By Janice Nikkel
May 14 2014 ISN – Team track suits, private ice, skate mills, sports psychologists, matching hockey bags, overpriced equipment, tournaments, meals out. . . the list goes on and on. Hockey parents are willing to go into debt to give their kids the very best opportunities to succeed in hockey. But is it worth it?
I was talking to a manager of a high-end girls’ hockey team recently. He was describing all the great tournaments that these girls get to attend and for just $17,000 your daughter might possibly be allowed to play on this team. Then I was talking to a friend and her son is at a hockey academy that costs her $40,000 a year to attend. Ouch. That is a lot of money. And he might make the WHL.
Folks, I don’t know about you, but it takes a long time for most Canadians to earn that kind of money. I’ve written before about hockey being for the rich, but this is even more extreme. At what expense do we invest in our kids to play on these teams or attend these academies? When I see families who can afford these opportunities for their kids, there is a part of me that wishes I could offer my kids the same experiences. And then there’s that other part of me that understands that unless they are the cream of the crop on their AAA team, they won’t be going too far after high school with their hockey.
Junior camp fees cost $180 to $200 just to try out for a chance to attend a Junior B main camp. And I admit we have paid that for my son. Do I find ways to justify it? Of course I do. Just like all those other parents who are spending even more. We say things like, “Trying out is a good experience for life.” Or, “You can always learn a thing or two to help you play better during the season.” Young players get invited to the various camps because the tryouts make money for the teams. From what I understand, if your player is that good, you will be invited at the team’s expense. There are always exceptions, and perhaps it’s a wee bit like buying lottery tickets. You might just hit the jackpot with your young athlete.
So as I see the dollars flying out of my wallet each season, and wonder if my kids might one day get a hockey scholarship or get drafted, I admire the wisdom of my referee-loving, hockey mom and friend, Rhonda, when she says that the best option for players is to make money in minor hockey and they can do that as a referee—proven by the fact that her 18-year-old son has over $10,000 in his bank account thanks to his years as a ref.
At the end of the day, we may be broke, but our investments have kept our kids off the streets, doing something they love. Is there really a price tag for that?