Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Mom Stella

by Lisa Ovens

Stella Ovens
To my hockey friends around the world, it is with great sadness to announce the passing of my mother, Stella, after a year long battle with cancer. Those of you who read my book had the opportunity to meet my mother at various points in the story, and know she was the best hockey fan on earth.

As a youngster, my mom became a hockey fan in the early Forties in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She shared stories with me about her earliest memories listening to Hockey Night in Canada on the living room radio with her big family (youngest of 18 children). As a young working woman, my mom purchased the family's first television in the Fifties so everyone could enjoy the game in a new way. Those years she cheered for the Toronto Maple Leafs but always said she had a soft spot in her heart for the Detroit Red Wings.

My mom moved to Vancouver, fell in love the city and then fell in love with my late father, Orville. When the Vancouver Canucks came into existence, well, mom adopted and then fell in love with them too. Sometimes my parents travelled down to Seattle to see the Seattle Totems play, as one of our relatives played defense for the team.

Some of my earliest memories in my life were of hockey. But they were not of my father and hockey, but of my mother reacting to the game. Mom was amazing: she could make dinner, keep track of us kids AND focus on the game all at the same time.

As an adult, watching hockey with my mom was the best, whether we were at a game, at her place, or phoning each other during the game. She was great for one line comments on the phone and then hanging up; like whenever Sami Salo scored from the point, mom would call me and say "Don't you just love it when Salo scores like that?" Then she'd chuckle and hang up. Alex Burrows became her favorite Canuck because one time she saw him greeting fans and signing autographs at a local grocery store, and thought he was such a polite, young man ( and so handsome, too!).

When we attended Canuck games together, mom liked to be there as early as possible, because she loved to walk the concourse and watch the arena fill up. My mom was barely five feet tall, and barely ninety pounds and I always held onto her tightly as we were swallowed up by the huge, raucous crowds on the concourse of GM Place during intermission. She rarely took me up on my offers for a ride home, and instead rode the Sky Train because she loved being with the fans, chatting and laughing about the game, win or lose.

My mom was my game buddy for the quadruple over time playoff game between the Dallas Stars and the Canucks in 2007. It was such a long night, but she waved her towel at every opportunity. It was such a interestiing experience that game, and I am so glad I spent it with her.

When I told mom I was going to write a book about hockey she said "Good for you, Lisa. If anyone can do it, you can!" My mom was very proud of me and the work I put into writing Hockey & High Heels, promoting it, working with NHL teams, and making a fun place to be for hockey fans. Her love and support meant the world to me as I faced the challenges of being a woman trying to make hockey a more inviting place for other women.

Knowing her life long love of this great game helped me become a believer in what I am doing, and that is something I will never, ever forget about my mom Stella.

The dearest mother, the kindest friend,
One of the best whom God could lend,
Loving, thoughtful, gentle and true,
Always willing a kind act to do.
Also so good, unselfish and kind,
Few on this earth her equal we find,
Honourable and upright in all of her ways,
Loyal and true to the end of her days.

I don't know who wrote that, but that's my mom. So loving, so supporting, she was the best mommie a kid could ever hope to have.

Last week I went to the Canucks home opener, and it was a tough start for me. I was crying for my mom as soon as the Canadian National Anthem began. I was surrounded by good friends and they helped me through the first game without her. This season will be different: balancing the sadness and at the same time, creating new memories.

And learning how to know my mom in a new way... as my angel.

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