I Choose Hockey

Fewer and fewer kids are playing hockey these days. It's a fairly expensive game and there are plenty of other, often safer, options. Neither of my nephews play hockey. It's no longer a surety that a Canadian kid will strap on the skates each week and chase a puck.

I just watched my oldest play. He's 14 now, and I've been watching him play since he was a Timbit. That's about a decade of house league hockey action, and I've loved every minute.

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And I mean it. I absolutely love watching him play, and always have. He loves it, too. I tear up at the thought that one day I'll watch him play for the last time.

For the record, I put my oldest daughter in Timbits, and would have loved to follow her career, but she chose dance over hockey. I still remember my very convincing argument as to why she should should keep playing, and I still remember her gently letting me know hockey wasn't for her.

But two more are coming. My youngest boy is almost two and will be a Timbit in no time. Then, as my oldest winds down, he'll take the reigns. And then his little sister can follow suit.

If I play my cards right, I'll have hockey games to enjoy for another twenty years, and by then I could have grandchildren playing. I hope it never ends.


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Comments (16 - click here to join in!)

Rob J

This is the first time that the NHL is less than 50% Canadian-born. This is much more alarming than the lack of Cdn teams in the playoffs, but you never hear it discussed as to why.

March 29, 2016 @ 9:26 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Rob J

I'll ask Ron MacLean what he thinks of that tomorrow.

March 29, 2016 @ 9:41 PM

Rob J

Not a bad idea! Didn't even think about that...hope the interview is a great experience for you!

March 29, 2016 @ 9:59 PM

Irv

@Rob J

It's a variety of reasons. Part of the reason is the rise of 'good quality' hockey players from other nations.

But I think the other reasons are our own.

- high cost of hockey for kids. The price is brutal and you get up at 5 AM to practice. And the equipment is only affordable to upper middle class people (and higher)

- Decline of hockey on free / public television. When I was a young lad, part of my formative years were spent in the rolling countryside south of Edmonton, Alberta. Winters were long, dark & brutally cold (-40C). Sat or Sunday, you'd collect a group of buddies & play a game of hockey on a either a frozen river or a frozen slough. Saturday night ALWAYS meant Hockey Night in Canada. And in my case it was the Edmonton Oilers in their best years.

Well today those frozen rivers aren't quite so frozen. And more and more hockey is becoming pay per view. Add in there is a lot more to do for Canadian kids in small towns.

TM wears shirts that say "what would Wendel do". Maybe the question should be asked "would Wendel even exist in this environment?". The answer is "not likely". I'm not a hockey fan at all, but I do pay attention to the world around me. Canadian Junior teams are faltering. Soccer is the top game among kids. The typical working class family can't afford the crazy cost of hockey anymore.

March 29, 2016 @ 10:04 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Irv

Saturday night is still Hockey Night in Canada on CBC.

March 29, 2016 @ 10:06 PM

Irv

Maybe so, but the programming isn't part of Canadian culture like it once was. Part of that is because dozens of years ago places like Kelvington Saskatchewan (or Mount Forest, Ontario) were detached from the rest of the world. They were a million miles away. And you filled up your spare time playing hockey. That's how most of this countries best hockey players grew up.

Well those small town kids get cable now & they get internet. And if they want to play the game it's often expensive. Remember, you and I make "big city salaries". Some working class guy in Stratford or Fergus Ontario may not.

Rogers bought the rights to hockey because it's the last "cash cow" that exists in the world of cable. The only people left willing to fork over big $ for cable are those looking for live sports. They will slowly "squeeze" the sport until it's pay per view. And they'll downgrade the coverage of the game to fit their financial "needs". It's exactly who they downsized and marginalized radio to fit their financial needs. Who listens to FM radio anymore? No one that's a real fan of music.

You are living in a world clouded with romance from the past man. It's like imaging a subway token gets you the Spoons playing Romantic Traffic on the ride home. But it doesn't. Instead it gets you a broken down, overloaded system where delays are routine.

March 29, 2016 @ 10:33 PM

Irv

HNIC is where CFNY was in 1998. You can still smell the glorious past but it's fading away. The "long timers" do nothing but complain about how it isn't what it once was.

And with Rogers taking full control, it will become like CFNY in 2004. They'll TELL you how fucking awesome they are. They'll tell you how cutting edge they are. They'll tell you "they played it first". Then they'll play Nickelback.

March 29, 2016 @ 10:50 PM

Gump

"Fewer and fewer..." not "Less and less..."
That grammar mistake made baby jesus cry...
Get it together Mike!

March 29, 2016 @ 10:56 PM

Rick2

My son is 10 years old. We just completed a season of A hockey. I am at least $4500 lighter as a result. ($3000 team fees, $750 GTHL fee, tournament hotels).. My sister has kids playing AAA hockey, and her fees are alot more !
There is also alot of under the table payments at the higher levels - rich dads paying for their kids to be on the team, get icetime, etc... Most kids also spend a ton on extra training. It's ridiculous !
You are lucky you are getting so much out of it at the house league level.

March 30, 2016 @ 9:46 AM

Irv

@Rick2

...bribes for kids hockey. And I thought selfies at a funeral were bad.

March 30, 2016 @ 10:05 AM

Steve

Rogers only guaranteed HNIC would be on CBC for the first two seasons. No one should be shocked if they move those games over to City and Rogers' cable channels.

Also, your kids are bite-sized, doughy balls???

March 30, 2016 @ 10:05 AM

Alan

When I played house league decades ago we used to play on the old fashioned outdoor hockey rinks with wooden boards. The cost to play was next to nothing. I remember my first pair of hockey gloves in the mid 60s which were pretty decent cost me $10.00. My shin pads cost abut the same. When I switched to goalie in the mid 70's my entire equipment purchase (pads, skates, protector, mask and gloves) cost well under a thousand. Now a days you can't even buy pads for less than a grand.

Also consider that more than half of the people now living in Toronto weren't even born in Canada, our cultural preferences are changing. "Soccer Day in Canada" is on its way!!

March 30, 2016 @ 7:09 PM

Mookie

Could not agree more with you @Mike. Have just finished with three boys through minor hockey. Both rep and house league...Think both have their advantages and disadvantages. For years spent all weekend and several weeknights at the rink. Would not have traded it for anything.

I think it ending is harder on me than on them. I certainly mellowed with age and would like to think I was a relaxed supportive parent and not the typical hockey goofball dad, of which there are far too many. Played the game all my life, and still do, but loved my time at the rink with them the most. It could be day/night raining/snowing whatever outside, but the rink was always a great escape.

Only hope my boys get to experience it and enjoy it like I did when they have kids of their own.

March 30, 2016 @ 8:49 PM

Mookie

Could not agree more with you @Mike. Have just finished with three boys through minor hockey. Both rep and house league...Think both have their advantages and disadvantages. For years spent all weekend and several weeknights at the rink. Would not have traded it for anything.

I think it ending is harder on me than on them. I certainly mellowed with age and would like to think I was a relaxed supportive parent and not the typical hockey goofball dad, of which there are far too many. Played the game all my life, and still do, but loved my time at the rink with them the most. It could be day/night raining/snowing whatever outside, but the rink was always a great escape.

Only hope my boys get to experience it and enjoy it like I did when they have kids of their own.

March 30, 2016 @ 8:49 PM

Alison in Ottawa

I love watching my son play hockey, he just finished what he has decided will be his last year of competitive hockey to go play house hockey with his friends . I have loved every minute of it, the tournaments out of town, the chats in the car, the friends we have all made and the excitement of the game. My daughter plays ringette (long story, and I love watching her play just as much) but is the biggest NHL fan of my 2 kids....we spend a lot of family time watching and talking hockey and I wouldn't trade it for anything!

March 31, 2016 @ 4:27 PM

Rick C in Oakville

@ Irv great points, and @Alan, my experiences exactly. I played goal for the Clairlea house league, which was originally an out door rink which they just basically enclosed with tin, like a workshop. Kate season playoffs, there would be fog hanging over the ice, and I could barely see the play at the other end. Always low budget facilities, now the new multi pad rink they opened just north of me on Neyagawa in Oakville has a lounge, full restaurant and pub. The Clairlea arena had a plywood snack bar and chalky hot chocolate from a vending machine..
My son wasn't interested in Hockey, he liked football and he played both in Hamilton and Mississauga, as we didn't have a league locally. It was really grass roots, as equipment was supplied by the league, fees were reasonable, especially in Hamilton as he played in the East Port area, with a lot of struggling families.
Hockey has become an elite sport, unfortunately.

April 2, 2016 @ 7:13 PM

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