Despite encouraging words, early mornings and shouldering fundraising efforts, hockey moms are often the forgotten heart of the game
Looking back at her calendar, Michelle Hollett wonders how she ever did it. “I had two kids who were in competitive sports,” says Hollett. “My calendar was a mash-up of games, practices, concerts, and competitions — often in different countries.” She started volunteering as a hockey mom and became passionate about it. “I ended up as a single mom who was infiltrating an essentially guy’s world,” says Hollett. “I’d be there on those early mornings selling Christmas wreaths to make money for the team.” Hollett says that even summer holidays were hockey-focused. In the end, it paid off. Hollett’s son, Ty, now plays for the Kitchener Rangers, but, Hollett notes, “the drive and determination has to come from inside them,” says Hollett. “They have to want it. You can’t force it on them.”
Competitive hockey mom Theresa Bailey started her own website to connect moms, catching the attention of retired CTV Ottawa sports director Terry Marcotte, who did a story on Bailey and her efforts.
“We talked about the stories she had,” says Marcotte. It led to a collaboration in the form of a Canadian best-selling book: “Hockey Moms: The Heart of the Game,” where the co-authors offer a look into the dedication of the often-unsung background heroes behind any young hockey player — the hockey moms.
“It started over the pandemic and then I retired, so the timing was perfect,” says Marcotte. “We know we’ve hit a chord. These moms know so much about the game, but nobody asked them for their input or advice.”
Shelley O’Brien was a reluctant hockey mom. “I know I should be a big hockey fan,” says O’Brien. “I grew up in Timmins, Ont., so was surrounded by hockey. Both my husband, who coaches, and our son Elliott love hockey. I was stressed out by what to do, [but] now that I’ve learned the ropes, I am happy to do it.” She says that meeting other moms has been great and marvels at how they cope when they have more than one child in hockey. “The team spirit is amazing,” says O’Brien, “and the good teamwork our son is learning is invaluable. Now I just have to get used to smelly hockey equipment.”
Karen Sylvester Ceci ended up as a hockey mom after her daughter Chelsea went to a sleepover at the age of seven — and came home wanting to play. “We came from a figure skating and football background, sharing a love for downhill skiing, and we ended up in hockey,” she says. “Then her brothers, Cody and Cole, wanted to do hockey too,” says Sylvester Ceci, “and so we did. But I look back now and it’s all a blur.” She says she ended up talking with other hockey moms for support and encouragement. “It took a lot of coordination,” she says. “I was managing our daughter’s team; my husband was an assistant coach or manager for our oldest son’s team and thankfully my mother was available to take our youngest to his hockey games. And then there was the fundraising that usually fell to the hockey moms.” She loves that the book pays tribute to hockey moms. “It was crazy, but totally worth it,” says Sylvester Ceci. “Our daughter still plays hockey 23 years later, our son Cody plays for the Edmonton Oilers, and Cole is a goalie for York University. And kids learn life skills and teamwork. And I met amazing women whose contributions are often forgotten.”
For Sandra Wallace and her daughter Camryn, it’s all about families supporting each other. “I come from a hockey and sports family,” says Wallace. Camryn, who has Down syndrome, was introduced to hockey at age seven, and now plays with the Capital City Condors, a special-needs adapted hockey team. “When she started, Camryn wasn’t even skating,” says Wallace. “Now she’s incredible. And I’ve become a hockey mom.” She says that the games are friendly and a different environment from competitive hockey. “These kids are playing just for the joy of it,” says Wallace. “The atmosphere on the ice is so positive.” She says the book really reflects the sacrifice that moms make in the hockey world — and not just moms of elite players.
“I know dads put in a lot too and deserve the credit,” says Wallace. “But moms carry the emotional load and can provide those hugs and comfort when things don’t go right.”