Hockey Parents Walking a fine line between Coddling and Caring


Shakespeare’s Hamlet famously declared, “For ‘tis the sport to have the engineer hoist himself with his petard,” – a much more eloquent way of saying one’s plan would blow up in his or her face.

But while Hamlet’s “sport” involved the machinations of the royal family and their dysfunctional relationships, there is a lesson to be learned about things blowing up in our faces.

We sign our kids up to play sports, it’s because we want them to learn and grow – what’s it like to be a part of team, to work hard for something, to deal with adversity. As the famed sportswriter Heywood Broun put it, “sports don’t build character; they reveal it.”

But ever the parent, it’s sometimes difficult to stand back and wait for that revelation.

We want the best for our kids, and it’s only instinctual that we would do whatever we must to help them. But there is a fine line between support and coddling.

Read more in this month’s issue of USA Hockey Magazine page 08


Christie Casciano Burns

A Parents pledge to make this hockey season special….


Last season you hurled nasty comments at the ref, chastised the other team when your kid got flattened against the boards and bad-mouthed the coach for shortening the bench. So maybe you weren’t voted hockey parent of the year last season. But fortunately, each new season affords us an opportunity to make amends and give us another shot at the title. Let’s take that first step by joining others in a hockey parent pledge to be that better parent. Check out my hockey mom column in this month’s issue of USA Hockey Magazine. more info click here


Christie Casciano Burns


The Pleasures Are Well Worth The Pain Of Being A Hockey Mom

The Pleasures Are Well Worth The Pain Of Being A Hockey Mom

By Christie Casciano Burns

Long before I understood the breadth of my super powers as a hockey mom, I was foiled by that malodorous miscreant also known as the hockey bag.
Able to fell foes with a single whiff, my odoriferous nemesis would eventually be defeated thanks to a strict ritual of cleaning and airing of all gear after each game and practice.
If only I had known hockey bags and foul odors don’t have to skate together, I might have spared my singed nostrils a lot of pain.
Sometimes it takes time to learn these hard lessons, as most hockey moms can attest.
Grizzled veterans can always spot a newbie as she enters the rink for the first time with that deer-in-the-headlights look on her and think, “Oh, if she only knew …”
It’s a learning process that doesn’t happen overnight, and it sometimes it doesn’t come cheap.
“It requires using vacation days from work, missing birthday parties and extra costs besides fees and equipment,” says Syracuse (N.Y.) Nationals hockey mom Lauren Kochian.
Eventually she ditched the guilt and realized that it can take a village to make it through a long season.
“It’s truly a hockey family and you shouldn’t feel like you have to be at every practice and game,” she says. “Let others pitch in and reciprocate. It’s a good way for kids to see that teamwork off the ice.”
There are a lot of sacrifices that come with being a hockey mom, but as we all know it can be well worth it. Just ask University of Pittsburgh hockey mom Karen Palonis, who found out last year that the rewards are well worth it, especially when it comes in the form of a National Championship.
“That was an amazing feeling and great to share that joy with my son,” Palonis says.
It’s also great to share that feeling with others, as my sister, a hockey coach from Saugerties, N.Y., can attest.
“Getting involved made me appreciate the game so much more,” Teresa Marzec says. “There’s great satisfaction in knowing you’ve helped make the season more memorable for the kids and parents.”
And that’s what it’s all about.
Do we make mistakes? Sure. Do we look back on those Homer Simpson DOH! moments and wonder, “What was I thinking?” Absolutely.
But just like our kids on the ice, we figure it out. And as my sister says, the rewards far outweigh the trials and tribulations.
“Would you have traded a second of it?” she asks.
Nope. Not one second.
Amen sister.

Syracuse, N.Y., hockey mom Christie Casciano Burns is the author of The Puck Hog and Haunted Hockey in Lake Placid.



Raising a multi-sport athlete….

Raising a multi-sport athlete….

You’ve noticed some skill in your young hockey player’s game and you’re thinking — hoping, really — a free ride to a Division One college program might be possible. So you consider having your youngster play year-round, focusing only on hockey.

You might be doing your child more harm than good.

My daughter dials it down when they shut off the lights in the rink for the last time. She gets a taste of other sports, meeting other coaches and kids. I like that idea. It turns out that this is also a great idea for the hockey side of my daughter’s game.

“It’s been proven over and over that cross training can be helpful for all sports. Let the player have fun, explore and find their way. Especially when they’re young,” says Syracuse Mountain Hockey coach Scott Montagna, whose son played D1 Hockey. If the goal is to play D1, there will come a time when you’ll need to invest a serious amount of time and effort into training. “There are very few naturals in hockey,” he told me.
The father of a college hockey star and NHL draft pick, who asked to remain anonymous for this article, says his son always played several sports growing up. When the time came to get serious, he still took time away from the rink. “In the spring and summer, we would cut back to one or maybe twice a week,” he said. “The kids need a break mentally and physically from the intense AAA schedule. The parents need a break, too.”
Burnout can be a factor and that’s when knowing your kid comes into play. “I’ve seen kids who will skate two to three hours a day if they can and they are bummed when their parents make them leave,” says Montagna. “The most important thing is you can’t force it on your child.”
Veteran hockey coach John Katko, from Camillus, NY, encourages his sons to play other sports too. “To me, the more sports you can play the better. You develop different muscles, coordination, skills with different sports, which in the end makes you a better athlete,” he said.
Keep in mind that the numbers are against your child. A 1985 study of all 30,000 10 years olds playing hockey in Ontario found that just 147 — about 1 in every 200 youth players — made it to D1 or juniors, and just 32 of those ever played a shift in the NHL. Only 15 played more than one season and only six played long enough to get an NHL pension.

And one final reminder from the father of that college hockey star and NHL prospect: “The thing I always tell people is I am raising a person, not a hockey player. A sport is just a tool. Using more sports means I have more tools to raise the best person possible.”


Your son or daughter wants to do what???

Jacques Plante — one of the greatest goalies ever — aptly described the pressure of playing between the pipes as, “How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on, and 18,000 people boo?”

His take flies right in the face of the famous maxim of Heywood Broun — one of America’s first sportswriters — who noted, “Sports do not build character, they reveal it.”

But that’s what made Plante one of the best backstops in hockey history: a willingness to shoulder both the heavy pads, but also the pressures of an entire team and their fans.

As a goaltender, you’re a part of the team, but also an island unto yourself. Your shortcomings are immediately apparent and the finger-pointing always includes you.

So when your Baby Brodeur says he or she wants a blocker and glove, don’t leave them alone on as island. While it’s not easy to watch the rubber fly on the games they’re looking like Swiss cheese, if you can get past the understandable trepidation, you may learn something very special about your child.

“We want to protect them,” says veteran hockey mom Diane Pelton of Syracuse, NY. “Chances are, if your child has chosen to become a goalie, they are much stronger than you think.”

Being a goalie parent isn’t easy either. They’re usually the ones standing behind the glass, walking from end to end and yelling from the top of their lungs, “Cover it!” Early on Pelton heeded the advice from a favorite goalie coach, to be seen and not heard. “If your goalie is looking at you, they’re not focused on the play in front of them,” says Pelton.

And if your child is serious about goal tending, be prepared to spend some big bucks. Never skimp on protection, but there are ways to save, like making friends with the local shoe repair shop. “They can fix more than shoes. A few years back Jake’s leg pad was cut by a skate,” says Pelton, “The shoe repair shop did a great job on the repair, saving us from replacing pads before they were worn out.”

Stephen Bowker’s son knew the moment he strapped on the goalie gear, he wanted to be a keeper. Now playing for his JV High School team, the Wilmington, MA dad has learned kids need to be treated as kids and not pushed too hard, “It can be nerve racking at times. They are going to have good and bad games. Be supportive,” says Bowker.

“It’s very hard to watch him get down on himself and go through the emotions of losing a game, “ says Auburn, N.Y. goalie mom Denise Farrington, who says your child should come before the sport, “ Make sure they know that winning or losing a game does not define them. They are more than that.” When there are more lows than highs, Farrington suggests it’s time to move on.

It takes a unique temperament to bear the burden of the pipes. But with the right support and nurturing, you may find goaltending reveals something we all want for our kids — that they are special.

Syracuse, N.,Y. hockey mom Christie Casciano Burns is the author of The Puck Hog & Haunted Hockey



Pros and Cons of Serving on a Youth Hockey board.

Start it off with…”My husband and I have often stepped up for our kids’ teams in any number of ways, from making sure players have rides to the games, to planning end of the year parties, to guarding the penalty box. But when it comes to serving on a youth hockey board, we would rather drop the gloves with Tie Domi.
Criticism often comes with the territory of being on a youth hockey board and who doesn’t dread that? It stings. Accusations of favoritism and entitlement can cause a pretty toxic environment in a season that is long and cold enough.” Then link to this months USA Hockey Article?

Christie Casciano Burns
Author: The Puck Hog

You better shop around…

To be sung with the song Shop Around

Before you join a team and say I do now, Make sure it’s a good fit for you now, This mama is telling you, You better shop around!

Wait a minute, you’re thinking, cute song, but that makes no sense. Teams pick kids, not the other way around. Not necessarily. If your young hockey player enjoys multiple sports and activities during the season, you’ll want to find a program that will give them a chance to grow their skills and still have a life outside of hockey. As hockey dad/coach Michael Bonelli with the Bears hockey team points out, “Your family is unique and your child’s interests and activities are unique. If you choose to play for a team and a coach that offers little to no flexibility when it comes to other activities, then you’re setting yourself up for frustration before the season even begins.” It may take some detective work, but don’t be afraid to ask questions, “As a parent you need to know start of the season, end of the season, holiday schedule, weekly commitment.” A 6am weekday practice before school, not cool? Do all players play every position, or is the coach going to determine your child is a “born defense-man” at age 9. Find out! Finding a good match may take a little extra work, but well worth the effort, “Finding a team, a coach and an organization that adheres to the same values and expectations as your family will make for a smoother experience throughout the season.” says Bonelli. While you might not find the team that fits like a hockey glove, knowing ahead of time how much an organization and team structures their program, can make a world of difference down the road.

Christie Casciano Burns
Author: The Puck Hog

The Lack of Ice time can make a Parents blood boil!


What two words can make a parent’s blood boil? Playing time. Time out everybody! Of course, every parent wants to see their kid get as much PT as every other kid on the team, and at the youth level they should. But as elite Syracuse Stars hockey coach John Walsh has seen, sometimes coaches forget their roll. A 37 year hockey veteran coach, Walsh has learned a lot from his early days, especially when it comes to making players better. “Most young coaches put pressure on themselves to win. I was like that when I first started. In time I learned that even though I hate to lose, my main role is to make players better.” Making players better, means giving them a chance to play, make mistakes and take chances during games as well as practice. Are there times when it’s okay to shorten the bench? Few might argue that it is okay in a Championship game or playoff. At the younger levels, Walsh says players should never sit and not play. Coaches always have the option of putting a weaker player with two stronger players, and giving your top lines extra shifts. Read more in my hockey mom column this month in USA Hockey Magazine  click here

Christie Casciano Burns
Author: The Puck Hog

The Balancing Act of Dealing with A Son or Daughter Who Doesn’t Play Hockey

mother and daughter hockey snipes photo

The Balancing Act of Dealing with A Son or Daughter Who Doesn’t Play Hockey

With her big brother as her motivator, as soon as my daughter could walk, she wanted to skate. She had been to every one of Joe’s hockey games and couldn’t wait for it to be her turn. It didn’t take long for her wobbly little penguin-like struts to turn into quick, confident strides. She suited up at the tender age of 3 as a mini-mite and ten years later is still going strong chasing a puck around with hands firmly planted on a stick. It was hectic juggling their two hockey schedules, but they never missed a practice or a game. We worked as a team to make it work. We really appreciated those occasional times when weekend games were in the same county and it was a real bonus when games were in the same and sister hockey family

With hockey being such a high maintenance sport, demanding so much time and attention, I often wonder how other parents strike that happiness balance, with their children who don’t play hockey. Sometimes affectionately called the rink rats, you spot them chasing each other around in the corner of the arena, or begrudgingly tagging along, forced to watch a sister or brother battle it out on the ice, when they openly admit they would rather be doing laps in a warm pool, or practicing scales on the piano.

Onondaga Thunder hockey dad and coach Marty Sicilia admits it’s not easy, but he and his wife make every effort to give each of their children’s interests an equal amount of attention. His daughter is a goalie. His son is an actor, singer and dancer. Marty grew up as a jock and his comfort zone is an ice rink. His son’s theatrical world is foreign to him, but he takes the time to learn, “It’s been eye opening for me and really pretty cool. I’ve been to the New York City ballet! Who could have imagined? As long as my kids are happy and healthy, I have nothing to complain about.”

Other hockey parents use instant gratification tactics to keep a kid from feeling tortured during tournaments and having meltdowns in rinks. They might buy them a new toy, a new app for their Smartphone or head to the nearest mall during an out of town trip. While that may keep the whining down, Licensed Psychologist Dr. Tanya Gesek from Syracuse, N.Y. cautions parents not to go too far to try to make things equal and give in too much to “make their kids happy.”
the puck hog book hockey photo hockey snipe
“Fair is never really equal,” according to Gesek, “Learning that lesson early is not a bad thing. Sibling rivalry can be healthy in moderation and helps kids develop very important coping skills to manage frustration and challenge as an adult. It is more than okay to allow our kids to deal with not being happy and a little bored once in a while without a lot of “stuff” or instant entertainment. In order to manage uncomfortable feelings, we have to feel them occasionally!”

Parents may end up feeling the pain, but these growing pains are all a part of raising good kids who learn how to respect each other and their interests.

Christie Casciano Burns
The Puck Hog Author

Dealing with Mr. or Mrs. Know-it all


Dealing with Mr. or Mrs. Know-it-all

Like clockwork, a white envelope was discreetly handed to the coaches before every game. Inside were suggested plays, lines and a strategy for winning the game. The coaches would smile and politely nod to the well-intentioned parent, who wasn’t shy about taking credit for a win. While the coaches never gave the parent’s game plans any serious consideration, letting him think they did, was their way of dealing with Mr. Know It all. Sometimes humor can work too. Syracuse University Women’s head hockey coach has often joked with self proclaimed experts by asking what time he should be ready in the morning to catch a ride so he can assist them with their job. Constant criticism can be just as annoying for parents. That’s why Cicero-North Syracuse high school hockey mom Chrissie Sarosy strategically places herself in the stands, far from the madness and near others who share the same simple joy of just watching your kid play, “ I’ve also learned to bite my tongue, take a deep breath and know that they will eventually see the light. “

Read The Article on USA Hockey!  —

The Puck Hog Author