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AHU Coach’s Corner Guest Column: Navigating our journey through youth hockey, Part 2

 

topher-scottThis is Part 2 of a multi-part series.

So what I’d like to do now is have an honest conversation about the state of money in youth hockey. After looking at the responses and speaking with knowledgeable hockey people, there’s a lot to dive into.

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And we’ll break it down through these two questions:

1.What are families paying to play AAA hockey?

2. Why is it so expensive? (And what can we do about it?)

OK, here we go…

What are families paying to play AAA hockey?

This question, my friends, comes with an incredibly diverse set of answers. Because, well, it depends.

It depends on where you live. It depends on how much your kid plays during the spring and summer. It depends on what position your kid plays (sorry, goalies). It depends on your kid’s age. It depends on whether your kid plays split season or plays a full AAA season. It depends on whether your kid belongs to an “academy.”

There are a lot of factors that go into it.

Families out west (in the U.S.) are paying more than families in the Midwest or the East based on location and miles traveled. Families with older kids are paying more than families with younger kids. Families that pay for a full season are paying more than families that pay for a split season. The variables cast a wide range of total costs.

When I started this project, I wanted to provide an average cost to play AAA hockey in the U.S. and Canada, but after recognizing that there are so many different factors that go into it, it would be disingenuous to give a “one size fits all” average cost.

I had emails of families that pay $5,000. I had emails of families that pay upwards of $50,000. And while I don’t think it’s right to give an average annual cost, I would say that a sensible range would be about $10,000-$20,000 per year. If you are under $10k, you are probably playing a split season, in Minnesota, younger, or are extremely lucky. If you are over $20k, you are probably traveling way too much.

I would say that a majority of families fall within this range. But still…10 to 20 grand per player, per year. For kids to play a youth sport. Really?

Take a step back and think about that. Seriously, it’s insane.

So let’s dive a little deeper into how we got here…

Why is AAA hockey so expensive? (And what can we do about it?)

Why is it so expensive? It comes down to four major areas:

1. Travel

2. Ice Costs

3. Coach/Administration Fees

4. Equipment

I knew that families spent a lot of money on travel for AAA hockey, but I had no idea how INSANE the numbers actually were. For most families, travel was their biggest expense.

If you live out west in the U.S., you are talking somewhere between 5-10 plane trips per year and easily over $10,000 for a season. With two plane tickets, 2-3 nights of hotels, food, and rental car at minimum. Yikes.

But even if you don’t live out west, teams are still spending an incredible amount of money on out-of-town travel. I had families from cities with multiple AAA organizations saying they pay upwards of $10k as well.

Why?

My opinion – an overemphasis on exposure over development…and adult ego.

Let’s start with the overemphasis on exposure over development.

First off, if your kid is a Pee Wee or a Bantam, EXPOSURE DOES NOT MATTER. The fact that parents at these ages talk to me about being at the right tournaments so their kids can get exposure to “scouts” of the best summer teams for the best summer tournaments or camps, I can’t believe that’s actually a thing.

Just stop. Please.

Topher Scott played junior hockey in the USHL, NCAA Division I hockey at Cornell and three years of pro hockey in the ECHL and CHL. He now runs www.TheHockeyThinkTank.com.

(May 18, 2020)