What the Puck: the Sanity-Saving Power of HumorApr 24, 2023
By Adrienne MacIain, Ph.D.
“Remember, you are a parent first, fan second. You’re not always there for the hockey." - Laura Zukosky, We’re Not Here for the Hockey: a Guide to Raising a Competitive Athlete (without going nucking futs)
Any parent of a driven, talented kid--athlete, performer, Chess wiz, what-have-you--knows the sacrifices that must be made to give that kid their best chance at success. The early mornings. The late nights. The lack of family dinners. Not to mention the financial commitment, which can drive parents to side-hustling, moonlighting, refinancing, and even selling their eggs or their plasma (and no, I don’t mean their big-screen TV, though they might hock that too if they’ve got one).
Those sacrifices can get a bit overwhelming, especially if you have no experience in the universe of youth hockey.
That’s exactly where Laura Zukosky found herself when her son fell in love with the fast-paced, high-ticket, competitive sport of hockey.
“I was raising a competitive athlete who, for all intents and purposes, was on the cusp of playing in the juniors and then striving to play the sport for a D1 college, while also raising three other kids, all with different interests and activities. I was a team manager for two years, I lived and breathed organization around the sport,” explains Laura, “I got to know players who had played professionally, I read all the information I could find, and trusted people that said they knew what they were doing, and experienced all the highs and lows. Mixing euphoria and heartbreak on a daily basis can mess with your physical and emotional well-being. The game of hockey is beautiful, and when your child enters the world of competitive sports, a lot of things come with it. So, I started writing about all the crazy hijinks just to keep myself sane. For me, it was cathartic. I would drive my son to a 5:30 a.m. private hockey lesson and pass the time by writing down how I felt. Then, at some point, after hearing so many parents say, ‘Man, I could write a book about all this,’ I thought, hey, I really could write a book about all this. In fact, I’m already writing one.”
At first, she thought the only audience who would be interested in her hilarious chronicling of those misadventures on ice (or near the ice, anyway) were the other parents in her extended “hockey family” as she calls them. But she soon realized that these experiences weren’t limited to a single sport, but were common to any parent committed to helping their competitive kid chase their dream.
“If your child is really good at something and you want to support their hopes and dreams, We’re Not Here for the Hockey can help you anticipate and level-set some of the big financial and emotional investments that are going to come up,” says Laura. “This book is a field guide to navigating the family journey of competitive athletics, a compilation of awkward situations, fruitful mistakes, truth bombs, and constructive criticism for the imperfect ‘system’ (read: cash-grab) of youth sports. Like a trail guide for a big hike, you need to know the level of difficulty and potential risks. We all love our kids and want to see them excel, wherever their hopes and dreams may take them. But it sure helps to be prepared.”
More to the point, the more Laura wrote, the more she realized: these stories are funny as f*@#, and who couldn’t use a good laugh right about now?
“I wanted to tell the story, but with humor and perspective that I believe exists only in memes and coffee shops. As adults, we do the best we can, but sometimes we need a little complicity while we go nucking futs,” says Laura.
But it’s not just the grown-ups who need a little help from their friends. As Laura points out, “Post-pandemic, everything changed. Kids are growing up in a world that is increasingly volatile, so parents are overjoyed if they find something (like a sport) to keep them out of trouble and engaged. Something that gives them support, and structure, and something positive to strive for.”
“But what happens when the kid is really good at something and now it involves more than just driving to practice? There is another level of commitment that parents then need to make, and with it comes an industry that is ready to cash in on that dream. Don’t get me wrong: the dream is attainable, but parents need to be pragmatic before getting in too deep, or at least minimize the risks.”
Laura believes in a world where kids can play sports and excel competitively on a level playing field. “I also believe that coaches should be evaluated, advisors and camps and tournaments rated, and parents understand that we don't need to accept everything without questioning the powers-that-be. There is too much credence given to the status quo and not enough quality control,” laments Laura.
“Growing the game of hockey is important, and there are plenty of people who have the best intentions - for the sport, the kids and the families supporting it financially,” Laura insists. “However, there are a few bad apples (toxic parents, bad coaches, and a touch of entitlement) that ruin it. There are podcasts, advisors, organizations and very expensive programs that churn out advice and offerings. A lot of noise for people to sort through, some who do it from ivory towers (former pros or coaches who love to make fun of the parents). I think we need more objectivity and some Yelp-ish reviewers with a rule that starts with “can’t talk about ice time or name-call.” Parent-approved Angie's Lists for camps, coaches and clinics. Healthgrades like for Doctors. Something.”
Laura wrote this book as her contribution to that “something.”
“Finding the time to write when I was in the weeds, I had three kids living in the house in different phases of childhood/adolescence/adulthood was a real challenge.” Laura confesses, though, that’s not the only reason she waited until now to share these stories with the world, “I also wanted to make sure my son was finished playing the sport so I could get away from it for a while. I did not want the book to be a hockey mom rant. There was some healing and perspective I needed to grapple with before I could really focus on what it needed to be: a guide for parents supporting any high-performing competitor, not just hockey moms.”
But let’s be real: if your kid’s a hockey player, you’re gonna laugh just a little bit harder at some of Laura’s chirps.
If you’re wondering “What’s a chirp?” you should definitely go buy a copy of We’re Not Here for the Hockey and find out!
Here’s what early readers are saying:
“L. Zukosky uses humor and wit to chronicle the parents' journey of dreaming their child could be ‘the next one.’ This book is a must-read for parents who have lost sight of whose dream they are living and for gullible parents with a blank cheque just entering the hockey world. Her self-deprecating humor, real-life experiences and observations expose the lunacy of youth hockey. It’s an indispensable guide to parents of the next generation.”
- Justin Davis, bestselling author of Conflicted Scars: An Average Player’s Journey to the NHL
“Having 5 hockey players of my own, Laura’s book hit home with the passion, drive & determination that it takes to pursue a dream in sports along with the struggles, sacrifices and perseverance that it takes to achieve it! Laura’s recount of the years spent was both funny & yet serious and I want to thank her for this memoir of the years that our son’s played together! And for the Mints!”
-Wendi "Mama Slavs" Slavin - mother to 2 professional hockey players in the NHL
“As a parent who is not in the travel sports world, I’ve heard stories about the intensity and expense of the sports life, but with this wonderful read, Laura Zukosky took me into the nitty gritty of what it truly means to support a child’s athletic passion. In We’re Not Here for the Hockey, we learn firsthand the sacrifices that need to be made to follow a dream. With a wonderful wit, Zukosky brings all of our senses alive from the smell of hockey bags, to the chill of the rink, to the exhaustion from the lack of sleep, we’re right there, in the rink cheering along and wondering how the hell we got there. This book is not to be missed by any parent whose child is in sports, but it’s especially delightful for those hockey parents out there. I know a few I can’t wait to share this with.”
-Tamara Palmer, Author of Finding Lancelot, Missing Tyler and Truncated)
Learn more and connect with Laura: https://linktr.ee/laurazukoskyauthor or
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