Hockey more expensive than equestrian

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Hockey is expensive.


And, in other news, the sky is blue and water is wet.


Canadians are all well aware of the costs to participate in our national passion, but a report released this week put that common knowledge in a whole new light.


Toronto-based Solutions Research Group released data Tuesday that showed hockey is the second most expensive sport for the ages of 3-17, even more than equestrian.


The report said the annual average participation cost per child playing hockey is $1,666, ahead of the $1,434 on average it costs to participate in a sport that requires one to own a horse. Water skiing, at $2,028 per year, was first.


If Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods is sweating those figures, he doesn’t show it. Woods said there are multiple social programs available to help make the sport more accessible.


“If you look at KidSport, probably hockey is the No. 1 sport where equipment is donated,” Woods said. “I don’t think equestrian is donating any horses through KidSport.


“There are opportunities for kids at a certain level to offset some of the cost.”


Woods also argues there is a return on investment.


“I think you have to balance that against the benefits you’re receiving from participation in the sport,” he said. “The opportunity to participate in a directed program with friends, that’s a value; developing different types of skills.


“I think we’re all looking at ways to minimize the cost and maximize the return on anyone’s involvement.”


Scott Cawson’s son switched from bantam to the high school league, a decision that meant roughly three times less in costs for the family. Cawson said his son playing AAA-level could have cost between $5,000 and $8,000.


“I certainly don’t love paying high numbers for sport, but for what our kids get out of it, it’s something we’ll just bite the bullet to do,” Cawson said.


“Within the hockey community, there’s lots of talk about how hockey has become a rich-man’s sport … From the ice, to the equipment, which is getting more and more expensive, it absolutely will affect (people’s participation).” David Robertson’s eight-year-old son Cole played 8A1-level hockey this winter. He worries what it means to families in less stable financial standing.


“It was reasonable for us, but it’s expensive,” he said. “What I always worry about is how other kids are going to be able to get into the sport who are less fortunate. That’s where my mind always goes.”


Robertson said his son is in love with the sport, but acknowledges concern for how to tackle the costs that are, like his son, only going to get bigger.


“The best we can do is plan for what we have heard the costs would be, and then decide when we get there if it’s something we’re going to have to make some concessions on other areas of our life for (in order) to support him in his hockey,” he said.



No such thing as a cheap alternative to hockey

Dealing with stark financial realities is not just a concern for hockey parents, the head of Basketball Manitoba says.


A report released this week indicating hockey is now the second most expensive sport for youth to play — ahead of equestrian — raised some eyebrows and invariably will lead some to assume cash-strapped parents will soon turn to sports with fewer intrinsic expenses.


Basketball Manitoba executive director Adam Wedlake said some families find basketball to be an affordable alternative, often surprised by just how financially accessible it can be. But that doesn’t mean everyone can do it.


“They were just getting fed up, I guess, and just can’t keep up with that demand on the family,” he said. “But we still see on our side, when we say $200 (for registration) or there’s a $25 tryout fee for our provincial team, there’s still families that won’t get involved because of that.”


Parent Scott Cawson said there’s no such thing as a cheap alternative.


“If you look at any sports program, beyond the community club level, it’s very expensive,” Cawson said. “Figure skating, football, even soccer. My daughter dances, it’s $400 a class. So for us to drop $1,200 in a year for dance class is no big surprise.”


Wedlake said the growth of basketball locally — it has been cited as the fastest growing sport in Canada — has plenty to do with culture.


“Our biggest growth in our sport is called new Canadians, mainly from Asian and African countries, mainly because they’re aware of basketball in their neck of the woods,” Wedlake said. “That’s the sport they grew up with, so it’s an easy sell when they come here.”


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