Is hockey only for the super rich?


By Janice Nikkel

November 19, 2013 (ISN) Does talent rise to the top or is money the key to success in hockey? What does it take to make it in hockey these days? Skills? Hockey sense? Size? How about your wallet? The Globe and Mail recently published an article about hockey becoming a sport only for those with financial means.

The article offers a number of reasons why elite hockey is becoming less and less attainable for average Canadians. High ice times, travel teams, hockey academies, and extra training are listed as current demands for success. If you want to make it into the juniors, you need to do the extras. Or do you?

I read the article with great interest because I am one of those ‘average’ Canadians he’s describing. Will my boys have a chance if we can’t get them to all the top programs? As a mom, I fight the envy I sometimes feel when I know there are other clubs, or training I could be offering my sons, but can’t reasonably do so. And then there is that voice of reason and wisdom in my home, namely my husband, who helps me gain perspective. He wants our boys to succeed and helps coach one of them every year. And we are doing our best to provide training, support and opportunities for our kids. But at the end of the day, we recognize that all the money and training in the world won’t make an athlete succeed.

Year after year, we have seen players with extreme talent, the financial means to do the extras, and a love for hockey decide to try a different sport or simply burn out.

I once asked a high level coach, who had played at the NHL level, what he looks for in a player. He said, “they’ve got to have it here,” and he pointed to his head, “they’ve got to have it here,” and he pointed to his hands and feet, “and they’ve got to have it here,” and he pointed to his heart. It’s a package. Money can get you a long way to success in hockey, as in any sport. But as many of the commenters said in the Globe article, no matter where you play, the talent rises to the top, and those athletes will get noticed.

I’m a firm believer in doing one’s best and making the most of opportunities provided. I’m grateful for programs like The Pucks Program, Hyundai Hockey Helpers, and others like it, that seek to provide ways for all kids who are interested in hockey to have a chance to play Canada’s favorite sport. We parents sacrifice a lot to make it happen for our young athletes. At the end of the day, it’s about the love of the game.

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