room before the game. John Velacich had apparently gone in to tie his son Jason's skates before the game and wish the boys good luck, but according to OMHA rules, a suspended coach is not permitted to even be around the dressing room before the game. So the OMHA ruled in favor of Barrie's protest, and reversed the outcome of that game and the series.
Barrie, not Whitby, would be playing Ajax-Pickering the next night, and the Wildcats were destined to play in what's called the ETA playoffs, or ringette/consolation round, as it's disdainfully known.
Poor John Velacich felt terrible. It was such an innocent thing. No one was trying to pull a fast one. I really felt bad for the poor guy. Mike's team was done as far as the OMHA playoffs were concerned and it was because of some technicality which, on one level, made sense (you don't want suspended coaches permitted to "coach"), but the punishment (reversing the outcome of a game and a playoff series) was ridiculously heavy-handed, penalizing a bunch of innocent kids. Games are won and lost on the ice, especially with nine-year-olds, and there was no advantage, real or imagined, to the coach innocently being in the room before the game to tie his son's skates.
I was outraged. All of the parents were. And the kids? They were all crying; it was quite a scene.
You hear about really ridiculous things happening in the name of minor hockey and this was one of them. What was the OMHA thinking? What was the Barrie team who lodged the protest thinking? Was that how Barrie wanted to advance in the playoffs, winning a series in the boardroom, not on the ice? We couldn't imagine a more unfair scenario. I've been known to spin a good yarn in front of a keyboard so I wrote a scathing letter, epic length too, to both the OMHA and the Barrie Minor Hockey Association. It was just blistering. But it obviously fell on deaf ears because no one ever responded. We were done.
But I learned an important lesson that day about how minor hockey operates. I didn't forget it.
And, as they like to say, payback's a bitch.
12: "I Didn't Realize You Had Only One Son"
We are eleven chapters into this epic and Shawn Patrick McKenzie has just now offered up this wry, albeit accurate, observation.
"I didn't realize you had only one son," Shawn said with, if I didn't know him better, a tinge of sarcasm.
True enough, the story thus far has been a little Mikecentric, but there are reasons for only now getting to No. 2 son in any great depth. Good reasons, too. Or at least that is our story and we're sticking to it.
First, you show me a family with more than one kid and I'll show you a family who in a variety of different ways doesn't lavish quite the same amount of undivided attention on the second as the first received. For the first three years of Mike's life, with Shawn not being born until July of 1989, Mike had a captive audience.
The reality is that when Mike was three years old, my focus was solely on getting him to skate. When Shawn was three years old, my hockey-related efforts were split between Mike's first year in the six-year-old house league and getting Shawn on the ice for the first time. So if my recollection of dpecific s about Shawn's early hockey days isn't quite as sharp as it was for his brother, I suppose I stand guilty as charged.
There's another factor, too, though. While Mike was absolutely maniacal about all things hockey-playing it, watching it, drawing it, talking it, singing it-Shawn was, shall we say, somewhat less enthusiastic. Oh, he liked it well enough. Like his older brother, he would as a toddler pick up a mini-stick and bat a ball around the house. And if little Mikey and I were in the basement "taking shots" on each other, Shawn would join in. Mike, especially if I wasn't around, would get Shawn all suited in the goalie pads and gloves and drill shots at him.
Shawn would stand in there, get unmercifully pelted with a tennis ball and take whatever Mike was dishing out