When my son started minor hockey, I knew nothing. Not a thing. So if you’re in the same boat, and you’re reading this because you have no idea about hockey, then don’t feel bad. There are other moms (and dads, and grandparents) just like you. You are not alone! This post is designed to address some of the hockey basics that I wish someone had told me when I first signed my son up for minor hockey. Consider this Hockey for Parents 101.
Here’s the information you won’t receive with registration:
1) It’s expensive and there are a lot of hidden costs.
Not only do you have to pay registration, you will quickly find out that there are many other expenses throughout the year.
First, there’s the hockey gear. It’s not cheap. But don’t get roped into getting the best and most expensive. It might make a difference when they’re older, but when they’re only five-years-old, they just need the basics. There may also be options to get used equipment and, at the younger levels, this isn’t a bad idea. Since the kids aren’t typically smelly monsters at this point, you don’t have to worry too much about having odor impaired second-hand gear. In addition, the younger kids don’t wear out their gear as much either – likely because they are just not that hard on it. So if finances are a concern, look for sports stores that have second hand gear or try to find some on your local buy and sell.
Second, there can be initial cash calls for your child’s team. These cash calls usually happen at the start of the season once your child has been assigned to a team. And, in some cases, there can be multiple cash calls throughout the year. These cash calls are required to pay for tournament fees and sometimes team building events. On occasion, your team might try to offset the cost of these events by having fundraisers. But that’s often a decision voted upon by your team.
Third, you may sometimes be required to pay a deposit or provide a blank cheque or credit card number to ensure you take care of the hockey jerseys leant to you. I would highly advise purchasing some sort of suit protector (aka garment case) to carry your game day jerseys in. This will keep the jerseys in better shape. I also wouldn’t recommend allowing your child to drink a colored sports drink when they are wearing a white jersey. It’s not a battle you want to face in the laundry room.
2) There are hidden time commitments.
It was not long into my son’s first hockey season that I soon realized there was an abundant of mandatory volunteer hours. Not only did I have to work concession hours, I also had to work some volunteer hours at regular season games. Expect to be signed up for things like time keeping, score keeping and even game time music when your child is out on the ice. And if you child’s team happens to be hosting a home tournament, prepare for even more volunteer hours. From my experience, you don’t get a lot of say in all of this and if you don’t like your scheduled volun-told hours, you just have to switch with other parents.
3) There are going to be evaluations.
When I entered the arena for the very first time with my eldest son to participate in tyke (aka ignition, dynamite, etc.) evaluations, I was completely perplexed. My son could barely skate and he was going be evaluated? I soon discovered that the evaluations were designed to create even-ability level teams (or so they claimed). In principle, this sounded like a reasonable endeavor. At the time, I didn’t realize that hockey politics weave their way into even the most introductory levels of minor hockey and that things are never really as they seem. But the idea behind the evaluations is a good one.
I also wished that I had prepared my son for the wide range of skating abilities he would be surrounded by. The first time my youngest son went out on the ice with other minor hockey players, he was devastated. He immediately compared himself with some of the skaters (who looked like they were learning edgework in the womb) and he was completely discouraged. I would highly recommend talking to your child about the different ability levels that will be on the ice for evaluations and on their team. It’s important that they realize they might not be able to skate like some of the other players yet. But with time and practice they will continue to get better.
As your child gets into the higher levels, evaluations become a much more intense process. But that’s another blog entry for another time.
4) There may be less time consuming and less expensive hockey opportunities available.
When I first signed my son up for hockey, I didn’t know there were two options in our town. And many areas offer two different types of hockey. The first is minor hockey. That’s competitive, time consuming, political and family life altering. The second option is rec hockey. It’s less competitive, less time consuming and less political (from what I hear.) So if you’re on the fence about hockey, explore all the options and see what’s available in your area. Many people switch from one to the other for various reasons, and it’s always great to have options. Since I had no idea this existed (although I’m sure my husband knew and kept this from me), it was minor hockey all the way for us.
5) You may spend a lot of time driving to and from hockey games.
Prepare for winter driving. Prepare for gas expenses. Get good winter tires for your vehicle. Depending on the game locations, you might be spending a lot of time driving from one rink to another with your kids. If we have an away game, we also pack a cooler for the ride. I’ve found that my sons are usually famished after a game, and I like to give them healthy options to eat on the way home (not just arena concession food).
On a positive note, this driving time has been one of my favorite things about hockey so far. Why? Because my children are trapped by their seatbelts and they can’t run away from me. That means I get to talk and they have to listen. Driving with my children provides the greatest opportunities to have true conversations. Sometimes it’s about hockey and sometimes it isn’t. But treasure this opportunity.
6) Some arenas are freezing!
I have learnt that there are some wonderfully warm arenas and there are some arenas that will freeze your nose hairs. One in my area is called the Igloo and it’s known for it’s Antarctic like temperatures. So be prepared for sub-zero temperatures while your watching your child play!
It took me a year or two to figure it out, but I eventually wizened up and started to keep lots of extra gear in my vehicle for these cold arenas. I invested in a bunch of Little Hotties for the hands and feet. Additionally, I always keep a couple of spare blankets in my trunk as well.
5) There is an order of operations for hockey gear.
When my son first started hockey I was given a list of the gear that was required and a list of the gear that was recommended. But no where amongst that list was an explanation on how this gear actually ended up on the child. I had hoped for a Bewitched kind of scenario – but no such luck. So for all you parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles who have never dressed a child in hockey gear before, here’s the typical order:
- under clothes
- shin pads – worn on top of the underclothes. Side note: little kids typically prefer under clothes with full pant legs so the Velcro sections of the shin pads don’t scratch their legs.
- Socks – some kids also like to put hockey tape around their socks and shin pads so the pads are more stationary when they are skating.
- Chest protector
- Elbow pads
- Neck guard
And don’t worry, I’ve been doing this for four years and I still mess it up occasionally. No one will even notice – except maybe your child.
6) You need to be committed!
Another thing I have learned about hockey is that there are many hockey families that take the game very seriously. From my experience, it’s these same families that are going to be really angry if you signed your child up for minor hockey but are not really committed to practices and games. It’s frustrating and it can really make the parents who are committed quite vexed. Why? Because if there is a lack of kids available for a game then sometimes that game cannot go ahead. It’s frustrating for everyone.
I’m a reluctant hockey mom. But I’m completely committed. I’ve been up at 5:00 am to get my family ready for my five-year-old’s game – only to have it cancelled as we were going out the door. It’s extremely frustrating. If your child is sick, totally understandable. But when you hear things from the parent at the next practice like: “the grandparents were over,” “she was just tired,” “it was a long weekend for us,” “I didn’t want to wake her baby brother from his nap,” “he didn’t feel like going,” etc – it really angers many hockey parents (myself included).
Either commit or don’t. It’s that easy.
I hope this helps prepare you for your adventures in hockey. If you happen to think of something I should have included on the list, please leave me a comment!
Happy Hockey Days!