By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
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By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The tow-truck guy came five minutes after one of the boys finally asked me to stop. I was exhilarated. I believed that my gate-torture had driven the boys to contact the driver and make him come faster. I never saw that happen, but I felt it must have, somehow. I had done the impossible and made a towing company move faster than it had wanted to, and I had also managed to make two people at a towing office feel as trapped, miserable and enraged as I had been feeling waiting for my car.
My joy dissipated over the ride home, and by the time we walked in the door, I was ashamed. I am 34 years old and I've been trying for some time now to limit the number of times in a week that I am gratuitously an asshole, and this seemed like a real setback. I felt as though I'd eaten an entire tray of sheet cake. Each bite tasted good, but really I just made myself sick.
Hockey Dads: The Not Ready for Prime Ice Players
IT'S TUESDAY NIGHT, AND THE HOCKEY youth clinics are in full swing at El Segundo's HealthSouth Training Center. The L.A. Kings work out here, but at the moment the facility's three rinks -- two ice, one roller -- are crowded with younger dreams of Olympic gold and Stanley cups. Mothers lace up their daughters' white figure skates while boys and girls in full hockey gear waddle like ETs to practice. The bustling broods, the cool, regulated air and the rinks' impression of frozen lakes lend the whole facility the precious feel of a family preserve. Taking in the scene, Steve Cannella, a defenseman for the Not So Killer Bees, waits at the sidelines of the roller rink for the grownups' turn to play.
Cannella first got involved with hockey in 1998 as a coach for his son Adam's Hermosa Beach roller team. He was, he admits, a leader of few words. "All we did â was yell, 'Skate, skate, skate,'" says Cannella, who, like the other dads on his coaching staff, Mark Robelotto and Cliff Edson, had never actually played the game before. "That's all we knew to tell them."
Then Cannella, Robelotto and Edson, along with a handful of other hockey dads, decided to learn the game from the inside out. They discovered the HealthSouth Adult Roller Hockey League, formed the Killer Bees and hit the rink. Of course, while their kids began playing at the ages of 4 and 5, most of the dads on the Killer Bees didn't pick up the stick until 45. "We should probably be called the Wooden Soldiers," says Robelotto, the Bees' current coach. "We're all so stiff." Even so, they've turned the father-son dynamics of youth sports upside-down. For Robelotto, it's been a humbling experience. "The first time that I played, I felt I'd done terrible," he says. "When I came off the rink, my son came up to me, patted me on the back and said, 'Good game, Dad.' Then he stuck the knife in: 'Keep your stick down.'
"There's the humility in the realization that it's not nearly as easy as these kids make it look."
While soccer moms achieved national prominence during the Clinton years as a savvy swing demographic, hockey dads became the country's raging brutes earlier this year during the manslaughter trial of Thomas Junta, who beat his son's coach to death.
"There are a lot of goons out there, a lot of problems with parents living through their kids," says Robelotto, whose son, James, plays for the champion El Segundo Regents. "Since we started playing, we've come to the conclusion that it's their game. Let them play." And every Tuesday night, after their kids are finished with practice, the fathers have a game of their own.
Just before 7 p.m., a dozen Killer Bees are all biceps and bellies as they put on the last of their gear at the edge of the open-air roller rink. (They aren't quite ready for the ice yet, says Cannella.) They're a tanned Southern California blend of construction workers, film- and service-industry professionals, software engineers and recreation directors. Some pull helmets and face masks over graying beards, while others actually seem slimmer after pulling jerseys over their hip pads and softened middle-aged physiques.
A handful of kids -- Zach, James, Beau, Max and Adam -- fresh out of their own hockey gear (except for Cannella's son, Adam, who recently switched to soccer), watch from the walkway overlooking the rink as their dads roll out to warm up. Moms keep watchful eyes on sons and husbands from the stands.
Tonight, the Bees, in last place (1-3) of the league's Copper Division, square off against the Tsunami-C's. Like most of the teams in this co-ed league, the Waves appear stacked with players decades younger than the Bees. Still, Cannella promises a good game. "We really killed this team in the pre-season," he says. "We're going to eat them up."
At first, the Bees battle wildly for the puck with a tenacious, ass-over-elbows fervor and fend off repeated Waves power plays. Still, up in the peanut gallery, Robelotto's 11-year-old, James, can't resist the chance to throw brickbats. "It's so embarrassing," he says, giggling. "We come and watch them play when we need a good laugh." Even that, however, isn't enough to hold the boy's interest as his father's team huffs and puffs its way to a 4-1 loss. By the end of the second period, James and several of his teammates are off playing tag.