Hockey is Not for Everyone

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Really powerful piece here from Akim Aliu on his experiences in hockey and in life over the years. Steve Downie is and remains a gigantic piece of shit.

 

FL4WL3SS

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Really powerful piece here from Akim Aliu on his experiences in hockey and in life over the years. Steve Downie is and remains a gigantic piece of shit.

It's heart breaking to read that. For the longest time, I naively thought that hockey wasn't like other sports. It was inclusive and didn't run into the same issues. How stupid of me.

And you know what, it's actually not that hard to understand why. The various 'special' leagues for selects, all filled with the same kids from the same areas. Of course it felt different because it was. Teams filled with white kids from the north. We didn't hear of issues because they all looked the same and came from the same place.

I'm glad Akim can speak up now, we need change. And Steve Downie can rot in hell.
 

RSN Diaspora

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I was gonna do a thread on this after reading that in The Players' Tribune this morning, but maybe it doesn't merit its own thread. Some thoughts:

  1. Fuck Steve Downie with a rusty garden rake. He's apparently not responding to requests for comment, which is prudent even if cowardly.
  2. Fuck Bill Peters with that same rake.
  3. As perhaps a sign of how pervasive this problem is, I haven't seen any players other than Evander Kane speak up on Aliu's behalf, and of course it would be one of the few non-white players. To that end...
    • Some of the reactions I have seen have been downright ugly. I'm not convinced that Robin Lehner was really subtweeting Aliu here as has been alleged (he says he wasn't), but if he was, fuck him too. It would be doubly disappointing, given his public struggles with mental health and addiction.
    • Many of the fans have asserted that Aliu is seeking an excuse for his lack of success at the NHL level. It's disheartening that so many people will reach to dismiss these concerns and not view them independently, irrespective of how Aliu did in the pros.
    • See also: the K’Andre Miller videoconference.
  4. Even more so than baseball, hockey interest suffers from the racial wealth divide. Basketball, soccer, and football can be played with a ball and public spaces. Baseball requires more expensive equipment (and people--can't really play one-on-one baseball), hockey is even more expensive than that, and there aren't exactly a comparable number of rinks to the other sports' spaces. It's also a lot easier to throw a football than it is to skate backward or maintain your balance while shooting a puck. Other than substantial cash investments by the hockey world in providing venues, equipment, and training, it's hard to see how hockey really ever will be for everyone.
    • This is a much bigger problem in the US--think of what few black hockey players you know: almost all of them are either Canadian raised or born. There are less than one million black Canadians, while there are over 37 million non-Hispanic African-Americans. While only a minority of them live in traditional hockey markets, that seems to be the first place to redouble efforts.
 

RIFan

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The racial wealth divide has always been part of hockey, but it is expanding at a tremendous rate. Certainly in the US, it is on track to become an elitist sport. Hockey is most definitely "not for everyone". The avenues for anyone to go through town or state leagues, play for a public high school and get the attention of scouts or college recruiters is approaching nil. Big money organizations are sorting kids out at very early ages and if you're not shelling out thousands of dollars when your kid is 5 or 6 to get them onto those teams your not going to get a second look at 14 or 15. Non-profit townie organizations are folding left and right. House leagues are almost not existent now. There just aren't enough affordable options for middle and lower income kids to get a taste of the sport and maybe show enough potential that an "elite" team might recruit them and reduce the tuition enough to allow them to join the team.
 

santadevil

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Really powerful piece here from Akim Aliu on his experiences in hockey and in life over the years. Steve Downie is and remains a gigantic piece of shit.

I came here hoping someone had posted this, thanks for doing so

I was gonna do a thread on this after reading that in The Players' Tribune this morning, but maybe it doesn't merit its own thread. Some thoughts:

  1. Fuck Steve Downie with a rusty garden rake. He's apparently not responding to requests for comment, which is prudent even if cowardly.
  2. Fuck Bill Peters with that same rake.
  3. As perhaps a sign of how pervasive this problem is, I haven't seen any players other than Evander Kane speak up on Aliu's behalf, and of course it would be one of the few non-white players. To that end...
    • Some of the reactions I have seen have been downright ugly. I'm not convinced that Robin Lehner was really subtweeting Aliu here as has been alleged (he says he wasn't), but if he was, fuck him too. It would be doubly disappointing, given his public struggles with mental health and addiction.
    • Many of the fans have asserted that Aliu is seeking an excuse for his lack of success at the NHL level. It's disheartening that so many people will reach to dismiss these concerns and not view them independently, irrespective of how Aliu did in the pros.
    • See also: the K’Andre Miller videoconference.
  4. Even more so than baseball, hockey interest suffers from the racial wealth divide. Basketball, soccer, and football can be played with a ball and public spaces. Baseball requires more expensive equipment (and people--can't really play one-on-one baseball), hockey is even more expensive than that, and there aren't exactly a comparable number of rinks to the other sports' spaces. It's also a lot easier to throw a football than it is to skate backward or maintain your balance while shooting a puck. Other than substantial cash investments by the hockey world in providing venues, equipment, and training, it's hard to see how hockey really ever will be for everyone.
    • This is a much bigger problem in the US--think of what few black hockey players you know: almost all of them are either Canadian raised or born. There are less than one million black Canadians, while there are over 37 million non-Hispanic African-Americans. While only a minority of them live in traditional hockey markets, that seems to be the first place to redouble efforts.
I think a new thread would be great, so it doesn't get buried

The racial wealth divide has always been part of hockey, but it is expanding at a tremendous rate. Certainly in the US, it is on track to become an elitist sport. Hockey is most definitely "not for everyone". The avenues for anyone to go through town or state leagues, play for a public high school and get the attention of scouts or college recruiters is approaching nil. Big money organizations are sorting kids out at very early ages and if you're not shelling out thousands of dollars when your kid is 5 or 6 to get them onto those teams your not going to get a second look at 14 or 15. Non-profit townie organizations are folding left and right. House leagues are almost not existent now. There just aren't enough affordable options for middle and lower income kids to get a taste of the sport and maybe show enough potential that an "elite" team might recruit them and reduce the tuition enough to allow them to join the team.
Even for our local not for profit hockey organization, the fees to play, even in house are starting to get expensive. Our little guy played this year at 5 years old. A lot of this is driven by our town constantly cranking up the ice rental fees each year, which get passed down to everyone. Between registration and "team" fees, we paid $750. This will be his cheapest year and if he plays all the way until he can, I'm paying that and more each year, for the next 12 years. We'll gladly do it, because my parents did it for me and it gives him a local social circle of friends, but looking at it from a different perspective, it does seem a bit crazy

I'm on the initial board getting an 18U AAA team started up in our community. Estimated team fees to play are starting at $5,500 for the year, plus an additional $400 a month for billet costs if you are sending your kid away to play (which I believe 16 of 17 of the signed players are not local)

One other thing popped into my head when I was reading too, this is a game filled mainly with white kids and the Humboldt bus crash really highlighted that, when they misidentified a couple players, as they basically all looked and were built the same (and many had dyed their hair blond for the playoffs)



And fuck Steve Downie
 

santadevil

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Side Note: for as much crap as we like to pile on Jeter, The Player's Tribune has really been a good place to get stuff like this, because I doubt a piece like this would have seen the light of day before athletes had this platform
 

pedro1918

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It's nice when you find out a guy you always thought was a POS turns out to be an even bigger POS than ever imagined. I wasn't wasting energy hating on Steve Downie, I wasn't using enough.
 

Kliq

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The racial wealth divide has always been part of hockey, but it is expanding at a tremendous rate. Certainly in the US, it is on track to become an elitist sport. Hockey is most definitely "not for everyone". The avenues for anyone to go through town or state leagues, play for a public high school and get the attention of scouts or college recruiters is approaching nil. Big money organizations are sorting kids out at very early ages and if you're not shelling out thousands of dollars when your kid is 5 or 6 to get them onto those teams your not going to get a second look at 14 or 15. Non-profit townie organizations are folding left and right. House leagues are almost not existent now. There just aren't enough affordable options for middle and lower income kids to get a taste of the sport and maybe show enough potential that an "elite" team might recruit them and reduce the tuition enough to allow them to join the team.
I know very little about hockey, so I may be completely wrong here, but hockey differs from a lot of sports in that to play it at any competitive level, you typically have to start playing young, like 5 years old, to have a chance at going far in the game. This is different from basketball and football, were plenty of professionals didn't start playing at any organized level until they were teenagers. To start that young, it really has to take a passionate parent to steer their kid onto the ice and to pay the exorbitant cost to get them to play. Without a great amount of black players/coaches/administrators at every level, it seems unlikely that black parents would have that same kind of passion to enroll their kid in hockey programs at such a young age.

This may be different in Canada, were the game's regular popularity is more common so it becomes more of "every kid does it" as opposed to the US, where it is more niche and therefore the community is going to be more closed off.
 

santadevil

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I know very little about hockey, so I may be completely wrong here, but hockey differs from a lot of sports in that to play it at any competitive level, you typically have to start playing young, like 5 years old, to have a chance at going far in the game. This is different from basketball and football, were plenty of professionals didn't start playing at any organized level until they were teenagers. To start that young, it really has to take a passionate parent to steer their kid onto the ice and to pay the exorbitant cost to get them to play. Without a great amount of black players/coaches/administrators at every level, it seems unlikely that black parents would have that same kind of passion to enroll their kid in hockey programs at such a young age.

This may be different in Canada, were the game's regular popularity is more common so it becomes more of "every kid does it" as opposed to the US, where it is more niche and therefore the community is going to be more closed off.
I don't think you're off base here. My perspective is mostly from the Canadian side, but I did coach 15U when I was in college in the US and it was a very different approach for the community down there compared to where I grew up. These kids we were coaching we angling towards being able to play for their high school team where spots are limited, vs. every kid can play because even at the 18U level, we had a travel team and two house teams (which then also took the best kids and made a tier team for the end of the year tournaments), so enough players to support 3 18U teams in a community of 12,000
 

burstnbloom

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$750 for your five year old to play hockey? That’s crazy (the price, not you).
My nephew is 9, plays AAA elite and my brother and sister in law paid between $3000 and $4000 each of the last three years for him to play. It's about $1000 more than a less competitive level. That's before you count tournaments. It's definitely only for well to do people and that sucks.
 

burstnbloom

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I know very little about hockey, so I may be completely wrong here, but hockey differs from a lot of sports in that to play it at any competitive level, you typically have to start playing young, like 5 years old, to have a chance at going far in the game. This is different from basketball and football, were plenty of professionals didn't start playing at any organized level until they were teenagers. To start that young, it really has to take a passionate parent to steer their kid onto the ice and to pay the exorbitant cost to get them to play. Without a great amount of black players/coaches/administrators at every level, it seems unlikely that black parents would have that same kind of passion to enroll their kid in hockey programs at such a young age.

This may be different in Canada, were the game's regular popularity is more common so it becomes more of "every kid does it" as opposed to the US, where it is more niche and therefore the community is going to be more closed off.
Sorry for the back to backs, but yes this is true. My son is 4 yo and I'm a huge hockey fan and he idolized his cousin, so he's spent two seasons on the ice already. I've only put in a couple hundred so far because he gets hand me down equipment and its just learn to skate, but next year he starts mosquitos and I think its $1000 tuition and he will be 5.
 

RIFan

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I know very little about hockey, so I may be completely wrong here, but hockey differs from a lot of sports in that to play it at any competitive level, you typically have to start playing young, like 5 years old, to have a chance at going far in the game. This is different from basketball and football, were plenty of professionals didn't start playing at any organized level until they were teenagers. To start that young, it really has to take a passionate parent to steer their kid onto the ice and to pay the exorbitant cost to get them to play. Without a great amount of black players/coaches/administrators at every level, it seems unlikely that black parents would have that same kind of passion to enroll their kid in hockey programs at such a young age.

This may be different in Canada, were the game's regular popularity is more common so it becomes more of "every kid does it" as opposed to the US, where it is more niche and therefore the community is going to be more closed off.
There is absolutely a conventional wisdom that you need to start at or before Kindergarten. That may be correct but not because a kid starting at 8 starts so far behind that they can't catch up, it's because the kid that starts at 8 is starting at the bottom tiers. A kid could have worlds of natural athletic ability and talent, but they will start a lower tier where ice time, possibly coaching, and most importantly expectations are less than the kid that is a middling talent but has a 3 year head start. Certainly by 11 years old the most advanced (not necessarily best) are grouped into the best organizations and are on the radar for prep and high level juniors. The for profit organizations are interested in two things, making money and winning now. Their interest in developing kids that have the drive and talent, but not the immediate ability to contribute on the ice as a less driven or talented kid but is more skill advanced isn't going to be there for most teams. I have never seen any evidence that starting a kid on a sport before 8 has any impact on their ultimate athletic potential. The other issue is that physical and chronological age are extremely inconsistent through late adolescence. Hockey compounds that by grouping by birth years. You could have a December birth date kid that is physically immature for his age competing with January birth dates that are further along on the growth curve. The starting kids early stuff has almost everything to do with getting them on the right track and very little to do with where their talent could lead them. It's become pedigree driven where you get recruited based 1st on where you play, 2nd on your immediate ability to contribute, and 3rd on what your real talent level is. The where you play has a huge money element to it. That makes it hard to rise up on talent alone.
 

burstnbloom

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There is absolutely a conventional wisdom that you need to start at or before Kindergarten. That may be correct but not because a kid starting at 8 starts so far behind that they can't catch up, it's because the kid that starts at 8 is starting at the bottom tiers. A kid could have worlds of natural athletic ability and talent, but they will start a lower tier where ice time, possibly coaching, and most importantly expectations are less than the kid that is a middling talent but has a 3 year head start. Certainly by 11 years old the most advanced (not necessarily best) are grouped into the best organizations and are on the radar for prep and high level juniors. The for profit organizations are interested in two things, making money and winning now. Their interest in developing kids that have the drive and talent, but not the immediate ability to contribute on the ice as a less driven or talented kid but is more skill advanced isn't going to be there for most teams. I have never seen any evidence that starting a kid on a sport before 8 has any impact on their ultimate athletic potential. The other issue is that physical and chronological age are extremely inconsistent through late adolescence. Hockey compounds that by grouping by birth years. You could have a December birth date kid that is physically immature for his age competing with January birth dates that are further along on the growth curve. The starting kids early stuff has almost everything to do with getting them on the right track and very little to do with where their talent could lead them. It's become pedigree driven where you get recruited based 1st on where you play, 2nd on your immediate ability to contribute, and 3rd on what your real talent level is. The where you play has a huge money element to it. That makes it hard to rise up on talent alone.
This is dead on. A kid starting at 8 is so buried its crazy. They are learning to skate where the best kids in their age group are great skaters and are dangling kids already. I'm certain there are thousands of kids who would be good hockey players that could learn to skate at age 8 or 9, but the structure of the programs would almost never allow for that child to differentiate themselves. Plus the hockey dad politicians in youth hockey are the least inclusive group of people on planet earth.
 

Kliq

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I don't think you're off base here. My perspective is mostly from the Canadian side, but I did coach 15U when I was in college in the US and it was a very different approach for the community down there compared to where I grew up. These kids we were coaching we angling towards being able to play for their high school team where spots are limited, vs. every kid can play because even at the 18U level, we had a travel team and two house teams (which then also took the best kids and made a tier team for the end of the year tournaments), so enough players to support 3 18U teams in a community of 12,000
It's very interesting. Maybe not related but I played soccer growing up in a heavily Latino, heavily immigrant, community, I was one of only 2-5 white kids on my team each season, and a notable contrast was that there didn't appear to be a lot of parental involvement in the team from most of the parents. Only four or five parents would be at any given game, many of the players rode their bikes to practice or got picked up by the coach, and for travel games we squeezed into the few parents who did go to the games SUVs and minivans. The reason for that was that being involved in your kids youth sports team generally requires some free time during weekday afternoons/early evenings, and on Saturday, and many parents, particularly recent immigrants, have to work during those time periods. I know this because ignorant 12 year old Kliq would ask "How come your parents never come to the games?".

However, the kids all still played soccer. They weren't going to play club soccer that required a bigger financial commitment and more travel, but for basic youth travel soccer, it was like $90 to register and kids just needed some cleats and shin guards and that was it. They also played soccer because while the parents didn't have the time to go to the games or attend every practice, they still had a passion for soccer and knew a lot about the game, which was passed onto their kids.

To bring this back to hockey, I think about the kids I played sports with growing up and I find it really unlikely that any of those kids would end up playing organized hockey. It takes too much a commitment, both from a time and financial perspective, and if the parents don't have an instilled, generational passion for the game, they are unlikely to make that kind of commitment, especially at a young age. That sucks because if that were not the case, because I'm sure some of those kids could have been very good players, perhaps played in high school or college, and then gotten into coaching at the youth level.
 

Leather

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I live in Minnesota, so, well, youth hockey is a thing here. Perhaps you've heard!

It's as popular as little league. Not *every* kid plays it from age 6+, but it sure seems like they do. My kids do ($750 a pop as 7 year olds, plus 6 hours of volunteer hours or we get hit with another $200 fee per kid). They took skating lessons at 3 and 4, and played in a league at 5. And they are, at best, middle of the pack. The kids they play with are already playing (well, their parents are at least) with an eye on for spots on the high school team because high school hockey in Minnesota is hyper competitive, akin to football in TX. I used to go to high school hockey games back in MA when I was in high school, and I've done score keeping at middle school tournaments here in MN, and I'd put these middle school teams up against most of those high school hockey teams in MA. It's insane how fast they play at a young age.

But even here, there's developmental teams, travelling teams, etc... that play all year round. And even at 8 years old, it's cutthroat to make those teams and can lead to neighborhood schisms over who-got-picked-over-who. Ex NHL players and ex Gopher stars live in the nice parts of the nice towns and many of them coach, so their kids buddy up with other neighborhood kids, who get on the teams, etc... so it's yet another example of the rich getting richer. So of course anybody who A) isn't well off; and B) doesn't have a connection to a former high-level player with kids their age is at a HUGE disadvantage, through no fault of their own. Not many minorities anywhere, never mind in Minnesota, can count themselves as meeting those criteria.
 
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santadevil

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I live in Minnesota, so, well, youth hockey is a thing here. Perhaps you've heard!

It's as popular as little league. Not *every* kid plays it from age 6+, but it sure seems like they do. My kids do ($750 a pop as 7 year olds, plus 6 hours of volunteer hours or we get hit with another $200 fee per kid). They took skating lessons at 3 and 4, and played in a league at 5. And they are, at best, middle of the pack. The kids they play with are already playing (well, their parents are at least) with an eye on for spots on the high school team because high school hockey in Minnesota is hyper competitive, akin to football in TX. I used to go to high school hockey games back in MA when I was in high school, and I've done score keeping at middle school tournaments here in MN, and I'd put these middle school teams up against most of those high school hockey teams in MA. It's insane how fast they play at a young age.

But even here, there's developmental teams, travelling teams, etc... that play all year round. And even at 8 years old, it's cutthroat to make those teams and can lead to neighborhood schisms over who-got-picked-over-who. Ex NHL players and ex Gopher stars live in the nice parts of the nice towns and many of them coach, so their kids buddy up with other neighborhood kids, who get on the teams, etc... so it's yet another example of the rich getting richer. So of course anybody who A) isn't well off; and B) doesn't have a connection to a former high-level player with kids their age is at a HUGE disadvantage, through no fault of their own. Not many minorities anywhere, never mind in Minnesota, can count themselves as meeting those criteria.
It's weird, as that used to be the case here in Saskatchewan, especially when I was growing up and then more and more teams were created and now the criteria to play is basically: 1) Do you have a pulse? 2) Do you parents have the ability to pay the fees?

There is starting to be more of a pushback on these year round teams as well, as some kids actually do want to play other sports and Mom and Dad have started to realize that summer hockey isn't special or for the elite like it used to be (not that it was good for the players back then either, but still). There is mounting evidence that the kids that play year round from age 8 and onwards typically don't even finish playing 18U hockey at any level as they get burnt out from it.

We had a local kid here that our oldest son's age. They played together a bit growing up, but this kid was a really good player and good kid overall. He was a year round hockey kid from age 8 and his parents forced him (and his older brother) to play 15U AA (travel) hockey in our town when he was 13, because that 15U team was short two players and the coach convinced his older brother, who wasn't going play hockey at all that year to play, just so they could get this 13 year old to play. Now, the 13yo wasn't out of place there, he is a big kid who is solid on his skates, but it was the first year of full body contact. The next year, he didn't want to play, his parents forced him to play. This past year, when he would've been an official second year 15U player, he was finally able to quit and played lacrosse instead (also for an elite Saskatchewan team). So many people in town whined about how this kid was going to potentially be the #1 overall pick in the WHL bantam draft and how he threw his hockey life away for lacrosse.
 

Dummy Hoy

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My nephew is 9, plays AAA elite and my brother and sister in law paid between $3000 and $4000 each of the last three years for him to play. It's about $1000 more than a less competitive level. That's before you count tournaments. It's definitely only for well to do people and that sucks.
This is absolutely absurd. There should be no clubs for U10 (and honestly, probably U12). Your brother and SIL are flushing money down the toilet. Less than 2% of American players become D1 players. The kids will almost assuredly end up in the same place playing town hockey with decent coaching. your family is paying for tournaments, which don't actually make the players better. Youth hockey is broken. Good news is there are a lot of people within USA hockey who see this and are making proper corrections.

Funny enough, I'd been thinking about starting a thread in response to the big divide on hockey twitter w/r/t hockey culture...it was more from the "sexism" side of things, but the Aliu situation reminds us how much ignorance there still is on the racial front as well. So we've got the sexism problem, the racism problem, the class problem, the delusions of granduer problem, and the Youth Hockey Cash Cow problem. Yeesh.

And regarding late starters- I didn't play organized hockey until I was 9...I caught up to my peers by High School to be a solid Mass D3 player. The start by 5 thing is not necessary, although it does put you behind others for sure. I f I was a bit of a better athelete or had worked harder, I could have been better.

I think this could be a very good thread.
 

RIFan

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Dummy is right on about flushing money down the toilet. My son graduated last year, but his high school added a selects program this year. They are charging $45 grand including room and board. I thought that was insane and how would they fill out 90 slots at all the age groups at that number. I'm sure they did some low key financial aid for some top tier players, but they filled every slot. A couple of kids came in with D1commits already. From the 18u team I think they had 2 kids heading to D1 on scholarships. 7 or 8 are going on to major junior. The other 12-14??? They forked over the equivalent of a year's college tuition and got what? The other thing is very few hockey scholarships are actually full. Most are less than 1/2 scholarships and aren't guaranteed for 4 years. D3 is of course non scholarship. If a family starts their kid in "elite" hockey at 5 or 6 they could easily spend $100k by the time they are ready for college and a hell of a lot more if they do 4 years of prep or selects. Put most of it in a 529 plan and pay for a townie team and they'll come out ahead 99.9% of the time.
 

Strike4

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I want to put a plug in for a ray of sunshine in all this: the Portland Hockey Trust. This program is entirely free for anybody who shows up (like my kids) and the bar for participation is so low that I cringe when thinking back on all the kids flopping on the ice with skate blades flailing. These people are saints. Kids show up on Friday afternoons at 4pm, get help suiting up in free equipment (donated) from amazing volunteers, then go out on the ice for instruction. At halftime they are provided with free snacks. One of the bars to participation in youth sports is that parents have jobs and other kids to attend to. This program also functions as childcare for those two hours. As you can see from the photos on the website, they do an excellent job of getting kids from the large immigrant and refugee population here. There are little girls skating around with hijabs, scowling and cross checking people.

It's also a nice program because the instruction is simple and there's plenty of pickup time. I know kids who are burnt out at 10 years old and just want to have fun. This provides that kind of environment since it's noncompetitive, and it attracts good players too. On the other hand, I do know a couple kids who started in this program and have zero hockey background or parental interests and they are now playing for middle school teams etc.

When we tried to donate money to the program they were like "send a check to that guy". I'm surprised they have a website now. We're always afraid it will disappear because it's such a good thing but it's so loose. I know people who send their kids out there when they are two years below the age requirement and the volunteers are like "eh...he skates ok".


31152
 

burstnbloom

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This is absolutely absurd. There should be no clubs for U10 (and honestly, probably U12). Your brother and SIL are flushing money down the toilet. Less than 2% of American players become D1 players. The kids will almost assuredly end up in the same place playing town hockey with decent coaching. your family is paying for tournaments, which don't actually make the players better. Youth hockey is broken. Good news is there are a lot of people within USA hockey who see this and are making proper corrections.

Funny enough, I'd been thinking about starting a thread in response to the big divide on hockey twitter w/r/t hockey culture...it was more from the "sexism" side of things, but the Aliu situation reminds us how much ignorance there still is on the racial front as well. So we've got the sexism problem, the racism problem, the class problem, the delusions of granduer problem, and the Youth Hockey Cash Cow problem. Yeesh.

And regarding late starters- I didn't play organized hockey until I was 9...I caught up to my peers by High School to be a solid Mass D3 player. The start by 5 thing is not necessary, although it does put you behind others for sure. I f I was a bit of a better athelete or had worked harder, I could have been better.

I think this could be a very good thread.
I agree. They actually left that program because a better program recruited him and it's half the price. One of the problems here is that there aren't a ton of options. You either play for a club team or you don't play. Another issue if your kid is actually good is that the lower tier teams are quite bad. My nephew is pretty good, not great. He's very tall and fast and rushes the puck from rd. He's a good player on his regular team but when he plays down, he turns into Bobby Orr. If the population playing were larger there would be town teams, club teams would have to compete with each other. There would be a higher overall level of competition and I think more kids would have a shot.
 

Dummy Hoy

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Falmouth
I agree. They actually left that program because a better program recruited him and it's half the price. One of the problems here is that there aren't a ton of options. You either play for a club team or you don't play. Another issue if your kid is actually good is that the lower tier teams are quite bad. My nephew is pretty good, not great. He's very tall and fast and rushes the puck from rd. He's a good player on his regular team but when he plays down, he turns into Bobby Orr. If the population playing were larger there would be town teams, club teams would have to compete with each other. There would be a higher overall level of competition and I think more kids would have a shot.
I didn't realize they had no town teams.

Where are they located?
 

FL4WL3SS

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 31, 2006
11,251
Andy Brickley's potty mouth
There is absolutely a conventional wisdom that you need to start at or before Kindergarten. That may be correct but not because a kid starting at 8 starts so far behind that they can't catch up, it's because the kid that starts at 8 is starting at the bottom tiers. A kid could have worlds of natural athletic ability and talent, but they will start a lower tier where ice time, possibly coaching, and most importantly expectations are less than the kid that is a middling talent but has a 3 year head start. Certainly by 11 years old the most advanced (not necessarily best) are grouped into the best organizations and are on the radar for prep and high level juniors. The for profit organizations are interested in two things, making money and winning now. Their interest in developing kids that have the drive and talent, but not the immediate ability to contribute on the ice as a less driven or talented kid but is more skill advanced isn't going to be there for most teams. I have never seen any evidence that starting a kid on a sport before 8 has any impact on their ultimate athletic potential. The other issue is that physical and chronological age are extremely inconsistent through late adolescence. Hockey compounds that by grouping by birth years. You could have a December birth date kid that is physically immature for his age competing with January birth dates that are further along on the growth curve. The starting kids early stuff has almost everything to do with getting them on the right track and very little to do with where their talent could lead them. It's become pedigree driven where you get recruited based 1st on where you play, 2nd on your immediate ability to contribute, and 3rd on what your real talent level is. The where you play has a huge money element to it. That makes it hard to rise up on talent alone.
This actually happened to me as a kid.

I started hockey around 8 or 9 and was stuck on C teams for a few years even though I had become one of the better players in my area. I didn't make my first B team until my third year and didn't make an A team at all. I was consistently the best skater and #1 scorer on my teams. I switched towns in 8th grade and it started all over again. I got forced to the bottom of the barrel because we weren't part of the 'in' group that had lived in town all our lives. My senior year of high school, we had a new coach that by the end of the year was apologizing to me for not having me on varsity the year before.

It's very political, even at the town level. Nevermind at the select and above level.
 

RIFan

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
2,072
Blackstone MA
This actually happened to me as a kid.

I started hockey around 8 or 9 and was stuck on C teams for a few years even though I had become one of the better players in my area. I didn't make my first B team until my third year and didn't make an A team at all. I was consistently the best skater and #1 scorer on my teams. I switched towns in 8th grade and it started all over again. I got forced to the bottom of the barrel because we weren't part of the 'in' group that had lived in town all our lives. My senior year of high school, we had a new coach that by the end of the year was apologizing to me for not having me on varsity the year before.

It's very political, even at the town level. Nevermind at the select and above level.
That was very much my son’s experience. On top of starting late at 8YO he was by far the smallest kid in his age group. He was always a coach favorite because he worked harder than anyone. His high school was a “hockey power” school and he was so discouraged about never getting a break because of his size he almost didn’t try out. He tried out only for the JV team and not only made it but was a regular as a center. He got regular ice time while kids that had played on higher level teams barely saw the ice. He won the JV award at season end and I still get a little misty thinking about what the coach said about him when presenting the award. (He was 4’9 and 80 lbs as a freshman) He got a concussion the next year and made the decision to hang them. He saw a few kids suffer through concussion recovery and the impact on their grades and didn’t want that to happen to him. His talent level was never going to lead to anything beyond high school, but it did take a coach that saw something that others didn’t to give him a fair shot. Guys that can look past the political stuff and who take a long term view on players do exist, but they are probably a distinct minority.