Raising Teenagers Today: POV from Sports Broadcaster David Amber

Amber, David.headshot

Written by: Where Parents Talk Staff

Published: Oct 17, 2022

Where Parents Talk caught up with busy Canadian sports broadcaster and married father of two, David Amber, to learn about his approach to parenting as a dad of teenagers.

Amber is the studio host of Hockey Night in Canada and the NHL on Sportsnet. He has previously reported for TSN, EPSN and the NHL Network, covering such events as the World Series, the Stanley Cup and the Olympics, among others.

Click for video transcription

Welcome to where parents talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a Canadian sports journalist, current studio hosted Hockey night in Canada, and the NHL on Sportsnet. He has previously reported for on a variety of sports, including the Olympic Games, the Stanley Cup, and the World Series for TSN ESPN and the NHL network. David Amber is also a father of two. He joins us today from Toronto. Thank you so much for being here.

Yeah, thanks for having me.

So this is I take it your first interview on parenting, thank you for, for being the first. I wonder as a father of a 17 year old and a 16 year old, generally, what are your views on being a parent today, in 2022, with everything going on in the world as it is.

first of all, and I gotta tell you, I mentioned to my kids that I was doing the podcast interview with you, and they got a good chuckle out of it, because they actually expressed some interest. But like, I said, I’m gonna get asked about parenting age. And my daughter said, well, they should probably ask me how you are as a parent, not you. So there you go. Um, it’s great to be here. As far as today goes, I think the words that come to mind are, it’s challenging, but rewarding, which are the two words that come to mind, I think it’s probably a very unique time to be a parent coming out of the pandemic. And you think about the last few years for all of our kids and all the things they’ve missed all the adjustments they had to make. And I think about my daughter who went off to university, we both had daughters go off to university in the last few months. And, you know, I just think they were kind of stripped a little bit of their independence for a couple of years. And I think it might have made the adjustment initially a little bit more difficult than it might have been for you or for me and our generation. Certainly, I remember being so excited to go off to school, and I think she made me felt a little bit of trepidation. You know, just because it had been such a different two and a half years, with the pandemic. So I think there’s been some unique challenges at this year of parenting. But at the same time, you know, the greatest rewards you’re gonna feel as a person, or, you know, when your kids have a great day and accomplish something, and, and show some grit and determination, and, you know, sort of strive for what they want to do and show great passion and things. And it’s funny, you don’t realize that till you become a parent, right? It’s, you think about your own joy. And then when you have a child and then sort of experience their joy, it’s on a whole other level.

without question, and that is so rewarding for sure. Let me ask you, you’ve got a 17 year old daughter and a 16 year old son, have you always wanted to be a father? David?

Um, I, you know, that’s a tough question. I certainly always thought about being a dad. So I don’t know if that whole paternal instinct was there from day one. But I certainly, you know, I’ve always liked you know, I remember when I was sort of in grade six, seven, and there were some great twos and threes, I used to kind of mentor a little bit or be able to kind of chaperone around a little bit. And I had that sort of like, felt good to be in that leadership role to someone and mentoring them in a in a different way that not exactly been apparent, but just that that feeling. So I guess it’s always been a little bit a part of me, and I always knew I wanted to have a family. So it’s nice that it’s happened.

In what ways? Would you say that your childhood has impacted the way that you parent?

Well, I guess the number one thing would be, I think, I think back to when I was a kid, and the things that made me most excited, or most uplifted or most interested. And I tried to bring those thoughts and memories and say, Well, how can my kids have those same opportunities. So in my case, I played a ton of sports growing up in hockey, and baseball, and football. And my wife’s very athletic too, she played a lot of different sports. And so we tried to get our kids into different sports or into different things that they’re interested in passionate about, my daughter took to sport, but she really took to performing. So we were like, Okay, well, then let’s, you know, push towards that a little bit with her singing and our performance. And I think that was something that I remember from my childhood, but the moments I loved and embrace the most were those hockey tournaments and those those moments and I said, Okay, well, hopefully we can replicate some of that with our kids.

Absolutely, I can relate to the hockey parent piece for sure. You know, it’s interesting. You talk about your childhood, you talk about maybe not having a pronounced paternal instinct, but the fact is, is, you know, you’ve got two kids, there’s a whole pile of responsibility that goes with that you’ve got a very busy, dynamic career that’s, you know, time demanding from that perspective. So how do you go about trying to balance all of that out, especially when they’re in their developmental years as teenagers?

Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a struggle that so many families deal with, right? There’s so many, you know, to parent working families, or single parent families and they’re trying to manage like, of course, you have to have the career you want to follow, you know, chase something and be passionate about something on your professional side, but at the same time, you don’t want to sacrifice anything. But in your personal life, I don’t know, if we’ve reached the perfect balance, you’d have to ask my kids that. But one thing I’ve said to them from day one, and I tried to live up to this is, when I’m not working, I’ll be there. So, you know, it’s sometimes to be honest with you working nights and weekends and lots of holidays, as someone who’s a sports broadcaster, yes, you miss a lot of dinner parties on a Saturday night, and you do miss some, some kids events as well. But at the, you know, the the alternative side of things, there were some 2pm track meets, when I’d be the only parent there. You know, there were some some off time, you know, certainly a lot of three o’clock and four o’clock, post school, soccer matches, etc. I would make sure I’d be there. So I’ve said to my kids, I’ll get to every single thing I can get to. And often, you know, I think they understood, it wasn’t going to be easy. And I missed some things along the way. But I tried my best to make sure I could fit in as much as possible and make it a priority.
You talk about missing key events over time, I wonder, because I know, it’s totally different for for mothers on this topic, but guilt? Do you feel guilt as a father David? And if so, how do you deal with that?
Coming to answer this, honestly, a lot of guilt. I feel bad saying that. But I don’t because I sort of said, I work within the parameters I can and take the good I’ve sort of said when things are out of your control, I can’t control when the schedule of the events are that I’m covering everything I can control, I can do my best to make sure I’m, I’m right there. I’m present. I’m in the moment with the kids. And they’ve seen the efforts there. I mean, I remember one, one Saturday night I was in Winnipeg, at a hockey rink in Winnipeg, and my son had a hockey tournament, Buffalo and I took a 5am flight from Winnipeg to Toronto, and then jumped in a car and drove two hours to make make it to the final I made it on time, thankfully. So I think they understood there were sacrifices made. But I don’t know if that is a gender specific feeling. Because my wife who has a pretty serious job much more demanding in many respects than my job, she does feel a certain, you know, level of guilt when she isn’t able to be there for every last thing. So I just sort of said, we can control we can control and I’m not going to punish myself for that. And I think my kids have been more than understanding that, you know, putting the effort in is the most important thing.

Absolutely. David, how would you go about describing your parenting approach?
Well, you know, it’s funny, I say to my kids a lot, everything in moderation. So, you know, I don’t have a specific approach. You know, it’s not like I’m a disciplinarian, or and I’m not like a loosey goosey. Let’s hang out. And there’s always going to be boundaries, but certainly when they were younger, but I think it’s everything in moderation. You know, when your kids are young, yeah, we can go get an ice cream, but we’re not gonna go get an ice cream every day, or whatever the example might be. Or, you know, yes, you, you’re gonna have to do homework. But we’re gonna, we’re also going to mix in some fun, like, I tried to make it. So, you know, I kept I would say to my daughter a lot when she was 12 and 13. And, you know, we butt heads, as long as I be reasonable, just be reasonable. So I think I’ve tried to take sort of what I would, you know, describe as a reasonable approach to parenting and try and you set boundaries, and you know, you hope that they understand them. And as they get older, they certainly understand and respect. You know, why you probably did things that they didn’t always agree with. But I thought everything in moderation. And you know, when it comes to things when they get to teenagers drinking and things of that sort, you know, I wasn’t going to take that approach are you don’t drink, don’t do this, it’s like, Look, I know, these things are going to be present for you. And there’s going to be different choices to make, and you try and give them the judgment to make smart choices, choices that aren’t going to, you know, become problematic for them. You know, whether from a personal safety standpoint, or, you know, in that nature, that’s the number one thing. So I’ve, you know, I think my wife and I’ve tried to impress, good decision making as best possible on our kids, and you kind of cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Yeah, on some level, that is exactly what you know, the secret recipe, I guess, is you have to go with, with your gut feeling and hope that you’ve done all the right things. Along those lines, David, you know, I wonder those of us in the trenches of parenting on a daily basis know that there is no playbook for this stuff, right? Do you do research? Did you do research before becoming a dad? Like, who do you rely on to kind of maybe be a mentor, for lack of a better word, or to be a guide in raising these little human beings into, you know, responsible adults?
Well, we’ve been really lucky we have a really strong network of friends, and many of them had kids in the year or two or three before us. So we had a lot of advice, solicited and unsolicited about what it’s going to be like when you become a parent and everyone says it right. You’re never going to be ready. People can tell you ever like this. It’s like this until you’re sitting there and there’s a baby in your arms and a dirty diaper and they’re going crazy at two in the morning. You don’t know what that’s like, you can’t prepare are for those situations, but we did have a lot of people sort of, you know, keep good advice on us and sort of prepare us for certain things. I’d say the biggest adjustment, I don’t know about you Lianne. But for me, having our daughter was an adjustment, certainly a lifestyle adjustment, but having our son 20 months later, so we had then, you know, like a three year old and a one year old that that the first six months were that it was just about, you know, keeping your head above water, you’re treading water for a while, they’re just, you know, it’s amazing what your body can do on little sleep, and you get through it, but it was, you know, if I think about the most difficult time parenting, and obviously, you know, when they’re teenagers, that’s a whole nother ball of wax. But the most difficult time if I had to really look back at it, in many respects, certainly, the physical toll, and maybe even the mental toll that took was when, you know, we had a three and a one year old, or a four and a two year old, where there’s high, high high demands, they’re not in school yet. And, you know, 24/7, you’re kind of on high alert. And, you know, we had our daughter, our son was waking up in the middle of the night a bunch of times and our daughter at 6am. All right, I’m ready to go let’s party and it’s like, Oh, my goodness, how are you get through this. So you know, you get a lot of different advice, nothing’s going to prepare you perfectly for it. But I think you you manage, you find a way. And it’s again, it’s the best, most rewarding, you know, challenge you’re gonna face in your life.
You’re bringing back all these memories for me, David, when my kids were young, that I only recently, you know, finally dealt with in terms of that sleep deprivation that just seems to be endless. In our case, we had three in our household.
So I felt like three. That’s my point. I think one, one was manageable. But we have this, oh, wow, this, this is no joke.
So another sort of interesting aspect of what you experience as a parent, I’m thinking is the idea of being a celebrity. And, you know, being a dad as well, how do you go about managing that? Has that been challenging? Is there a different sort of approach you use as a result of that?
Okay, if my kids were here, they would be laughing hysterically at this question, because I don’t consider myself much of a celebrity. And they certainly don’t they, they always they let me know that on a pretty regular basis that I’m an idealist or at best. It hasn’t been a big issue. You know, sometimes certainly, you know, you’re out at your kids event or their school. And, you know, I’ve spoken to both their schools at different times for different occasions. And I think they’ve taken it all in stride, they, you know, they just look at me as the goofy dad, they don’t really think of me in any other different fashion. So they get a good kick out of that, it hasn’t been a big issue at all. You know, I think at times, it’s, it’s been fun for them, we’re out at a sporting event, and people recognize you, they think it’s kind of I think all things kind of funny, but hasn’t really been a huge part of raising them at all.
Now, the other thing that’s really interesting as well, I find, because I know, probably your parents may not probably your parents, and my parents did not have to deal with this when we were young, is the wild world of social media. So I wonder, how do you deal with that? Or there you talked about boundaries and parameters and all that kind of stuff? You know, it’s the Wild West, as you well know, on social and on the internet? What does that look like in your house in terms of you know, what those rules and regulations may look like?
Well, there’s no playbook on this, right? We’re the first generation sort of figuring this out. And, you know, there is no perfect solution for it, you know, whether we were too loose about things or too strict about things that we’ll find out, I guess, down the road. Because this is the first generation going through social media. I think we tried again, and we talked about judgment, you know, I think my wife would always say, you know, that you don’t want to have anything out there that your grandmother wouldn’t want to see, essentially, it’s probably good. A bit of a rule you can use, but it’s, it’s difficult, and I feel for the kids, because trying to navigate through all the social media. You know, it’s not easy, it is not easy. And I’m happy that we didn’t have to deal with that as kids ourselves. So I don’t think we had a strict playbook, I think we’d like to have a sense of what our kids are doing. You know, the kids are always smarter. I don’t even mean my kids specifically. But the kids are always smarter than the adults when it comes to Well, I follow them on Instagram and Snapchat and I know what they’re up to, well, they have like five and six different accounts, they have ways of managing if they don’t want you to know exactly who they’re talking to or what they’re doing on social media. So again, I think it’s a matter of you have a level of trust with your kids and you try and kind of understand that there’ll be a level of accountability and there’s certainly going to be consequences potentially to something they do online that that’s their you know, fingerprint for the rest of their lives. You know, my wife will bring up you know, a former a future employer is going to know what your Instagram looks like what your Twitter looks like, your whatever social media you’re on. So I think you’re trying to impress that upon them. And again, you hope you’re raising kids that have a level of empathy, a level of, you know, understanding there not going to be doing things that will put them in danger put others in a bad situation either. So that’s what we’re hoping for. And I think there’s not a really a rulebook for it, but certainly just helpful, good judgment.
You know, one of the aspects of parenting that I continue to find challenging in many ways, is the idea of having those boundaries, having accountability. But then the piece about the follow through on any sort of rule breaking that happens and sort of, you know, discipline that has to occur, what would you say, has been the most challenging piece of parenting for you, David?
Well, you bring up a good point, there certainly has to be consequences. You know, you can’t have idle threats, and not that come up. Because you know, you’re not going to condition your kids in a great fashion, if they do things that they shouldn’t be doing. And they just, there are no consequences to those actions. But the most challenging part, I guess, it’s just, you make mistakes, and you have to understand, like, you know, it’s funny, we all can sit there and critique our parents and how they parented us, you know, and we’re very good at pointing out well, that you didn’t do this, you didn’t do that. And then you become a parent, you realize how difficult the journey is. So I think you just have to understand there’s going to be mistakes along the way, you have to try and have as close relationship with your kids as possible. So there’s a level of trust, and a level of care and an empathy and compassion both ways, right, you want your kids to care for you, as well, and maybe understand why you, you know, have curfew at this time, or you need to know different rules and regulations within your house. And I think just getting that bond with your kid is, is maybe the most critical thing. And it starts at an early age, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a really close relationship with both my children. And, you know, we laugh more than anything else. And I think that’s a really key thing. I guess the challenge really, is to get that bond early on, and to let that really cultivate and nourish into something special. And it makes parenting easier, because it’s not necessarily a friendship, but I think you maybe if nothing else, have an understanding of the nature of your relationship as a parent and a child.
Well, and it does sound like you have and your wife have prioritized sort of that healthy relationship. And it’s been foundational to the relationship that you continue to have with your children. You know, in preparing for this interview, something that struck me about sort of what you do for a living, is you interview a lot of people in the age group that your kids are now in, right, like, you know, late teens approaching early 20s. And I wonder, you know, anything in terms of what you see there in those interviews with that sort of behavior in that world, that impacts your approach as a data that you’re, you’re maybe taking notes and saying, Hmm, you know, I gotta file that away. At some point,
you know, what, Leon that’s a, that’s a really interesting point. And it wasn’t always the case, like, my daughter is almost 18, my son’s 16. And you’re right, there’s going to be a bunch of NHL players this year, a handful of them at 18 are going to be in the NHL, and you kind of that blows your mind, right? I think about my daughter. And you know, she’s a mature young lady, but she’s still a kid in many respects. And then there are these young professionals are out, you know, living out their dream. If nothing else, it probably from a professional standpoint, maybe I can take a step back, we were so incredibly hypercritical, which is what we tend to be and you know, it’s a very intense field, the professional sports field, and the demands are incredibly high. And it’s a results oriented industry. But we have to remember, at the end of the day, some of these young young people are they’re quite young, you know, and they’re still figuring things out. You know, when you see this in tennis, when they’re 16, and 17 year olds playing professional tennis, you go, Oh my god, like, at such an early age to have that amount of pressure heaped on them. And if nothing else, maybe it’s given me the opportunity to reflect a little bit that these are young people and to maybe hold off some of the criticism or at least understand, you know, that they’re such a youthful, you know, situation, but sports has gotten so much younger, like I work in the National Hockey League, and the NHL is as young as it’s ever been. You know, if you’re 30 in the NHL, you’re considered like a grizzled old veteran now. And sometimes you got to take a step back and having two teenagers I kind of I can see it a little bit better now and a little clearer. Like, wow, yes, their expectations are incredibly high. But we have to also sometimes maybe temper them a little bit and understand what some of the things these these young men and women are going through.
It’s a really a really interesting point for sure. David, I’m curious what is your most proud parenting moment from from each of your son and daughter as you reflect back on it?
Oh, my goodness, that is tough. Because there’s been you know, and I’m, that’s a really tough question. And I’m sure if I would turn the question on you. I’d like to hear your answer because so many times when just you beam with pride, you know, obviously if I’m gonna use sort of recent memory but my dad Are the day she got into the University of her choice. You know, she was elated because it’s so competitive and so difficult. And I was so happy for her. And she worked incredibly hard to really tough circumstances during the pandemic to make sure academically, she would be in as good a position as possible to get into the school she wanted to get into. So I would, that was a really proud moment for us as a family, because I realized sat here and we saw the sacrifices she was making in the work she was putting in. And I think it was just a great lesson for her about that sort of how life works, right, the more you put into something, the better off, it’ll be that experience for you, my son, there’s a whole, you know, a number of different things he’s done, you know, both athletically, which has been a lot of fun for me to watch as a parent, and just the young man he’s become, he’s a bit of a social justice warrior in many respects, and to come home and tell us some great stories about debates they had within his classroom at school and the approach he took and the side he took, and, and how we articulated and that just makes me really proud. And you go in, you have teacher meetings, and they have really great things to say about him. And, and you just think, wow, we’re raising a good young man. So that brings me, you know, a great deal of pride. And there’s a number of different circumstances, if I go way back into the archives, the day our son finally became potty trained was a good one for a little while time. So I was like, Okay, finally. All right, you’re on your own now. That was a proud member, high five, and my wife and I took place, so that was good. But yeah, there’s a lot of moments,
I gotta tell you the examples that you just provided there, I can totally relate to. So it’s like you read my mind, because my examples would be very similar. And I remember the potty training vividly. You know, it’s been over 20 years. But yes, I do remember that. You know, you mentioned your daughter, off to university, outside of the city. So that really means that you and your wife are kind of at a different age and stage of parenting now, right? So I wonder when it you know, when she was accepted, and sort of the day that you guys dropped her off, and then you come back home? And it’s now a different dynamic? Like, how did you kind of process that? Like, what was going through your mind like now our family of three? And you know, she’s away? Like, it’s just a whole different dynamic? How did you deal with that?
I guess that’s a nice way of saying I’m getting old. That’s what I’m interpreting from the question. I don’t feel at all. But yeah, I guess we’re at that stage now. I, my excitement for her, trumped everything else. i Yes, the house is different, it’s much quieter, she takes up a lot of space with her personality. And I kind of laughs that I didn’t realize you were 95% of the personality in our family. And she kind of chuckles about that. But my excitement for her was, was over the moon, my wife was definitely a bit more Oh, no, you know, our daughter is leaving. And we, of course, we were very happy for her to be leaving. And that was never even discussed about being in the city, because we wanted her to go off and have a true university experience and not be at home. And we wanted that for her. And that’s something she wanted. But quite honestly, my excitement for her was was, you know, high, high level. So I think I was just able to sort of say, it’s sad, she’s not around the dynamic or family has changed within, you know, our household, but she’s out there, you know, living her best life and experiencing something that, you know, I remember experiencing at university and my wife as well. And it’s just great that she’s able to have four years of that now.
Absolutely. Finally, David, just curious, is there any sort of advice that you could provide to parents out there, like, again, in the trenches of trying to sort this out on a, on a daily basis, because you never know what’s coming at you really, in terms of, you know, parenting today and sort of things to maybe look at prioritizing or because it sounds like you have a very sort of easygoing attitude with rules and sort of structure. But, you know, you don’t get to sort of up or down as a dad, which is, I think, a great thing. But it’s not always easy for for, for the average person who’s trying to raise kids in a very complex world, any sort of advice that you could provide.
I think my only best advice would be, try and be in the moment as much as you can. And I’ve heard other people say this, and I’m gonna say it now it all happens. So incredibly quickly, I think back to when the kids were, you know, three and one and again, we were treading water, but then snap your fingers and they’re five and three in a completely different stage and then seven and five, and you know, they’re off to school full days and in all these activities, and now I’m snapping my fingers again, and here we are ones at university and once a year away, so it happens quickly be in the moment. You know, really soak in all the great moments. You know, there’s nothing better than a day when your kids are laughing and enjoying the time and they and the experiences, you know, that you’re having together. And it’s not about going out and spending money, it’s about, you know, just go to play frisbee in the park or you’re going, you know, to, for a walk or whatever the case may be for a bike ride. You know, those are some of the moments that I’m going to remember. You know, we’ve gotten some really fun, hilarious hikes, I won’t get into the details, but that didn’t at the time seem so funny, but we look back, chuckle about it. And we just had a lot of great family experiences. And I think that’s what I hope my kids will remember down the road, when they’re parenting about things they want to bring to their children. And I think just being in the moment, because it happens so quickly is the best advice I could provide anyone.
Absolutely. What a wonderful way to end this interview. David Amber, studio host of Hockey night in Canada on the NHL on Sportsnet. We really appreciate your time and your perspective on parenting today.
Yeah, thank you so much for having me on the show. First, probably last time, so I was gonna solicit my my thoughts on parenting but I appreciate it and congrats to you on your three. That’s great.
Thank you so much. I have a feeling you’re going to be a parenting. Interviewee rock star. I don’t know. I’m just thinking that’s what’s gonna happen. Thanks a lot, David. Thank you.

During his interview with Where Parents Talk host, Lianne Castelino, Amber discussed:

  • His parenting style
  • Balancing work and family
  • Parenting in the public eye
  • Managing social media with teens
  • Ages and stages of parenting

The interview also aired on 105.9 The Region FM during the Where Parents Talk radio show.

Here is an excerpt of the interview:

Q: As a father of a 17 year old and a 16 year old generally, what are your views on being a parent today with everything that’s going on in the world?

I think the words that come to mind are it’s challenging, but rewarding. I think it’s probably a very unique time coming out of the pandemic. And you think about the last few years for all of our kids and all the things they’ve missed, all the adjustments they had to make. I think there’s been some unique challenges in this year of parenting. But at the same time, you know, the greatest rewards you’re gonna feel as a person are when your kids have a great day and accomplish something, and show some grit and determination, and you know, sort of strive for what they want to do and show great passion. And it’s funny, you don’t realize that till you become a parent.

Q: Have you always wanted to be a father? David? 

That’s a tough question. I certainly always thought about being a dad. So I don’t know if that whole paternal instinct was there from day one. I remember when I was sort of in grade six, seven. And there were some great twos and threes, I used to kind of mentor a little bit or be able to kind of chaperone around a little bit. And it felt good to be in that leadership role to someone and mentoring them in a in a different way. So I guess it’s always been a little bit a part of me, and I always knew I wanted to have a family.

Q: In what ways would you say that your childhood has impacted the way that you parent?

I think back to when I was a kid and the things that made me most excited, or most uplifted or most interested. And I tried to bring those thoughts and memories and say, well, how can my kids have those same opportunities. So in my case, I played a ton of sports growing up in hockey, and baseball and football. And my wife’s very athletic too. She played a lot of different sports. And so we tried to get our kids into different sports or into different things that they’re interested in passionate about.

Q: How do you go about trying to balance all of that out especially when they’re in their developmental years as teenagers.

I think that’s a struggle that so many families deal with, right? There’s so many, two-parent working families, or single parent families, and they’re trying to manage. You have to have the career you want to follow, chase something, be passionate about something on the professional side, but at the same time, you don’t want to sacrifice anything in your personal life. I don’t know, if we’ve reached the perfect balance. You’d have to ask my kids that! But one thing I’ve said to them from day one, and I tried to live up to this is, when I’m not working, I’ll be there.

 

Related links:

Reflections on Parenting with Sportscaster James Duthie

Helping Kids Reach their Potential: Karl Subban, Hockey Dad, Educator, Author

A Family of Firsts: The Parenting Journey of Olympians Caroline Ouellette & Julie Chu

Olympian, Author, Mom: A Conversation with Sami Jo Small

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