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Reducing Costs in the Hockey Budget

By Dan Pollard, 04/24/18, 2:15PM EDT

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Photo Credit: Brian Woo

Organized sports are one of the many ways we can help our kids develop character, build friendships and stay active and healthy. But for many of us, the high price of these activities can put a strain on finances. Our sport is one that gets constant attention for its cost to play.

With equipment, registration and ice costs, the price of playing hockey can add up quickly. However, there are a number of ways that associations and teams can balance the hockey budget by determining what’s important to spend money on from an individual and team perspective.

One of the first factors that has an effect on the cost of playing is how involved you want to be.

“That is certainly something we hear quite a bit. In cases for people that haven’t been involved in hockey, it’s a perception that is a barrier that may keep them from signing their son or daughter up in minor hockey,” said OMHA Executive Director Ian Taylor. “I think you have to dive in a little bit deeper to that. I think like any activity, if it’s an activity that you’re going to be engaged in at a more serious level, you’re going to be doing it four or five times a week, it’s going to cost more.”

"I think there’s separating the cost that I would call secondary. We all want to be part of a team and have the team jacket and the tracksuit. Personally, as a coach, I’d rather see that team budget go into whether we needed additional ice time or someone coming in to work with our goalies."

There are options that exist that can reduce the costs for families. Playing house or local league cuts down on the amount of practices and games and can allow for budget to be spent elsewhere, perhaps even a second extra-curricular activity.

Another budgeting tip to keep in mind is establishing price points for what to spend on equipment. While there is a $300 hockey stick available, players don’t need the top of line, most expensive model. Regardless of the price, safety is always the top priority when looking at equipment. Coaches and trainers are educated on equipment fitting to ensure players are safe on the ice.

When it comes to younger players, they often aren’t wearing out the equipment, rather they are simply outgrowing it. Many associations host equipment drives or exchanges that families can take advantage of.

“I think there’s separating the cost that I would call secondary. We all want to be part of a team and have the team jacket and the tracksuit. Personally, me as a coach, I’d rather see that team budget go into whether we needed additional ice time or someone coming in to work with our goalies before we get all the secondary stuff,” said Taylor. “We don’t want to take away from the experience of the kids and being part of a team but sometimes I think that stuff goes overboard.”


Photo Credit: Ted Woo/Picture Day Photography

“The way kids are going to best enjoy the sport and keep coming back is by learning skills, feeling confident, having a sense of improvement, that’s what’s going to keep them coming back. The other elements, I think balance, like everything, is probably in order.”

It’s important for associations to maximize their use of ice time. Teams can incorporate off-ice training (weather permitting) for activities like conditioning and team building. When running drills or scenarios, coaches can stop the play and walkthrough with the players to explain without having to worry about how ice time is being used. Players can even work on stickhandling and passing off the ice while focusing on skating on the ice.

For those looking externally for extra help on the ice through guest instructors, that can be another cost added during the season. Kevin Hamilton, Director of Hockey Development with the OMHA, suggests reaching out to coach mentors and using other resources in order to build up from the inside.

“People’s perceptions, sometimes when they bring in outside instructors and skill development people, there’s a perception that because we’re paying extra for this, it’s got to be better,” said Hamilton. “I think we do a really good job of offering educational opportunities to our coaches. I think if we help build their skill base and their confidence in terms of delivering these skills, there should be less of a need to engage outside ‘experts’.”


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Pollard is the host of Breakaway, The Minor Hockey Podcast. His passion for hockey led him to volunteer as a coach and administrator while his professional career has allowed him to cover the game at various levels with CBC, Sportsnet, the NHL Network and TSN. You can currently hear Dan every morning on 105.5 Hits FM in Uxbridge.

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