment, even if it was just one game.

I hope next spring it’s a different story, one that involves us seeing something really wonderful if the Flames can take another leap forward. I’m holding out hope that it does happen and that we create some more memories then. Thanks for the short temper, the love of hockey, and persistent desire to prove people wrong. I love you, Dad, and I’ll see you soon. Happy Father’s Day.

– Michael

  • Lucky 13

    Nicely said Michael. Thanks for sharing that.

    It’s always a good day to reflect on how our fathers have helped to shape us into men.

    My father wasn’t much of a hockey fan, but he loved pugilism, a good ole Ali, Foreman tango always had his attention… rumble in the jungle.

    He taught me many valuable lessons in life, for which I’m grateful.
    He brought us to Calgary from rural Ontario ( late 70’s) so all of us kids could make a better life for ourselves.
    That’s when I discovered hockey, the Wranglers was my first taste of live hockey.. I was hooked
    Hockey would forever be my escape. He would listen on as I rambled on about Looooob, McInnis, Fluery and the like and how we’re destined for glory.. my love for Badger Bob etc..

    He sacrificed a lot and never once did I hear him complain.
    We were a family of 10 children ..yup I said that right.. 10

    Although he has passed, I have seen what good things are in me that wouldn’t have been possible without his influence.

    To all the Fathers out there “Happy Fathers Day”

  • Just.Visiting

    Thanks for sharing. I think that one of the lessons from this is the importance of sharing with our loved ones how important they are to us, how much we appreciate and love them and how proud we are of their accomplishments. This is particularly important for those of us who are a bit older, as we tend to be less comfortable in doing that.

  • SydScout

    It wasn’t Fathers Day down under on Sunday Mike, but I’ve decided to take Friday off and drive four hours to see the old man for the weekend. You’re a good man, cheers for the honesty, and perspective.