I hope that everyone is enjoying the holiday week in the States. As most of us prepare for the consumption of turkey and the subsequent naps, there are kids and parents heading to holiday hockey tournaments. It got the old brain cells firing. How can we as a community on both sides of the border make the sport more affordable and inclusive?
Anyone that plays the sport knows that it is an expensive sport to play. Ice time, coaches, private coaches, gear (hopefully your kid ain’t a goalie) food, gas, travel costs all add up, to a lot for everyone involved. Some might say big deal and only those that can afford it can play and so be it. That statement in my opinion is missing the point. Every sport has a cost and given that there are select teams and recreational teams those can vary greatly.
Hockey is unique and traditional in the sense that the costs for recreational teams is equivalent to the cost of a select soccer or baseball team. On average a youth hockey player, let’s take a 10-year old player as an example, will spend between $1200 and $2300 in base fees for a six-month season. There are a lot of variables that play into that variance, availability of rinks, power costs and availability of used gear are big variables, but certainly not the only ones that can be of consequence.
What can we do about that? That is a question that is eating at what little brain I have left as I coach a team of 10U girls. We are on the verge of an NHL team in Seattle and it seems to me a prime time to have an answer to that question and draw new player into the game. Ked alluded to the cost of sticks for beer leaguers in the a recent piece here. That cost for most parents of players is two-fold, as often there is at least one parent playing in the beer leagues. Regardless, it is a huge expenditure for anyone that plays the game.
How can we change that? Things that we cannot control, the cost of the ice, league or team fees of the organization are all fairly static in any given organization. Those are enough to turn many families away from a sport that they might love. That love could develop into the next Hilary Knight or Wayne Gretzky, or for that matter the next Auston Matthews. I say that given that Auston came from a non-traditional hockey market that has a strong baseball presence and a huge amount of folks that might not play due to the cost.
All of this begs the question: What can we do about that?
There are a number of organizations that provide assistance for players. Nearly every organization has one. In the States the NHL provides grants for gear and partners with other organizations in Canada to help players out financially. If there is a similar organization in the States I cannot find it.
So, as you enjoy some time with family and some holiday cheer, I ask this of you. Let’s get the great Morning Skate and greater Hockey Community thinking together on this one.
Let me know if this exists and if it doesn’t send your ideas via the comments to @isle5cleanup or to the email firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get the ball rolling to truly make #HockeyForEveryone a reality.
Have a great holiday and weekend!