Rachel Harris is a Hockey Mom. It even says so on her car. For the past six years, she has nurtured and supported the hockey career of her 12-year-old son, Jack, who is now a rugged 110-pound defenseman for the Arizona Hockey Union U-12 97 team, otherwise known as the Polar Bears.“When Jack was 4, he was invited to the Polar Ice rink in Chandler for a birthday party,” Rachel recalls. “He was frustrated that he couldn’t skate, but he saw some 5-year-old hockey players learning how to skate. He decided right then that he wanted to play hockey.”
Luckily for Rachel, an on-air contributor for Channel 3’s mid-morning show, “Your Life A to Z,” and her husband John, a local attorney, the Polar Ice rink in Chandler is a five-minute drive from their home. But I’d guess that the miles they have put into hockey-related driving since Jack first learned to skate would equal the distance to the moon and back.
“In second grade, he started taking private lessons at 6:30 in the morning. He would work on his skating, shooting and one-on-one situations,” says Rachel, who acknowledges that being a Hockey Mom can be time-consuming. “But it is a lot easier [now] than when I had to stay at the rink and tie his skates.”
Jack has steadily moved up the youth hockey hierarchy, from Mite to Squirt and now to PeeWee. He now has practice three times a week with the Polar Bears and plays about 50 games during the season, which stretches from July until March. Included in those 50 games are six tournaments, some of which are out of state.“We went to Whistler (British Columbia) in July for a four-day tournament against some Canadian teams. It was a great experience for everyone,” says Rachel, noting that several of the Polar Bears families are good friends because their sons have played together for the past six years.
The Polar Bears also played in Denver this past October, and are tentatively scheduled to play in Las Vegas in December and Salt Lake City in the January.
“Travel for these tournaments has made our family more cohesive,” Rachel said. “We usually plan some vacation [time] around them.”So what does Rachel think about that other Hockey Mom, who is currently on a well-publicized book tour?
“I got teased a lot during the presidential campaign, especially because I put my hair up and wear glasses. But I’ve had my Hockey Mom sticker on my car for six years, long before anyone heard of her.”
So what are the benefits of youth hockey in Arizona?
“Hockey has taught Jack self-discipline and he is very careful to eat healthy foods. I cannot say enough good things about it,” Rachel says. “And, oh yes, hockey is so great in the summer. That’s when I can’t wait to get inside the rink.” — Dan Barr