For the love of the game.

on Mon May 23rd, 2011 10:25 am
There was a big celebration two nights ago commemorating the 50th anniversary of the South Boston Youth Hockey League, as much of a fixture in that storied community as a stroll around Castle Island.None of its officers are personally known here, yet there’s an appreciation of them at this address because this is written by a dad whose sons were mentored by folks just like them, a dad whose fondest memories include mornings spent with other dads sipping coffee in frigid arenas before the sun came up.They belonged to a world created by Bobby Orr, whose transcendent popularity spawned the construction of rinks and formation of camps throughout this hockey-crazed region, which was ironic, because as Orr often noted, “The first hockey camp I ever went to was the one I owned.”Like Little League baseball, youth hockey soon became as much about the adults who organized the games as it was about the kids who played them, which is why we read so many stories about parental rage.That’s not a hockey problem; that’s a problem with human nature.Whenever it happens, and it does in every town, often resulting in calls to this desk from outraged moms demanding a column, the late Bill Ryan comes to mind.He, too, was a son of Southie and founder of the Yankee Conference, a Hingham-based league specifically designed for kids who had been trimmed from the rosters of elite teams. His love for the game was as palpable as his dismay over what adults had done to it.“We used to play on a frozen swamp we called The Dikes, down off Victory Road,” he once recalled.“We’d show up early Saturday morning, peg out a little patch, use it up, then hopefully get onto another patch before anybody else showed up. We’d play all day long, and you know what? We never had a fight. That’s how it used to be.“Then adults came along and decided to organize things, putting ideas into kids’ heads, like, ‘C’mon, if you just try harder you could be on an A team!’ Then they started coming to their games, rooting for them, rooting against the other teams, rooting against refs they didn’t like. And they were very quick to forget the rest of the kids.”So Bill created a league of his own that continues to prosper today.Here’s wishing a happy birthday to the South Boston Youth Hockey League, from a dad who remains grateful for the commitment so many make to the nurturing of youngsters, even as he waits for his phone to ring with reminders there are still too many others who’ve forgotten it’s supposed to be about the kids.Jor FitzgeraldBoston HeraldMay 23, 2011JUST LET THE KIDS PLAY HOCKEY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!