Is an obsession with hockey costing parents an arm and a leg?
Love for our nation’s game may outweigh its financial burden
Hockey is Canada, or so the notion goes. Canadians’ obsession with the game appears to keep growing, but is it getting too costly for families to be involved in the so-called “national sport”?
Organized sports is one of the many ways that kids can build character and establish friendships while being physically active. But is the price tag to play hockey too high for parents?
An independent survey commissioned by Bauer Hockey Inc. and Hockey Canada, to better understand the challenges that hockey families face, found that of the 875 non-hockey families surveyed in Ontario and Nova Scotia approximately 90 per cent chose to not enroll their children in hockey. The top four reasons why they chose not to play the game was: it wasn’t fun, it was too time consuming, there were safety concerns and it was not affordable.
How much does it really cost for parents to enroll their children in a minor hockey league?
Mark Lootens, sales manager of Edge Sports in Cochrane, says, “on average parents are looking to spend $1,500 up to $2,500 (per year) on equipment alone.” This number varies slightly depending on how much they grow in-between seasons.
Not only do parents need to dish out money for equipment, but they are also paying enrollment fees starting at $400 for novice players going up to over $3,000 for midget level players. On top of that, you also have your travel costs and any extra fees for tournaments throughout the season.
Royal Bank of Canada conducted a survey that showed almost 40 per cent of families with a child previously enrolled in hockey, but not in the current season, said the rising costs of minor hockey was their reason for leaving the sport.
Hockey Canada, seeking to encourage more youth to get involved in the sport, teamed up with Bauer Hockey Inc. to create the “growing the game” program. The goal is to get 1 million new players by 2022. Problem is, how can they market a sport that costs families so much?
“There is a lot of social pressure when it comes to what equipment the kids are wearing, even in the younger levels. But parents are willing to pay,” Lootens says.
So what do parents do when the passion for hockey is still there, but the finances are not?
Brian Kaine, president of the Cochrane Minor Hockey Association, says, “cost is always a significant factor as it relates to participation. Unfortunately, there’s not an awful lot the association can do because of ice costs being so high and maintaining the facility and arenas is so high.”
Fortunately for Cochrane, Kaine is not seeing a significant impact of kids not coming out to play the game.
“Our numbers have grown every year. Not dramatically, but were maybe up on average 2 to 5 per cent per year.”
The association works with two main financial aid programs — Jumpstart, led by the Canadian Tire Foundation, and the Lindsay Leigh Kimmett Memorial Foundation — to help families that need financial support.
Cochrane Minor Hockey also has programs in place that offer some new equipment to families that don’t have the resources to purchase the gear.
“It’s really two-fold in a lot of cases. [Families] don’t want to come forward and indicate they have a need. Our coaches listen to hear if [families] have a [financial] need,” Kaine says. “We also do have a program that there’s public knowledge of, where families can make a submission when they have a need and it comes through me. They just indicate that they have a need and we don’t ask them to provide any support for their financial needs, it goes simply on an honour system.”
With the help of programs and minor hockey associations embracing them, families may feel the crushing cost of hockey not as heavy on their shoulders.