During the many years that my son played competitive hockey, he developed certain preferences, all of which he believed helped him succeed at the game. For example, he had certain items of clothing which he liked to wear under his hockey gear. If he wore a certain Under Armour t-shirt one day, and he happened to have a good game that day, he would always try to wear that particular t-shirt going forward. It got to be rather tricky to keep up with all of his preferences.
James had a routine before each hockey game that was very strict. He prepared a minute-by-minute schedule in order to ensure that everything was just right. The routine included a submarine sandwich from Subway, the sub had to be loaded with mustard. The people at the local sub shop got to know him, and would ensure that anyone new on the job was ready to put the right amount of mustard on the sub for James, they would say “he likes tons of mustard, be sure to load it up”. Other Subway locations thought he was crazy when he would stand there and say “more” three of four times before they got the right amount of mustard on the sub. The sub loaded with mustard was an important part of the pre-game ritual.
Hockey coaches got to know about the mustard, and there was even an occasion when a coach was giving a pep talk to the team, and he talked about skating extra hard “put some mustard on it….has anyone seen how much mustard James puts on his sub? I want you to put that much mustard into your skating!”
The other thing that James had to have while in the car en route to the game was a banana. Not just any banana, the banana had to be perfectly ripe, but not too ripe, just the right amount of ripe. Brown spots on a banana would not be acceptable, and a less than ripe green banana would not fit the bill either.
One day we had an out of town evening game in Kingston. There was a mad rush to get home from work and be ready for the road trip to Kingston. Unfortunately on this particular day, the only available banana was a bit over-ripe. We were carpooling with another family on this particular trip. I can remember trying to pass of the less than perfect banana to James, but he would have no part of it. He was quite annoyed to say the least. Thankfully my friend Bonnie offered a green apple as an alternative. Usually an apple would not fit the bill, but James realized he had no choice since we were on the highway on a 2-hour drive, and he knew for sure that he didn’t want the banana with the brown spots. Begrudgingly, James ate the green apple. For whatever reason, James played one of his best games ever that day. He scored three goals! All of us breathed a sigh of relief. We were delighted that the green apple provided the right amount of steam to blow the socks off the other team. From that day forward, a green apple became an acceptable alternative to the banana.
Another thing that James liked to have before a game was a Dr. Pepper. The coach and the players knew that James had certain preferences that were not to be messed with, however on one particular day there was a new coach helping the team. He was younger, kind of mean, and a bit of a know-it-all. While James was enjoying his pre-game Dr. Pepper beverage, he approached James and said “there isn’t a Doctor on the planet who would tell you that drinking a soft drink loaded with sugar is good for you.” One of James’ friends spoke up and said “Dr. Pepper would.” You gotta love kids.
Keeping up with the demands of a demanding kid was not easy. The clothing, the equipment, and the food had to be just right. If anything messed with the secret formula, he would not be at one with the universe, and we would all know it. Being somewhat picky myself, I can understand the importance of the perfect banana. After eating bananas for his whole life, it is understandable that it came to a huge surprise to all of us when James recently developed a severe allergy to bananas. It seems that bananas served their purpose in his life, and when hockey was over, his body rejected them. Which makes me wonder “what would Dr. Pepper think?”