Skip to comments.The great offside: How Canadian hockey is becoming a game strictly for the rich
Posted on 11/09/2013 5:10:17 AM PST by Loyalist
Karl Subban knows the cost of being a hockey parent in Canada.
The patriarch of one of Canadas most successful hockey families his boys P.K., Malcolm and Jordan have all been drafted by NHL teams he and his wife paid $5,000 each in one year just to register them in minor hockey in the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL).
And thats not including equipment and what not, Mr. Subban says. It was very expensive. But you make sacrifices. Thats what we did.
Its widely known that Canadas national winter sport is expensive to play. But various factors have conspired over the last 10 to 15 years to make minor hockey dramatically more expensive, pricing out many middle-class families. These days, more and more of the players that go on to play major junior, college and, ultimately, pro hockey are from wealthy backgrounds.
Its a development that threatens the sports blue-collar roots, including the idea that the next Gordie Howe or Wayne Gretzky will come from backgrounds as modest as theirs were. Players of modest means in this generation must beat out peers who are often better trained and have spent many more hours on the ice, thanks to wealthy parents.
(Excerpt) Read more at theglobeandmail.com ...
Mr. Parcels recalls coaching teams of 14- and 15-year-olds through NHL-calibre seasons, where they would travel around the province and play 80-plus games between September and March. Every additional game added to the already considerable cost, but parents often wanted more chances for their kids to compete, not fewer.
I am astonished at the lengths to which some hockey parents will go to in the hopes that their son will make the NHL. Grinding these boys through 80 games a season, and summer hockey camp on top of that, is not going to turn most of them into future pros, and worse, is more likely to burn them out and turn them off the sport for good.
The return on investment just isn't going to be there for 99.9% of the parents who do this, and yet they keep on spending piles of money that could be better spent investing for their sons' educations and their families' financial security.
Given all that, who knows how many families are bankrupting and tearing themselves apart chasing the NHL dream? Who knows what boys could have made the NHL but for the insane costs of minor hockey, or for being burnt out before their time?
And this doesn’t include the dental bills.
Yeah but save on braces.
Swimming and actually even more so diving is comparable as the child moves into a national competition. Pretty much every sport has this issue. The BB kids who make it to level I watched last night (first KU season game) were identified while still in middle school and, in some cases, taken out of the ghetto and put in private schools.
You have a point.
In the States this is called “women and minorities hardest hit”.I guess small ponds and lakes only freeze up there in the richest areas.
Welcome to the world of youth sports. Speed training, traveling teams, steroids and concussions.
Every year as we watch the Jayhawks compete in other sports we just keep muttering, Round Ball is coming.
Looks like Coach Self is doing it again. It’s beautiful to watch.
When I lived in Wisconsin a hockey stick (wood, wrapped with duct tape), puck, & skates were more important than a baseball glove or football.
Any frozen surface - a flood pond or even a ditch - would do to take to the ice & smack a puck around. Of course, we were playing & not being pregroomed for future competition. Whatever happened to letting kids be kids?
money and fame
My opening line to my players and their parents at the first practice is, “who wants to play in the NHL?” a few hands go up. Then I tell them the reality. “It takes 3 hours a day, 360 days a year for 15 years. That’s the minimum it will take for you to even think about whether you can make the NHL. “
I have been coaching ice hockey for 20 years. You know if a kid is good enough. Problem is the parents will never listen. They will pay the 7-10 grand a season for the kid to wear a AAA team jacket even though he may see little game time. I tell the parent to invest that money for the kids college and let him play Tier 2 and have a good time. Maybe they will play junior and get another 4 years after that in college. Parents don’t care.
In addition, like most sports, you get the camps that promise kids that they will get on the radar of college coaches. I have had parents yell at me because I wouldn’t write the recommendation letter for their introduction. I would tell the parent, your kid is playing house rec hockey and cannot skate backwards. They don’t care. The one time I wrote the letter for a parent, it was because I was forced to by the association. I wrote the letter , the parents paid the fee, took their kid to Vegas for the camp and the kid lasted all of one drill before they thanked him and sent him packing.
For the ones who are good enough, the coaches know they exist and will help where they could. That’s why there are scholarships. The cost of hockey in the long term is the same as going to college. It costs a lot of money. The cream always rises to the top.
Global warming...there's no more ice, or so we've been told.
Parents have their own self-image, self-worth, and ego projected onto their children (although some also have delusions of NHL wealth in there, too). Telling them to demote their child is like telling them to have smaller dreams... and these are dreams they get to make someone else do the work for, and they still get to sanctimoniously believe that they're doing it for their beloved child's best interests.
No amount of reason will wake them up, because the entire motivation is emotional.
I learned that when I took up bowling. During summers in college, I had the time to practice 150+ games a week, and I got pretty good at it. Had I not had an academic scholarship that put me in the army for 4 years, I likely would've kept pursuing it. The Bay Area had monthly semipro tournaments that I would have eventually had a modicum of success. But I never really dwelt on it.
As the years progressed, I would say that, for several years, I was in the top 2% of bowlers in El Paso, and had won city and state singles championships.
The absolute best of local bowlers (former pros themselves) would compete against the pro bowlers when they came to town, and would be lucky to cash.
I learned to be happy with bowling 1-2 nights per week, averaging over 200 every year.
Actually in the states this is called “Baseball.” The same exact scenario is playing it itself out. If the article substituted USA and baseball for Canada and hockey you would not have to change a word. It is why MLB is more and more being dominated by Latin players, I grant that it is easier to pump them up with steriods down in the DR. Those of modest means are stuck in really bad rec programs. The better players who can afford it leave for the travel teams, leaving the rest. The better player of modest means loses interest in playing with inferior athletes and moves on to a less expensive sport such as basketball and football, where this situation has not upended the sport at the youth level yet.
This story is bunk. There is no one that is clearly good enough to play, not playing. And further, and more specifically, any one of the Subban kids could have played for a New England prep school, played good hockey and received a great education too. After that any Ivy, Hockey East or NESCAC school would have taken them and it would have been free - were they good enough and at least close to smart enough. Finally, I know from great experience, these kids the schools pay for are not economically elite as the article suggests. Parents that want to pay for kids that aren’t good enough, yet, perhaps with fingers crossed, are simply using their prerogative as free adults. Who is anyone to suggest its a bad thing for parents to invest time and money into their kids?Anything to the contrary is busybodyness.
Reading comments from coaches who ran summer camps featuring the nation's best players was similar. Many parents from small towns or non-competitive areas couldn't understand why their big fish in a small pond son was having trouble playing against kids from the super competitive schools. And worst of all I could not bring myself to tell one of my best friends that he was full of s... concerning the ability of his only boy. He thought his average ability son was a superstar. He wasn't. Fortunately, I never had to coach his kid. It would probably have ended our friendship.
Nobody’s is critizing the parents for spending the money. The article is about the impact on the sport overall. What it is saying is the player pool will be more offspring of a well to do family in suburban Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, instead of kids from the prairies of Alberta or who’s father is a steel worker in Hamilton. The same is happening here in baseball. In baseball terms, no more coal miners sons like Mickey Mantle. The future Willie Mays or Hank Aaron will be playing in the NBA or NFL. The future Gordie Howe in the CFL.
elcid, I grew up in the NW burbs of Chicago. Out back, we had 100 acres of field the school district owned and it stayed field. We had a large area that filled with water due to the heavy fall season rains. Now back in the late 70s we had real winters there. Cold as heck all through Nov - Mar.
Anyway, water would freeze and everyday after school all kids would storm the “rink” and play hockey until dark.
I couldn’t skate for nothing. Some of us played in our hiking boots. Anyone remember Colorado’s? Others had skates.
Played with a real puck, no equipment. Goalie had a baseball glove. No lift rule but many guys took a puck to the knee or shin. Man those were great times.
Winning team shared a beer stolen from a dad’s garage. That was the “Cup”.
To add, both MLB and the NHL will find those great athletes of modest means. In the Dominican Republic and Russia.
Ironic, with this article, KUs top freshman recruit, Andrew Wiggins, is from Toronto area. His folks saved some money (though I’m sure his dad earned some $$ his few yrs in NBA)
Those same things happen in other sports, too...especially football
My son played ice hockey from the time he could walk. He wasn’t the biggest, fastest or strongest on the ice. Couldn’t take a slap shot without falling over. Never took more than two penalties a season. Was a very good skater, but not Tier 1.
After a AA game, a coach asked me to bring my son to one of the “get on the radar” camps. I laughed at him and told him my kid would be lucky if he got out of the locker room without being cut. Coach told me my kid plays with his head up, has the best ice awareness he ever seen and passes and catches passes as well as any Tier 1 player he ever coached.
I told him my kid is currently playing single A, he was invited to the tournament only because 5 other kids said no and he is happy where he is. Coach wanted to talk to him and I said ok.
Coach introduced himself and asked my son what his hockey aspirations were. My son said and I quote, “see all these kids who want to play in the NHL? I want to pay their salaries.”
My kid is a business major in college and wants to run an NHL franchise. While these kids were practicing shooting and skating, mine was learning French, spending his summers teaching hockey at clinics throughout North America and reading business books.
I probably have the only kid who worked to buy his XBox so he can use the NHL game to practice being a GM. He had no clue how to play the game.
My 11YO son packs all of 90 lbs on his frame, but he absolutely loves football. He sometimes brings so much passion to the game that he scares his teammates, let alone the other team.
Looking into the future, I could see his potential as a broadcaster. He likes to do play be play while we're watching the HS games, and he's pretty darn good at it.