“It’s all about how you play the game. We’ve always told our children that as long as you’re trying, you’re succeeding.” —Rebecca
Rebecca and Marc Guimont’s family tagline might as well be “Hockey, a Love Story.” Their children have been on the ice practically since they could stand. Kelley, the eldest, started in a Learn to Skate USA program when she was just 3. Classes were a 40-minute drive away, so Rebecca would load up the car with then 18-month-old Delaney and newborn David to begin what would become a great adventure. When their youngest child, Shea, came into the picture, he took to the ice as well. Each winter, Marc would build a rink in the backyard, which made it even easier for his crew to indulge in the fun. “The neighborhood kids would also come over, and everyone had a great time playing around on the ice together,” says Rebecca.
The couple started building their so-called team more than 20 years ago. Rebecca realized Marc was the right guy for her when one of his sisters was expecting. She loved how close Marc was to his family, and how excited he was about the arrival of his niece. “I’d never given much thought to my future other than knowing that someday I would have kids,” says Rebecca. “But with Marc, I could picture it.”
Marc loves Rebecca’s taste for adventure and her indefatigable energy. “No matter what I signed the kids up for, she always went right along with me!” says Marc. “Our last 22 years have been all about the kids, and it shows in each one’s character.”
Despite the challenges of being student athletes—like keeping up with schoolwork and trying to have some semblance of a social life—hockey has had a positive influence on the Guimont siblings. Kelley says the sport has given her determination: “I don’t give up easily, I always try my hardest and I set big goals for myself.” It’s also been eye-opening. “There’s a lot of sexism and I’ve felt it in many different ways,” she says. “I’ve been on several teams with boys who made it very clear they didn’t think I should be playing with them. They’d refer to me as ‘the girl’ instead of using my name, and some boys wouldn’t acknowledge that I was part of the team. I’ve even heard parents making sexist remarks, and that didn’t feel good—especially coming from people who should be teaching their kids right from wrong.”
“There’s just something unique about gliding across a sheet of ice on a sliver of steel while being chased by opponents trying to steal the 6 ounces of rubber you’re trying to control!” —Rebecca
Delaney appreciates the discipline and sense of responsibility the sport has given her: “At a young age, I learned the importance of arriving on time to games, practices and other team events. If I was ever late, there would be consequences in one way, shape or form. Realizing that people depend on me has taught me to manage time well.” Hockey has also taught her how to really collaborate with others, no matter the circumstances. “On some teams, I had players who were better than me, worse than me or that I just did not get along with. But I had to learn to make it work. I think it’s made me a more understanding person.” As for Shea, he loves the camaraderie of friends who have come to feel like family over the years.
The Guimonts have made many sacrifices, like working long hours to help offset the cost of travel hockey. They’ve also watched the kids miss out on parties and endure various bumps and bone bruises (David) and a concussion (Delaney), but they wouldn’t have it any other way. Now Rebecca and Marc can see the end in sight, and it’s bittersweet. “The hockey life was hectic and chaotic. I look at the frazzled mothers at the rink, pushing a stroller and dragging a hockey bag with one hand, trying to wrangle a toddler with the other, and I just smile at them, knowing it won’t last forever,” reflects Rebecca. “The days seem to drag on, but the years go by in the blink of an eye.”
Tell us a little more about the hockey life.
One does not simply go to the hockey game. First off, we usually drive there, sometimes up to two-plus hours away. Factor in needing to feed the kids, so we might leave early to stop for a meal, or stop after the game on the way home or before the next game of the day. We usually get to the rink an hour before game time so the kids can get dressed, get into game mode and listen to the coaches’ pre-game talk.
Once kids are able to dress themselves, there’s a lot of downtime for parents, so we get to know each other well. The players’ siblings—aka Rink Rats—also get to know each other because they have hours at the rink to entertain themselves.
These kids often grow up together because the siblings usually play as well and can even be on the same team. Everything revolves around the hockey schedule: Tournaments are considered our family vacations, and away games in other states are reasons to visit relatives that live nearby. Hockey is our life!
What benefits do you think kids get from playing sports? How has it helped them in other aspects of their lives?
I think the biggest thing they’ve learned is how you have to work at something, even if it's something you enjoy. The kids have all loved skating from day one, but if you want to get better, you have to practice. Also, they’ve learned commitment. They’re part of a team and need to show up and work hard and be supportive of their teammates. David played hockey for 12 years before he finally won a state championship with his team. The kids have learned to compromise on the little things, like picking a jersey number or when someone brings orange slices instead of Munchkins for the snack. They’ve also learned how to deal with “friends” smack talking during school because they play on a rival team.
What do the kids want to do when they grow up? Is there more hockey in their future?
Kelley just graduated with a BA in education. She’s currently doing her final semester teaching an ESL class. She has an exceptional gift with students, and the children all gravitate toward her. I’d like to think that once she’s hired by a school district, she can use her hockey knowledge for good. Delaney is in her second year of college and fulfilling her dream of playing college hockey. She’s a biology major with plans of becoming a physician’s assistant. David is a college freshman; he is in the aviation program to become a commercial pilot. His school has a club hockey team, so he may look in to playing with them in the future. Shea is a freshman in high school and is hoping to play in college too. He's still playing travel hockey and will try out for the high school team as well.
How many pairs of skates do you own?
We have multiple pairs of every size! We’ve been giving away our old equipment as much as possible, trying to get rid of the hockey shop in our attic. We’ve always believed in used equipment, especially skates, since they’re so stiff when brand-new but used skates are already broken in. If I had to guess, I'd say we’ve gone through about 40 pair of skates over the years!