Cautionary Tale for Hockey Parents

By Pam Dillon

We were sitting outside the rink a few weeks ago watching the action. I was waiting to drive my kid home and there were three or four dads sitting to one side of me, talking hockey-dad talk. It sounded like a serious TSN-style discussion, but I wasn’t paying too much attention since I was leafing through a magazine on a hunt for recipes.

That’s when a friendly woman sat down beside me and we started to chat. Gesturing to the ice surface she asked, “Is your guy out there too?” He was.

She pointed out her youngster, who was wearing a white jersey.  “We got him an agent,” she mentioned, at a cost of $5000, since he was being scouted by a major junior team.

I must have said something about my kid growing up in Ottawa rinks, because she explained her son hadn’t gone that route. Years ago, when as little ones the local kids were trying out for competitive teams, he didn’t have the skills, she told me. He got cut.  Hockey was his dream, though. He wanted to play competitive hockey.

So he headed away for his chance and was signed up for the Toronto hockey system. Her boy stayed as a billet in the big city during the winters my boy would have been sleeping between NHL sheets and playing shinny with his friends on the outdoor rinks.

For a few years, she went on, her son learned the game and played in Toronto, then it was off to one of the hockey boarding schools in this region for two more years.  “It was $30,000 a year,” she said of the hockey school.

“We remortgaged our house.”

“And I thought hockey was expensive,” I joked, adding my kid had four summer jobs and if he wanted to play hockey this season he would have to pay half the cost.

Both she and I had other kids to consider.  As for her hockey player, she said if the major junior route proved to be a no-go, he had his sights set on a hockey scholarship.

“He wants to be a gym teacher.”

We realized, in the course of this brief discussion, that our boys were competing for the same position on a local team. We also noticed the nearby TSN-style discourse had dried up.  The hockey dads were following our conversation. Then as youngsters streamed out of dressing rooms, it was obvious their big-league deliberations had been about 11 or 12-year-olds. And while the knobby-kneed preteens lugged their hockey bags to the front doors, the dads didn’t want to budge. They had questions about their own kids’ futures.

That’s understandable. Each year – fall, winter, spring and summer – a lot of local families devote loads of money, time and energy to hockey.  Alas (* wink wink  *) my kid got his driver’s licence shortly after that encounter, so I never again came across those parents.

I’m not sure where that hockey mom’s son landed either.  I’m hoping he’s en route to being the next Claude Giroux or, if he stayed with the CCHL team, he’s getting plenty of ice time.


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