Soaring Costs Cap Hockey's Rise
In an 2-part article in City Pages, Game Misconduct: The Biggest Threat to Hockey May be Itself,
calls out league fees, equipment costs, ice time, clinics/coaching, and travel requirements as key elements driving up the extraordinary cost of youth hockey.
There are quickly emerging two types of parents - rich or strapped.
In Minneapolis, a program that runs hockey preschool lessons starts at $280. A clinic with former Gopher goalie Adam Hauser costs $495. The price per hour of his undivided attention: $95. At Minnesota Made, a business that includes some 40 AAA teams. The price for a roster spot depends on competition, ice time, and tournaments. But it starts at $1,200 and doubles from there.
These days, the cost of gear alone runs about $700. "It's outrageous!" says John Bianchi, a former assistant coach at Bloomington Jefferson. "The costs of playing hockey have become outrageous."
One example is the Sprague family who moved from California to White Bear Lake, MN four years ago to provide a bump to their son's hockey career. The kids go to B.E. Emerson Prep Academy, a hockey-intensive private school in North St. Paul, where tuition runs about $15,000 a year. She guesses the family spends another $3,000 — probably more — on travel, summer camps, and equipment. These figures aren't unusual.
The article goes on to cite parents who've taken out loans to bankroll dreams. One family depleted an inheritance to develop the ultimate youth player. One parent whose three sons play for Lakeville North, will spend $6,000 this year on sticks alone.
ESPN published an article The Grand Total of Youth Hockey about a dad, Steve Wulf, from Fairfield, Connecticut. He tracked the costs associated with his hockey playing daughter Elizabeth. Wulf explained that many parents steer their daughters into hockey because there is a perception that Title IX will allow for a hefty future hockey college scholarship. "No, we don't have an NHL," says Moe Tarrant, the hockey director for Mid-Fairfield, and the longtime coach at Greenwich (Conn.) Academy. "What we do have are great opportunities to play in college, maybe on scholarship, maybe at some of the finest colleges and universities in the country."
Wulf looked at the cumulative cost of all the equipment over a 13 year period that went into his daughter's 40 pound hockey bag. The cost to play? Skates: $2,645. Helmets: $1,250. Elbow pads: $150. Shin Guards: $180. Gloves: $400. Febreeze spray and drier sheets: $40.00. Special Hockey Detergent: $40.00. Sticks: $1,750. Neck guards: $70. Shoulder pads: $270. UnderArmour: $150. Practice jerseys: $100. Pelvic protectors: $100 Pants: $240. Shells: $40. Undersocks: $100. Practice socks: $50. Bags: $200. Black tape: $300. White tape: $50. Clear tape: $200. Stick wax $50.00.
And non-equipment costs? Travel (transportation, lodging, meals): $10,500. Club dues: $20,000. Camps, clinics, and lessons: $10,000. The automobile travel costs (car pool) were not included because Wulf saw that as, "high-quality bonding time with your kids".
The total cost? $48,850 over 13 years.
So what does this mean, long-term to the game of hockey? Will hockey continue to be the "fourth sport" because it is exposed to a relatively few players? Will the rising costs to play and excel push parents and potentially talented players away from the game? Will the skill level flatten out as the game draws from a limited talent pool? Will fewer fans be exposed to the game in their youth?
Looking back, what does Steve Wulf think of his hockey investment? "It has been my distinct pleasure to know the inside of that bag, and similar ones, for 13 years and counting."