Spent this past Sunday morning here in Seattle helping and then watching 30 girls ages 4 – 13 try this great game of ours. These events are done by organizations far and wide, even south of the 54th parallel and in the Podunk NW. Okay maybe Seattle isn’t so backwater anymore. Most of these girls were getting geared up for the first time. Since the vast majority are 4-6 they look like so many loaves of bread wrapped in a jersey. They hit the ice become tangled up, fall, get back up and hit it again. The spirit and fearlessness of these young players is amazing.
None of us were born knowing how to play the game. Okay, maybe a few Canadians, Russians, and a handful of Finns, and the odd Swede or two, but not the rest of us. The event which we put on 6 times a year, like most organizations, is the best part about working with this group. Girls in tears, hiding behind parents, afraid to go out on the ice. Sounds great right? Not really, but I’m not done. Those same girls after falling, getting up and looking like so many freaking pick up sticks, come off of the ice with ear to ear grins. At that moment, whether you play or not, you become a Hockey parent.
For many this is an OH SHIT moment. Much like the announcement that “WE” are pregnant. Just like that, it is going to be a joint project and an expensive one at that. Which is good, because it has already been an expensive endeavor to get your kid this far. Don’t worry, much like pre-natal classes for soon to be parents, there are plenty of resources for you to bring your hockey player into the world of the greatest game you can name.
So, your kid wants to play hockey. Unlike others, I am not here to dissuade you, but to give you, in keeping with the no bullshit ethos of this site, a real picture of what to expect.
- There is Gear. A LOT of gear. If you’ve never played, it can be overwhelming and unsettling. Grab a cup of chamomile tea and relax. We’ll get through this together. Helmet, shoulder pads, stick, skates, body armor, socks, jersey and gloves make up the majority of the gear. Unlike in years past, in which your kid would suffer in smelly hand hand me down gear with cotton lining that would never dry out, most orgs have rental gear. Check with your local org. It’s a bit like ski rentals. As your kid grows, you can exchange it for a different size. Also, the used market, eBay, used sports sports stores are going to save you a bundle of cash. Which brings me to my second point
- It’s expensive. Period. There is no way to sugar coat that. It just is. That said, don’t go running from the sport like your ass is on fire and you’re looking for water. There is a cost for the gear, refs, ice time, sometimes coaches and always USA Hockey. Like other club sports it’s pay to play. My mother, may she rest in peace, was a poor single mom that made it happen. So you can too. Now however there is a better way. Most orgs have scholarships to offer players and their families to offset the cost. Look for them and ask around. People want others to play hockey and are working to do so.
- Rink coffee is shit! If you don’t like your coffee to come out of and taste like the machine that also dispenses chicken soup, invest in a travel mug or thermos and bring your own. This doesn’t seem top 3, but it is. Because…..
- You are most likely going to be at the rink early in the morning or late in the evening. Rinks are under pressure. Even in the Phoenix area, there were no public skates despite a number of rinks. All were booked for hockey or figure skating. Buckle up grab your coffee and expect to take your spawn to the rink in their jammies fairly often.
- The people, coaches, players, other parents are mostly the best that you will meet. If they aren’t something is wrong. You can’t control other’s actions and you won’t like everyone, but trust your gut. Like finding a dojo, don’t go to Cobra Kai if you’re not ready to do or die. Find a place that fits.
- Gear STANNNNKKKKKS: Gear needs to be aired out after each practice. If not, the bacteria will set up shop and no amount of Lysol will kill the eye-crossing funk that will spew forth from your kids hockey bag. There are a number of companies pimping their wares to get rid of said funk, but nothing beats the air out and wash occasionally method. Trust me on this. If you fail to heed this warning, you will be taking your bag and all it contains, behind the woodshed or throwing it under your care to put it out of it’s misery.
- Chill out. This is especially true if you have played the game. Your kid is there to have fun. There is the possibility that he or she develops into a world beater, but don’t put that on them. This is a pastime, a game. Sit back relax and cheer them on.
- Did I mention that rink coffee is shit? It really is. I’m not kidding.
I sincerely hope that this helps you and your family in your hockey journey. Don’t people turn you or your child away. There are solutions to every problem that the trolls bring out to dissuade you. Hockey is an incredible sport, full of some of the best people that I have ever met. Including the dudes that run this site. So grab your kid, look for a Try Hockey for Free event and see what happens. Best Wishes! – Isle5Cleanup