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Published: Tuesday, 9/16/2008

Hockey mom has no time for lipstick

To hear die-hard apologists tell it, reasonable people can disagree on how to define the "Bush Doctrine."

But let's leave all that to the op-ed pages. Instead let's consider what is meant by the phrase "hockey mom."

And let's turn to Lori Billings for an answer.

She's a 43-year-old Sylvania mother of two hockey players. When GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin called herself a "hockey mom," Lori's pretty sure she got the shorthand.

After talking with Lori, I do too. It means: Crazy! Hockey schedules can make running for the White House look like puttering around the house.

Lori's son, James? The Southview High senior plays in the Midwest Elite Hockey League, on a team called the Detroit Belle Tires.

Lori said her son spends 90 minutes - daily - going to an ice rink in the downriver suburb of Taylor. And this commute is an improvement.

Once upon a time, they headed to Troy, Mich., "two hours north, [but] we just couldn't do it anymore, with school and my [younger] son and my husband [Bob] working. So we cut it down and went an hour-and-a-half east to Cleveland instead."

Taylor, just 45 minutes each way, every day but Monday? Phhft. Don't forget the games, though. Take last weekend:

"He had to miss school Friday [for a noon game,] then they played Friday night and again at 11 Saturday morning. And you're going from rink to rink. It'd be nice if it was in the same rink, but we were going from one side of Detroit to the other."

Ronnie Belanga is secretary of the Northwest Ohio Hockey Conference, and said hockey moms really are different from, say, soccer moms.

"You get up at 4:30 in the morning and take your kid to a cold ice arena, you've gotta be dedicated. This isn't one of those things where you can take them and drop them off and come back in a coupla hours."

When Sarah Palin called herself a hockey mom, Ronnie said, "I about fell outta my chair, I was laughing so hard. What she was referring to, a lot of times it's the mother who's gotta do it, because the dad's out there trying to make money to pay for all this."

Boy howdy. Lori said their family shells out - are you sitting down? - some $10,000 annually for their oldest son's sport. Of course, the Billingses think of this as an investment, since they hope for scholarships for next year.

Meanwhile, 10-year-old Jacob only has to venture two or three blocks from home to get to Sylvania's Tam O' Shanter ice rink.

"He has actually been on skates since he was 18 months old," said Lori, but "he's not as serious."

Ach, those hockey moms. ...

Well, maybe not just the moms. As Mr. Belanga cheerfully put it: "All hockey people are nuts, lemme tell ya."

•

My thanks to those of you who e-mailed and wrote during the past months I've been away. It was a wonderful leave of absence, and I'm glad to be back.

Also, a word on my return. Those of you playing along at home may recall, I appeared in the print edition twice a week and also blogged at toledoblade.com. For the time being, anyway, I'm no longer blogging but will be in the print editions three times each week.



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