Turning The Page On A Puck Hog

In the early stages of a child's youth hockey career, there are two areas every hockey parent should take into consideration; punctuality and selflessness in practices and in games.

When my children were just starting out, it didn't take long for my husband and I to become familiar with what would be an all-too common sight on the ice. From the youngest ages and earliest levels of the game, we had witnessed more than a few selfish players, aka puck hogs.

I'm sure you've seen them. Kids with impressive stickhandling and scoring skills, more advanced that other players on the team. They know it, show it and make sure everyone else knows it too.

They either "forget" or have no interest in being part of something bigger then themselves; a team. Whether it's out of frustration because other kids are slower and can't catch their passes, or they're driven by incentives from mom and dad, they fail to see the value of an assist.

Some coaches fall into the win-at-all costs trap and embrace the kids with a nose for the net. Teaching opportunities about teamwork and the importance of puck movement takes a backseat to the thrill of being ahead on the scoreboard.  

The truth is, puck hogs can help a team win. But that mentality can bring the whole team down. Way down. Even during a winning season you can find yourself counting the days until lacrosse, baseball or track.

Rather than just turn the page, I decided to fill a bunch of pages with feelings about a season with a selfish player. With the help of my family, we came up with the story, The Puck Hog. The not-so-fictional account of a selfish hockey player named Eddie, who prefers to play for the name on the back of the jersey and not the one on the front. It all came together rather quickly.

My children and husband helped with the story's details and dialogue. My sister, Rose Mary Moziak, illustrated the story. My daughter Sophia was the inspiration for the book's main character, a gutsy girl who adds some ice to fiery scenarios. My son, Joe, is the wise, older brother, who becomes her confidant and offers sage advice. Eddie's dad comes into play too, rewarding his boy for every goal he scores and encourages the selfish play.      

It turns out that Eddie, the character who lacks character, was someone many children and parents already knew. I've received letters from children across the country, even as far away as Wasilla, Alaska, who have shared their own stories and frustration of dealing with Eddie's and were inspired by the way Sophia taught the puck hog that a real star makes everyone shine.

The truth of the matter is, whether you're playing youth hockey, working in a fast food restaurant or spending your day in an office, we all know a puck hog who refuses to share the puck, or the praise of a boss. Hockey teaches us all - both players and parents - valuable lessons of team work, commitment, sacrifice and selflessness. We carry these lessons with us long after we've untied the skates or slipped off the blanket we use in the bleachers. These lessons make us better teammates, and more importantly, better people.

And that's what makes hockey such a great game.

Christie Casciano Burns is a hockey mom in Syracuse, N.Y. She is also the author of two books, "The Puck Hog" and "Haunted Hockey in Lake Placid."


Coach of the Month:

Mario Martirano  //  Age 50  //  Mahopac, N.Y.  

Mario Martirano stays busy during the season coaching his son Christian's 10 & Under team as well as his son, Joseph's 12 & Under squad.

"During the season, I joke with my wife, "I'll see you Friday night, because that's the only night we're not at the rink," he says.

His commitment as both a parent and a coach are constantly on display at the Brewster Ice Arena. He rarely misses a game and never misses practice while putting his full support behind the American Development Model structure and tries to develop this philosophy throughout the rest of the organization.

More than just teaching skills on the ice, Mario is passionate about the life lessons that are being taught.

"Not everyone is going to make it to the show," he says. "But if we can instill some important life lessons that these kids will carry with them in whatever career they choose, then I feel like I've made a difference."

And as long as he does, Mario will continue to come to the rink.

"I love watching my kids develop the same passion I have for the game," he says.

"I know people with older kids who tell me, 'enjoy it while you can because it flies by so quick.' They're right. That's why I'm trying to enjoy every minute of it."







Who is your favorite American player?
Auston Matthews
Jason Robertson
Tage Thompson
Matthew Tkachuk
Patrick Kane
Total votes: 388