“I love you more.”
Those four words mean the world to me. They’re said every day between me and my mom. Patty… “Mama” as I affectionately call her. My best buddy, the person I see and talk to whenever I can. The one who helped me, a kid who didn’t know if she’d ever make anything of herself, to get to where I am now.
It’s now, on her birthday and of course, a day closer to the start of the 2021-22 NHL campaign, that I just need to share how big of an impact she’s had. Not just on me, but the world around her.
My mom was a gymnast growing up and incredibly driven and determined. She has a wicked sense of humor, is an incredible worker and always has interesting things to say. But above all, she’s a mom.
Growing up wasn’t easy. I was always awkward, quiet, someone who didn’t dig the spotlight or really doing regular things that kids do. Once I learned to write, I penned short stories, made my own worlds. I was obsessed with studying things like astronomy. Honestly, I think I should’ve been born in a different time, or that I really turned 35 instead of five years old.
From the get-go, she was my best friend, the only one I felt like got my jokes or really understood what I had to say. Patty was the one to pick up the pieces of Scotch tape I’d written notes and stories on and stuck on the hardwood so I wouldn’t forget. She was fine with me deciding “I’m going to go to bed” instead of setting strict rules and curfews. Above all, she always just let me be myself and do what I wanted to do — and that was huge.
Growing up wasn’t easy. My father was out of the picture and left unimaginable pain in his wake that I’m still coping with. I was broken. My mom was the one to help put the pieces back together.
Through everything, she rose above adversity and sacrificed everything to make sure that my sister and I could continue to live a happy life. She worked hard, drove me back and forth to school, camp, soccer, work or whatever I was up to and helped me through my toughest moments. Through even the worst times, the darkest times where it’d sometimes be impossible to even imagine the sight of light at the end of the tunnel, she was there and helped me through.
One night, mom came home with a few tickets to my first hockey game. It was a Dec. 18, 2008 matchup between the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues, and I had no idea where I was going or what it’d be about. I was in fourth grade, and I figured it’d be a fun night. I’d at least get some nachos out of it.
She walked me through the Gallery Place metro and up that escalator to Capital One Arena (then the Verizon Center). Trekking up to the nosebleeds with me, she was there when my life changed forever. When I caught my first glimpse of NHL ice. From that point on, hockey became everything, and she made sure it stuck with me.
Every chance she got, she’d do what she could just to make me happy and looking back, I can’t help but laugh at what she must have been putting up with. She bought me my first NHL jersey, surprised me with a jumbo-sized FatHead of Alex Ovechkin for my 11th birthday, bought me a hockey stick and my first pair of hockey skates, watched every single hockey game with me while listening to me commentate and call penalties from the couch and did what she could to get tickets from time to time. All with a smile.
By the time I started high school, I was still trying to recover from early hardships. I missed school, became a bit dejected and didn’t really have a lot of friends. My mom was the one who stuck by me, who assured me everything would be okay. She tried to get me to find my passion, something to make me happy, and when I was cut from my soccer team (I wasn’t good, ask anybody I went to school with), she told me to write. She knew that was where my passion lied and told me that that’s where I should focus my energy. That I may find it fulfilling.
She was with me when I wrote my first book, and when I eventually elected to major in journalism and try my hand at hockey reporting. She never questioned me or asked if I was “sure” about what I wanted to do. Instead, she cheered me on. And when I went to cover my first development camp, she volunteered to drive me. With pride, she waited while I was doing interviews in the locker room for the first time in my life. She moved me into college, listened to me rant about my roommate, came to all my shows I set up during college and (I must admit) helped me wake up on time so I could get to the Metro station and have enough time to get down to Arlington to cover practices and morning skates.
Through endless FaceTime calls, dinners — so many dinners — and car rides blasting George Michael and Elton John, she’s always there. Front and center. Patty didn’t miss my first time reporting from the press box (Caps-Blues ironically), my first Stanley Cup Final or any other milestone. She supported my dreams and let me pursue my goals, knowing I could accomplish them. She’s the one who sacrificed her time to help me move up to New York for my first job. And the move back to D.C. Then the move to Stamford for another job. And another move back to D.C. when COVID hit. All while working full time (she just got promoted!).
Words cannot convey how much she has sacrificed and given to me. Patty’s my best friend, my inspiration, my rock. The ultimate warrior. Forever and always, I love you more.