For this über-Canadian extracurricular activity, kids tend to start at age five or six, says Corey McNabb, Hockey Canada’s senior manager for coach and player development. “It’s not an easy sport to get into later because of the skill set required and progression.”
Children begin in house leagues, some of which hold evaluations before the season gets underway so teams are balanced. Programming runs October through March, with two or three ice times per week. In Kelowna, B.C., Kerry Elliott’s nine-year-old daughter has played hockey for four years. “Here, girls play with boys until they’re Pee Wee, at age 12, because we don’t have enough girls to make a league of their own,” says Elliott.
Coaches are generally parent volunteers, but some families opt for skills programming taught by a paid coach.
Provincial practices vary widely. “In Alberta, we don’t have Select programs until age 13. But in Ontario, they have it as young as six to eight years,” McNabb says. Select teams compete in other centres and host tryouts for higher-calibre players. Note: This involves more practices and travelling. That commitment increases further if your child advances through the levels of minor hockey.
House league prices are the easiest to swallow, but even they range $175 to $600, depending on available ice time where you live. That includes uniforms but not gear like helmets and pants. “But moving up, Select will be more,” says McNabb. At this level, fees can start at around $2,500 and travel can cost an additional $1,500 or more.
Does My Kid Have It?
“One issue with hockey parents is they feel more is better. Their kids play hockey year-round, with winter and spring sessions and summer hockey camps, and the kids burn out or get sick of it,” says McNabb. In fact, kids who make it up the ranks crosstrain in other sports, such as soccer or lacrosse, which match hockey well. “At the end of the day, the kids who are the best athletes—not just hockey players—make it the furthest.”
To learn more, please visit Hockey Canada.
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