Recently, a litigious lunkhead (Canadian this time, thank God) decided to sue his son"s hockey league over the fact that his little Gretzky wasn"t handed the MVP trophy for the season. The award had apparently gone to someone who had scored fewer goals over the course of the year than the plaintiff"s kid. The case hasn"t seen the inside of a courtroom yet, but the league will surely cite other mitigating circumstances: the winner was better at defense, scored at more critical moments, had less of a dick for a dad and so on. I"ve spoken about the volume that the average hockey parent can produce (Metallica on their best day was never a match for any decent winger"s mom, if you"re just joining us), but what"s up with this disturbing new twist? I think I know. I"m not justifying anyone"s idiocy, but it"s got to be a matter of investment. A kid in travel hockey plays from two to four games per week, many in cities far enough away from home to require a hotel stay. Mix in two practices a week, fees, gear, gas and food and you"ve got a time/cash outlay of staggering proportions. (The total monthly tab for our 10-year-old son"s hockey career runs well higher than our monthly grocery bill.) If your child is suddenly bearing the brunt of one too many bad calls or cheap shots or even too long a shift on the bench, one"s attitude can get improperly adjusted. The universe is senseless. You"ve stumbled into a Beckett play. That guy in A Beautiful Mind was quite right in the head, thanks. They ARE out to get YOU. On the other hand - the aforementioned lunkhead has clearly forgotten the joy of the thing. It"s great to watch the kids play. It"s a chance to meet other parents from damn near every walk of life. And we all - every hockey mom and pop - carry a secret. The hidden benefit. The silent pro to every con. Hockey is the greatest excuse in the world. Want to bail on a business dinner or a night out with some depressed downsized co-worker? There"s always a skating clinic someplace! Feel like spending the holidays close to home? Junior"s playing the weekend after Turkey Day! Yard work? Housecleaning? No way - Little Lemeuix has a doubleheader at Pan Am! (Personally, I was stoked with our own scaled-back Thanksgiving this year amidst all this incessant stickin". My wife always strives to make the harvest feast a monumental event. She has obsessed over Bird Thursday to the point where she"s trying to duplicate menu items served at the original meal. I"m not kidding. Next year we"re having venison and smallpox.) Ahh, hockey the liberator! The sporting emancipator! Can you think of a more noble excuse for skipping church than cheering on Junior from beside a rink? Is there a better reason for locking up the house and spending the night in the lobby of a strange hotel, eating pizza and drinking beer with your family, friends and compatriots? Yet set aside from the happiness and the camaraderie, the "get-out-of-anything-free" card that the puck provides the parent, and there"s still one more reason to leave youth travel hockey alone: Can you possibly come up with any other reason why Fort Wayne makes a single nickel in tourism? Wank & O"Brien slap the puck every weekday morning on RadioNow, 93.1.