Bird family finds their nest at the hockey rink
The Bird family lives 10 minutes away from AZ Ice Peoria.
Perhaps no family visits the ice rink as often as Carolyn and her husband, George, parents of three hockey-playing sons – Kevin, 15, Scotty, 14, and Jersey, 11.
The family spends most nights on the ice as the trio all plays for the Mission Arizona organization.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Carolyn said with a laugh. “We’re at the rink almost every night, two or three or four hours. We make it work and we like it. It’s our home away from home.”
The boys, who are only a few years apart, each play on different teams in the Mission program.
Mission founder Jeremy Goltz said he couldn’t recall a family that had this many sons playing hockey at the same time in his organization. He also said the family has somewhat of an advantage, as they can learn from each other about the Mission system and philosophy. As the Jersey and Scotty climb the ranks, Kevin can give pointers on what to expect.
“We’re always talking about a layering effect and progression,” Goltz said. “Here’s a family that lives it and sees it firsthand. All three of them are prime examples of growth and how our process works.”
Carolyn and George didn’t play the sport growing up outside of Chicago, but the family was bitten by the hockey bug a dozen years ago when the family moved to the desert and started attending Phoenix Coyotes games.
Kevin started rollerblading at age two and once he joined hockey for good when he was eight, his passion for the game was evident. Now 15 and a key forward on Mission’s 16U Red squad, Carolyn quipped that her son has never lost his love for the game.
“He’s very a competitive kid and he lives for hockey,” Carolyn said. “When he’s not at the rink, he’s always working out and doing anything he can to get ready for his next game or next practice. The light has really switched on for him over the last year or so. No other sport has been able to grab him like hockey has.”
Scotty simply followed in his older brother’s skates. A year younger at 14, he plays on the same team with his brother every other year. (Last year, the two played on Mission’s team that won the program’s first-ever Arizona Amateur Hockey Association Tier II state championship at the Bantam level). Scotty revels in the camaraderie and friendships of hockey.
“He wanted to play because he saw his brother out there,” Carolyn said of Scotty, also a forward. “But he’s just extremely even-keeled and he enjoys bonding with his teammates and the whole experience.”
Carolyn joked that Jersey, who plays on Mission’s Pee Wee Red team, really didn’t have a choice when it came to which sport he was going to play, but the youngest Bird son might be the smartest of the bunch, as Goltz raved about his hockey IQ.
“Jersey has been coming to the rink since we were carrying him around,” Carolyn said. “Then he was a toddler running around the rink and I think it was just a natural progression in his mind that he was going to play hockey.
The route from home to the ice rink has been well-traveled for the Bird family, one they’ll keep driving for another seven years or so, but when the time comes that there won’t be a need for trips to the rink, the mom of a hockey family said she would certainly reflect on the many memories.
“When that day comes, it’s going to be sad,” Carolyn said. “I just want them to enjoy the game and love it.”
— Eric Smith