For any hockey player, scoring your first goal in any level or any league is always a fun thing to accomplish.
I remember my first goal skating as a youngster at Northlands Ice Center in Sharonville, Ohio. It was an early game and my mom stayed home with my sister, so it was just my dad and I on the 15 minute drive from our house to the rink, me dressed in all of my gear except for skates.
Those drives were always memorable to me because it was bonding time, either with my dad, or my family. When it was just the boys, we’d always talk about the Buffalo Sabres. My dad, who at the time never played any sort of hockey other than street (he’s a great men’s league goalie now and he started in his late 30’s. That’s why I say it’s never too late for you who are thinking about playing!!!) would talk to me about my game as well and helped me learn early fundamentals of the sport.
While even to this day, my dad would probably not know what a 1-2-2 forecheck is or what it would look like, he was instrumental in making me feel like the team came first, that learning the fundamentals from my coaches was important, and most importantly to have fun while I played a game.
Well back to my first goal, it was a simple slow moving wrist shot past the goalie, and I still have that puck to this day.
On February 25, 1995, I was just shy of 7-years and one month old.
I also remember my first hat trick. While I don’t have a puck to show for that, I do remember that my mother had stayed home for that one again, leading to her superstition that she shouldn’t come to my games because “I played better when she wasn’t there”, which wasn’t the case obviously, but even hockey moms can be superstitious.
Now let’s fast-forward to October 10, 2015 when it was Oliver Kylington’s turn to score his first pro goal in North America, in front of his dad Borje at Stockton Arena.
Sure Oliver had played pro before in his native country of Sweden, but that didn’t stop Borje from feeling immense pride in his son after playing in his first pro game in North America, and scoring his first goal in the American Hockey League.
“It was a great game and [Oliver] played really well both on offense and defense,” Borje said. “It was a great feeling [to see Oliver score]. He has a habit to score in his first games with teams he plays for; it’s happening all the time! I was actually expecting it. I can’t say I knew it was going to happen but I was expecting it.”
Now I know as a young player myself who was more of a passer when younger, scoring rarely came along for me, so it was a cool thing when it happened. For Oliver, even as a defenseman, scoring hasn’t been a problem in his young career, scoring eight times as a pro in Sweden, 13 times as a junior player in Sweden, and seven times as a member of Sweden’s Junior National Team.
But how would Borje expect his son to score in his first game in the AHL?
“I scored in my first professional game in Sweden when I was 16-years-old,” Oliver said with a grin. “Then I’ve scored some first game goals when I played junior and even in my first game in Calgary against Edmonton I scored there. “
Must be nice huh? The talent that Oliver has developed is simply outstanding. To see him on the ice against real opponents, you couldn’t really figure out that this is a young man, who a year ago, would still be considered a kid by our standards. Now he’s playing pro amongst 20-35-year-old players, and he’s keeping up with them every step of the way.
“[My first game] was very fun. It was nice to have my dad here,” Oliver said. “I think that goal was for him, and I’m sure he enjoyed that, but for me, it was fun to officially play here in North America. Our team had a great game, lots of goals, and I think the crowd loved it.”
Well the crowd certainly seemed to love it, as of course did Borje.
When you think about the life of a hockey player, regardless on if it’s a top level, or even the youngest of players, you never get away from the theme of family. The game is really about family, and not just in the “the team is a family in the dressing room” sense, but also in the sense that you never really stop playing for your actual family, and play with them in mind.
In your young days it’s your family that helps tie your skates. It’s your family who affords you the equipment and the ice time. It’s your family who are there to watch and cheer you on, regardless on if you score your first goal, or you finish pointless in a losing effort. It’s your family you go home with after the game, and it’s your family who supports you throughout your career.
I think many of the players that I’ve met while with the Stockton Thunder and Stockton Heat feel the best way to give back to their family who’ve supported them throughout their careers is to go out and play their game. When the goals come, and your family is in the crowd, it’s a surreal moment, and everyone I’ve ever talked to who’s had a good game in front of their parents always said that the goal was for them.
Take longtime NHL’er and former member of the Calgary Flames Marty St. Louis in 2014. While with the Rangers, St. Louis lost his mother to a heart attack on May 8 in the playoffs. Just days later on Mother’s Day, May 11, Marty St. Louis scored to open the scoring. In what can only be seen as a dedication to his mother, Marty’s celebration clearly showed that the goal he had just scored, which wasn’t one of the prettiest in his career, was one of his most memorable because it was for her.
The moral of the story? It doesn’t matter if you’re a 7 year-old scoring your first goal, an 18-year-old scoring his first pro goal in North America, or a 38-year-old scoring his 36th playoff goal of his career. Family means everything to hockey players, and performing well in front of family in the stands or watching from up above is a theme that won’t ever go away in our game.
You know when I think back to those days as a youth hockey player, playing hockey wasn’t even my favorite part of the day. The best part of my day was definitely the bonding time spent after the game, going to Dunkin Donuts with my father to talk about the game, and hockey in general. It’s time spent that I’ll never forget and always cherish.
There’s no need to explain to Oliver that his first goal in North America, in front of his dad was a great moment, and one that the pair will probably never forget. However I bet if you asked him what the best part of the night was, he’d tell you that spending time with his dad after the game, talking about the game he played, and hockey in general, was the best part of the night, because that’s what hockey players do.
I’m closing out all of my blog posts with a jersey or logo in the sports world. I love sports jerseys (I collect them) and I love logos and what goes into making a brand.
Since I’m talking about my time as a youth player I have to feature the logo that was on my jersey growing up playing in Cincinnati Ohio. The Cincinnati Cyclones (IHL and ECHL) were around most of my life but in my younger days, CAHA (in this case not California Amateur Hockey Association but rather Cincinnati Amateur Hockey Association) had this logo attached to the front of every jersey given to the youth players in the area.
Do you know what it is?
If you do, congrats because this would be a tough one to get for many. If you don’t know, it happens to be the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1975 to 1979 (and in the Central Hockey League but lets ignore that chapter of history).
The Stingers actually had some really good players on the team including NHL Hall of Famers Mark Messier and Mike Gartner along with other notables like Barry Melrose, Mike Liut, Rick Dudley, and Blaine Stoughton.
A few years after I first started playing hockey, the jerseys that I wore as a youth went from that to this but I do still have an old jersey of mine somewhere at my parents house in Cincinnati with this logo on it.
Look, it’s not a secret, I love the old classic designs of the 1970’s. and this one is in that same boat. The simplicity of the bee forming the “C” is so retro cool that even comments on SportsLogos.net have suggested everything from an AHL team or ECHL team using this name and logo and even one comment suggests that the Blue Jackets could’ve used this logo in Columbus to become the Columbus Stingers instead of Columbus Blue Jackets. I’d have been alright with that.
Brandon Kisker is the Heat’s Director of Broadcast & Media Relations and is entering his third season as a broadcaster in Stockton. Follow him on Twitter @kiskerbc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or questions.