Monthly Archives: May 2015

Why do I love hockey?


This is one of my favorite father son pictures we ever took together.


Someone brought up hockey to me this past week. They said that they recall that both Andrew and I loved hockey and it was a common bond we shared. It held us together and we enjoyed it together.  Yes, we both loved hockey – but for very different reasons. The same is true for Nicole – she loves hockey as much as Andrew and I, but for a different reason.





Andrew Grosser Team Captain

Andrew Grosser Hockey Captain

Andrew loved the sport of hockey. He loved the feeling of skating, the freedom of being on skates and gliding along, the feel of the stick and playing the puck. He loved to check, take the puck away, make a shot, and fight in front of the crease. He was immensely into just playing the game. But there was something deeper for him. He just lived to be on the team. He went around with the team, went out to meals, hung out at school, and constantly reiterated and lived what his coaches taught him – the team is your family – and will always be.

It was his teammates and coaches who called and e-mailed us right after we lost him. Those who could not make the funeral sent their parents. The team sent food and condolences for weeks afterwards. To this day I e-mail and Facebook message several of his teammates. They want to make sure we are doing okay, and they share what is going on in their lives, and how Andrew is so missed by them.

Hockey to Andrew was part of his life. He did not identify himself solely through hockey, but he did know that hockey and his hockey family was a large part of his life.
DSC_1400aNicole is slightly different. She enjoys being on a team, and most of her friends, if not all of them, are related to hockey. She spent summers at hockey camps, spent every weekend with her hockey friends and texts them constantly. But she is drawn to hockey because of her competitive nature. She enjoys being the goalie. She thrives on the pressure of being in the net game after game. Her teammates and her coaches rely on her and she knows that – and that is her love of the game.

She was at a tournament a few years ago and another team’s goalies could not play due to illness. Their coach asked Nicole if she could play for their team (of course through Nicole’s coach). Even though this team was a competitor team for her, and her team would play them later on, Nicole was thrilled to be in the net for another game. It didn’t really matter who she played for, but that she was in the net and that these strangers were relying on her to play her heart out. And she did – they won 3 – 1.

Another time when she was younger, probably ninth grade, a well-known prep school had two sick goalies – both out with SARS for a couple of week. After some finagling and approval by her school and the prep school league, Nicole was asked to fill in for this team as well. She was already playing for her school team that weekend, and for her travel team, but we managed to fit in two more games and an hour travel time each way – for two consecutive weekends. It was a very hectic time for us, but Nicole thrived. She played and played and played, but it was what she loves to do.

They both love the game, but as you can see, for very different reasons. Andrew loved being on a team, being part of a family, hugging his teammates after a goal, and being known as a Mariner or a Titan.  Nicole loves the competition. She loves to make the stops, to stifle the competition, to play for any team that needs an advantage in the net. She loves to be known as the goalie – behind any jersey, but to be in the net.

And you then ask why do I love the game? Is it for the competition? Is it for being a Rink Rat for years? Or is it for the ten plus years I coached and helped kids grow into great players? None of these really – although I loved them all.
What a proud smile.

I love the game for what it gave to my children. I love the game for the thousands of hours, yes, thousands of hours of quality time with Andrew and Nicole that it afforded me. Driving with them to and from over a thousand games, dozens and dozens of tournaments all over the northeast, or the hundreds and hundreds of hours of practices where I had the chance to share the ice with them as their coach and mentor.



Nicole Award 1

I can’t recall how many trophies or medals we won as a team with either of them. But I remember the amazing feeling that I had hugging Nicole right on the ice after the state championship game where she delivered a shutout. Or the feeling I had when she won the Christopher Reeves Sportsmanship Trophy and I was standing next to her when she received it. Or the feeling when Andrew’s team beat amazing odds and defeated teams that we were not supposed to beat just because we were a family – and they were not. Or when Andrew’s teammates voted him captain of the team and I was in the locker room to see his reaction. You can see in the pictures my smile – not for winning a piece of plastic, or for winning a medal, but for the joy and happiness the sport brought to my most precious children.

We have gone to tons of Rangers and Islander games. We have sat in sky boxes, press boxes, the owner box, and on the glass. Andrew had conversations with John Amirante before he sang; Nicole had lunches with Charles Wang and has been to closed Islander practices. They have both ridden the Zamboni, and have been to team parties. They have experienced so much happiness and thrills, smiles and excitement, and have learned so much thanks to their involvement with hockey. And again, we have spent so much good quality, happy family time together as a result of our family’s ties to hockey.

That is why I love hockey. Not for what I took from the game, but what the sport gave to my children.


My son did exist

My son Did exist.

I have been noticing recently that assorted people do not talk about Andrew – I don’t know if this is a recent thing, or just something I am becoming more away of. I notice this at some dinners we have been at, or even over lunches. It is not at every meal that I expect him to be brought up in stories, I understand that. It is nice to talk about him, or have others talk about him.

Many times we are out with our closest friends or family and they will tell a story of my son. They will talk about him like he is still with us, recalling him fondly, recalling him with love. At times they tell us stories that we have heard a hundred times before, but it still brings a smile to our faces. The time Andrew cooked fish with Uncle Roy and had to shake them first as part of the ritual. Or when he would ask teachers questions that were impossible to answer. Or when Todd, Greg, Nicole, Andrew and I went on our annual summer water park trips and how we managed to cut every single line – Andrew was not one for waiting on lines. I have heard these stories so many times, but I still love to hear them.

Andrew and Anastasia

Andrew and Anastasia at Playland – always a fun place.

Once in a while we will also hear a new story, one that we never heard before, one that makes us laugh and teaches us a little bit more about Andrew. Matt tells us stories from the hockey locker room – some that we really can’t share. Wally tells us about Andrew in school, or just hanging around town. The time they wore pizza boxes on their feet because they could not go into the restaurant without shoes. We are so happy to hear them – but what brings us joy is the fact that people are talking about Andrew with us, they are not forgetting him.

But all too often we do not hear about Andrew. We are with other couples or friends and they talk about their kids, what they are up to and about their college or sports. They talk about Nicole and hockey and Salve. But they do not touch on Andrew.  I am sorry to say, it feels to us like he never existed. It feels like he is forgotten and people have moved on.

Andrew was so proud of Nicole at her Bat Mitzvah

Andrew was so proud of Nicole at her Bat Mitzvah

I talked about this to a couple of close friends and they thought of it in a different light. They thought of it as people not wanting to upset us. Or people just nervous to bring up Andrew around his grieving parents. They are not forgetting him, but in their eyes, they are protecting us from the pain. Trust me, the pain is there whether you talk about him or not. Being silent does not ease the pain; it does not lessen it, or make it go away. It only hurts more. We want to talk about our son. The son we will never see again, the son we will never hold again. We want to keep him in our lives, in our stories, in our hearts. Don’t be afraid to bring up something that you think we are trying to get over, or you are afraid to remind us that our Andrew is gone. We know this. Even through tears it brings us pleasure to talk about all our children, including Andrew. You do not need to walk on eggshells around us.

We know you want to tell us about your children, and we want to hear about them. Don’t be afraid to share your joys, your celebrations, your stories with us. We are here for that, and we want to listen. But in the same conversation, please let us all talk about Andrew, and let us share, too. Yes, we have no new stories; there is nothing new for us. We may have told you this story or that story before, but that is all we have right now.

And when we smile, as Pam expresses it so eloquently, it is not because we are over it, or that we are better, or that the old Perry is back.  It is because we are happy to be with our friends, and happy to be talking about our son.

Andrew, Nicole and Keisha. Keisha was with us for ten years loving and raising our kids.

Andrew, Nicole and Keisha. Keisha was with us for ten years loving and raising our kids.

This goes for anyone who has passed – whether it is a child, a parent, a sibling, or cousin. Talk about them. Share your thoughts and your joys and sorrows with their family. That is what they want. Not just today, tomorrow, this week, or next month – but from now on. Keep them in your hearts, in your minds and in your stories. That is what we want. More than hearing about your sympathy for us – we want to hear your joy when you talk about our lost ones.


Epilogue… By coincidence, Dorothy & I went out for a burger after temple Friday night to a place far enough away from home that we would most likely not run into friends. But as luck would have it, we did. We ran into a pair of hockey parents from Andrew’s Mariners days. Parents of someone he had as a teammate for several years, and who we spent countless hours at rinks with, at restaurants and hotels with, but drifted apart as our kids went their separate ways.

It was sort of awkward at first. We had not seen then for several years, long before we lost Andrew. They got up and hugged us, and told us how sorry they were about Andrew. They said he was a good kid and that they were shocked, as was everyone. We talked about hockey and about Nicole, and about their kids. It was very nice.

But more important, that is what we needed. Instead of ignoring us, or just waiving hello, they got up, hugged us, and talked to us about Andrew. Yes, we cried. But it was a good cry. Someone talked about Andrew with us. Someone who did not need to, or have to, but wanted to. Someone who knew him, and still has him in their hearts.

Because he did exist – my son did exist, and he still does.


The Elephant in the Room  (with liberties taken with the name)
By Terry Kettering

There’s an elephant in the room.
It is large and squatting,  so it is hard to get around it.

Yet we squeeze by with, “How are you?” and, “I’m fine,”
and a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.

We talk about the weather; we talk about work;
we talk about everything else — except the elephant in the room.

There’s an elephant in the room. We all know it is there.
We are thinking about the elephant as we talk together.

It is constantly on our minds. For, you see, it is a very big elephant.
It has hurt us all, but we do not talk about the elephant in the room.

Oh, please, say his name.
Oh, please, say “Andrew” again.
Oh, please, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

For if we talk about his death, perhaps we can talk about his life.
Can I say, “Andrew” to you and not have you look away?
For if I cannot, then you are leaving me alone
in a room—with an elephant.