It’s hockey season again!
I know this because on at least two occasions recently the evening national news broadcast led with a story about fighting in hockey. And because the morning news features clips of guys saying things like “we played hard and kept our focus”. And because Louis goes home early one night a week now to accommodate his older brother’s hockey schedule.
Here’s the thing.
I don’t like hockey.
The actual sport of hockey, I have no problem with. I used to play shinny on the pond when I was a kid. I love watching Olympic-level hockey (no fights, you see). It’s the whole minor hockey system in this country that has totally turned me off – and apparently I’m not alone. According to Canada AM today, 90% of Canadian parents are not involved in minor hockey.
(Something you’d never know, if you looked at the disproportionate amount of ink, air time, and Tim Horton’s commercials dedicated to the good ol’ hockey game.)
I have always said that I’ll do my best to support my kids if they express an interest in a sport or activity – and so we’ve done baseball, tae kwon-do, swimming, soccer. I buy lots of craft supplies so Ron can indulge his artistic bent and I’ve been slowly teaching Harry to cook.
I draw the line at hockey, though.
It’s expensive. Registration fees for the season seem to be secret here – at least I can’t find them on the Hockey Nova Scotia webpage – but I’ve heard $450. Then you need equipment, and it’s a long list: helmet, faceguard, mouthguard, chin strap, throat protector, shoulder pads, elbow pads, jock, wrist pads, pants, gloves, shin pads, skates, stick. I’m guessing all of that is at least another few hundred dollars. Plus tax. We have three kids. We could easily spend $2500 – $3000 just getting the three of them on the ice.
Then there is the time commitment. Arthur’s first winter of hockey – he was FOUR – he had practices every Saturday and Sunday, all winter long. Louis’ brother has his practices on Tuesdays at 5PM, and I remember there was a tournament once that required him to miss school for two days because there were games scheduled at 2PM on Thursday & Friday. Hockey parents complain, a lot. They complain about early practices, weekends lost to tournaments, Saturday mornings given up to fundraising at the grocery store or neighbourhood bottles drives. I’ve said it before - hockey isn’t an extracurricular activity, it’s a lifestyle. If that’s your bag, great. It’s not for us.
And finally, I have significant ethical issues with involving my kids in a sport where at the professional level, solving one’s grievances with brutal violence is considered “part of the game“. I never, ever allow my children to work out their difficulties by hitting, or kicking, or using unnecessarily hurtful words. In baseball, for example, outbursts of temper on the field will get you tossed out of the game. Throwing your helmet down in a snit after you strike out? You get tossed and so you should, because you are grown men playing a child’s game for millions of dollars. I want my kids to see professional athletes and aspire to be them. I do not want my kids staying up late to watch hockey so they can see men throwing their gloves down and having a stupid fist fight over a goddamn game.
Look, I hate it when people at the grocery store park their cart on one side of the aisle so that they can read labels on the other side of the aisle. It grinds my gears. And would it make me feel better to drop my list, yank someone’s cardigan up over their head, and then start punching them in the back of the head until they learned manners? Maybe. But I don’t, because that’s not how adults are supposed to act.
Finally, the danger. At the lower levels there isn’t much chance you’re going to get hurt. I’ve seen how Timbits “skate”. There is a lot of falling, and verrrry sloooowly colliding with your teammates. The kids are so bundled in safety gear that there really is nothing that’s going to happen to you except in remarkable rare circumstances.
But then they get older, bigger, heavier, faster. Concussions are common. Teeth get broken. Spinal injuries are not unheard of. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Ontario alone reported 8,000 hockey-related injuries severe enough to require a trip to the emergency room – in one season.
In today’s overly-protective safety-conscious society, I find it strange that any activity that causes that many injuries to children is still so venerated a part of our national identity.
So! That’s why we aren’t a hockey family. That’s why when George was born on January 6th, we were not as excited as all the hockey dads at Michael’s office. That’s awesome for when he plays hockey! He’ll always be the oldest kid on his team! That’s why we are always well-rested during playoff season and why we don’t care how much tickets to a Maple Leafs game are going for this year.
I expect the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to show up at my door any day now to revoke my citizenship.