State of Hockey


Over the last 15 years it appears the popularity of hockey, and the actual numbers of players, has seen a decline.

People can say it is too expensive, or coaches are too hard, or it just isn’t fun anymore, and kids want to do other things.

Here is the math

Total Hockey Canada registered players – 572,000 ( that is down 200,000 from a peak in the 90’s )

More players in the USA than in Canada now.

8,000 hockey based injuries in 2012 in Ontario ( 34 percent body contact injuries the rest were accidents )

AAA Hockey costs $8,000 to $15,000 per year according to CBC.

Female Players in Canada – 85,624 according to Hockey Canada. The numbers over the past 15 years have seen some large increases and some smaller ones as well.

Children 5 – 14 years old – More kids played hockey in 1998 than they did in 2010 according to Macleans magazine (22 percent of kids played hockey in 2010 and 42 percent played soccer).

Now before I get into this story I did Email questions to Hockey Brandon – Hockey Manitoba – Brandon AAA Wheat Kings – Southwest Cougars AAA Midgets and no response from anyone.

A term I was told at an airport recently was hockey is now considered a "white collar” sport. The costs are the costs, and if you kid is in dance or figure skating etc all those sports will come with a price tag.

But what are the costs to play hockey at a house league level?

Money Money Money

Without a doubt the biggest stumbling block is the costs of playing and equipment. So we reached out to the local chapter of KidSport to see what they can do for parents and their kids. Trina Bandura the local representative for KidSport says the problem they face is the most they can give per application is $300.00 and with even house league hockey costing $1,000 plus equipment and travel she says the parents are not in a position to pay the difference. Trina says they fund lots of families with kids playing soccer and baseball because the costs are so much cheaper.

Hockey Brandon House League

Atom – $830.00
Pee Wee – $910.00

Bantam – $940.00

Now that doesn’t sound horrible really when you consider your child will be doing something for 7 – 8 months of the year.

Basic equipment if you were to buy everything would cost around $700.00 and you can still buy sticks for $75.00. You will hear that sticks cost $350.00, and they do, but if you kid is playing Atom does he really need to have the latest and greatest Easton stick on the market.

Lord Selkirk Minor Hockey Association–AA Bantam Hockey

$750.00 to register for Minor Hockey
$500.00 upfront Bantam AA

$250.00 a month after that

$500.00 at Xmas for tournaments

$6,300.00 were the total costs including hotel rooms for AA Bantam (this price is not including equipment or sticks)

But I still remember 35 years ago that my sister would have figure skates that were $1,200.00 so my point is everything will cost money. Of course soccer will appear cheaper but that only lasts for a few months and other than say Christine Sinclair kids really can’t look up to any Canadian soccer stars.

Chasing the Dream

Brandon Wheat Kings Dman and Philadelphia Flyers first round pick Ivan Provorov was the number 1 D Man in CHL last year and he is in a battle to secure a job with the Flyers or get sent home for one more year of junior hockey with the Wheat Kings. Will he make it to the NHL? Odds are you would have to say yes for sure. But Ivan is one of a select few that will have that chance this year.

The grind to make it to pro hockey hockey is astronomical.

An Ontario study shows that 30,000 players were studied and 48 were drafted 39 signed a contract 32 played in the NHL 15 played one full season and only 6 out of the 30,000 played 400 NHL games to qualify for NHLPA pension. So roughly .02 percent of the boys playing hockey in Ontario will have a “career” in the NHL.

You have to ask yourself are you playing the game to perhaps play CIS Hockey ( Canadian University Hockey ) or NCAA in the USA and get a degree and use it to further your life and career. Or are you really chasing that .02 percent?

Crazy Factor

You see those parents at the rink they are standing in the corner with their arms crossed and have a cold cup of Tim Horton’s sitting on the boards. They will yell and scream and bang the glass to attempt to make a point. In Victoria last year they kicked all the parents out of the rink one weekend to make a point that the kids just want to have fun and not be abused from the stands from their parents or other parents.

A few years ago this video clip from Winnipeg that went all over Canada.

And this guy from Newfoundland

Parents Thoughts

Chad Gaborieau a former Wheat King player in the 80’s has 4 kids in hockey and he says the costs are without a doubt the biggest issue and he feels that kids don’t need trainers and playing 11 months of the year. Chad feels kids should play ball and golf, etc in the spring and summer months. “Hockey is what our communities are based on and if we lose that then we lose everything"

Kris Klemick a local goalie and hockey parent has this to say "Elitism is ruining hockey, people are forgetting it's supposed to be fun. The most entertaining pro's you can watch are still having fun. Just playing a game. We're taking that away from our kids"

Solutions and Answers

I don’t have the answers or solutions. We can analyze costs – is it fun? – crazy parents – “hockey politics” etc but is their a way to turn a corner or make the game more fun and affordable? When I was young 14 year old playing bantam hockey their was no pressure to be drafted in the WHL or checking 50 different websites to see where my name was ranked. You just played the game and on the way home my Dad would drive through McDonalds and that was amazing. Of course society changes and so does the family unit with divorces. But we need to start somewhere otherwise you see more teams like the Southwest Cougars Midget team begging for players to come to tryout so they can field a team.

If the young 10 year old in your home gets cut from the Jr. Jets his hockey career isn’t over.  Milan Lucic was discovered by accident playing Tier 2 Jr Hockey in North Vancouver and is now one of the top paid players in the game. And btw Lucic never played in the Brick Tournament in Edmonton where the top 10 year olds come to from all over North America.

Roughly 10 years ago a perhaps bizarre idea I gave to Hockey Manitoba was to install a parent penalty box in each rink. Then a referee would be in the stands and if a parent was going crazy and yelling and swearing the game is stopped and they go in the box for 2 minutes and their sons or daughters team gets a 2 minute penalty. Sounds crazy yes but how else are some parents going to learn other than to shame them. Can you imagine for a second the feeling of walking out of the Parent Penalty Box and how you would feel. I know this that parent will never say boo again.

My friend Gerry was drafted in the NHL in the 80’s and he didn’t even know it until his uncle read it in the paper a few days later. The game was much more simple and perhaps that is the true starting point to fix what is wrong. Less pressure from parents and family members – focus more on what is fun and what kids want and not what parents want – 9 year olds don’t need $300 dollar sticks –11 year olds don’t need agents – 12 year olds don’t need trainers and diets. Sounds simple doesn’t it but perhaps we have gone too far and their is no fixing this issue…. Kind of like climate change not sure the problem can be fixed now.

Darryl Wolski
Player Agent – 2112 Hockey Agency

League Commissioner – Wendy’s Winter & Summer Hockey League

Tournament Director – Source for Sports AAA Hockey Challenge