When Money Not Talent Is Driving Hockey

By Ben Hamill - February 26 2020
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When Money Not Talent Is Driving Hockey

Costly. Prohibitively expensive. And ultimately, an unattainable goal. These are just some of the words and expressions flying about the majority of middleclass households whenever the topic of a child (or worse yet, children!) wanting to play hockey comes up. Sadly, what this ultimately inevitably leads to is money dictating the future of Canadian hockey.

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This is not meant to imply that every kid who does get to join in on youth hockey because of access to more funds than what is the norm in the median Canadian household is only in on a promising future because of parents or well-off family/friends having been able to foot the crazy bills. But the opposite is also true.

Raw talent isn’t for sale, after all.

The Fuel To The Fire

Various factors have added to the unnecessarily exclusive and even at times elite nature of youth hockey in Canada over the course of the past 5 or 10 years. What isn’t at all in dispute is that the majority of those players who go on to play at college level and even professionally are from households earning an above-average monthly income; with many coming from the variety of home that could easily be described as opulent; affluent even.

According to a “confidential” survey commissioned by Hockey Canada back in 2012, the 1,300 “hockey parents” surveyed came in at a steady 15% higher income bracket than what was the average household income median for that particular year. Most of the participants listed their occupations as either professional or executive.  

Counting The Costs

Surveys such as the one commissioned by Hockey Canada do offer a rather telling insight into hockey’s sad state of affairs, but even without reports and statistics, with only the actual cost of equipment and registration fees on the table, it’s not at all difficult to grasp why youth hockey has become a luxury only meant for a select few.

Consider the cost of a beginner’s stick, for example. A pretty standard youth composite hockey stick currently goes for around $49.99. And then there’s the niggling issue of annual youth club registration fees. These easily reach into the thousands – with the average being between $2,500 and $3,000 per year.

The cost issue is obviously not one that’s bound to resolve itself anytime soon. And so perhaps a better place to start would be to question whether children under the age of 8 should really be playing “elite hockey”. Or why if a child isn’t playing AAA hockey by the age of 10, complete with off-the-ice instruction to round it all off, it’s a 9/10 that that kid will end up being left behind. 

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