My parents split up when I was 12 years old. I lived with my mom who became burdened with the unenviable task of raising four boys, three of whom were in high school at the same time. I loved sports then, as now, and played organized football and baseball. I was never fortunate enough to play hockey though. The price tag for a pair of CCM Super Tacks was just too high, not to mention the inconvenience of getting to practice at 4:45 AM. It seemed as though hockey just wasn’t in the cards for me, and my dream of being the next Bernie Parent was shattered early on. But now I’m forty-six and have children of my own. I don’t make a lot of money but my kids are playing because, as I discovered, the expense of playing hockey is much more reasonable than I had ever known.
I live in a relatively blue-collar community. There are a lot of farms and it’s a place where people like to work with their hands. It’s also a community that loves hockey and come hockey season, the attention of the kids and their parents is focused on a sheet of ice located at our high school sports complex. It’s part of who we are and there’s a hockey community that becomes like family during the cold, long winter months. That same community makes playing possible for many.
There’s no denying that kids grow up. Foot size seems to change weekly and muscles and bone structure go haywire as the body moves inexorably upward. Thank goodness that used equipment is available everywhere. I have yet to see a ten-year old in the NHL so I, along with the vast majority of other hockey parents, don’t see the need to but those top of the line Bauer skates just yet. Why not pick up a pair of last year’s model for a very reasonable price, knowing full well that your child’s foot isn’t going to remain static in terms of growth. I’m pretty sure too that a $300.00 composite stick isn’t necessary for youth hockey and that there is zero discernable speed difference between the shot of that fancy composite and a $15.00 wooden stick!! Heck, every year in our community, a great deal of used equipment is simply given away, so don’t let your perception of cost be based on prices you see for brand new stuff at the sporting goods store. Chances are good that once you’re involved with hockey, you’ll become close with people whose child is a year away from yours and just happens to have a pair of shoulder pads that fit perfectly!
Virtually everything my daughters wear (yep, I’ve got hockey girls) has been worn by someone else. There is one piece of equipment though that I always buy new, the helmet. Helmets are obviously critical to the safety of your child and it’s important to know that there have been lots of improvements made in the last few years. No child’s head is shaped exactly the same and the sweat and constant use asociated with hockey allows for some personal contouring of the helmet’s interior. Should you try and buy a used helmet you’ll find that they just don’t fit quite right and that puts your player at an increased risk for injury. Use the money you saved on those used Bauer skates to buy a reputable, safe new hockey helmet for your skater.
Oh, and one more thing. Your local program (if it’s anything like mine) wants your child to play hockey. Obviously there is a cost with joining and playing, but it can be offset by working at the snack bar, or maybe manning the penalty box for a tournament game. It’s actually a lot of fun and it helps cement those hockey friendships that are so meaningful. Some programs even have scholarships for families who need them so don’t let your fear of cost keep you from allowing your child to explore the world of hockey. You can manage it. I know from personal experience! Hockey teaches kids so many positive things that there’s no room to enumerate them here. My kids aren’t going to the NHL but they are going to succeed in life. Many of the tools they’ll need for that success are taught on that sheet of ice or in that cramped little locker room. Don’t let your child miss out. Play hockey.