With the recent moves by junior hockey teams based on Ontario Canada toward a pay to play system, players from the Province of Ontario are heading to the United States and Provinces west of Ontario in search of free to play options.
Though it was rumored to be taking place for more than a year, it looks as though players and families in Ontario either did not believe, or did not prepare for the pay to play system to be put in place. The tradition of free to play junior hockey was just that, a tradition. It was not a strong business model that could continue to go on, anyone not seeing that was either sleeping or blind.
The thought that free to play hockey was a “right” or was sustainable as a business in todays economy is not based on sound business principles.
Traditions are passed down from generation to generation. Every culture, or religion has their own traditions. For Canada, hockey is not just a cultural sport for the nation, but for many it is much like a religion. Like all cultures and religions though, the free to play culture was not able to adapt to the economic climate change and it is now dying.
Rational people look at the hockey business and see that it is the most expensive team sport to operate. Ice time, transportation, equipment and all of the other expenses grow every year. The idea that anyone has the right to not have to pay for participation in this game today is an idea that should now be extinct.
Recently a parent said to me, “Well if we have to pay to play then he is done playing.”
I could not keep from laughing out loud. The parent of a 1995 birth date player said the player was done playing if they had to pay to play? Rediculous!
Lets get this straight; Just because you played Midget AAA, Prep School or Tier III last year, you are not entitled to play hockey for free. No body is entitled to play hockey for free. Unless you are a Major Junior or USHL level player, you should be paying something. If you are not a Major Junior or USHL level player, there is a reason for it, and it may be your sense of entitlement that you are carrying like this parent did.
Players in the United states have been paying to play hockey for years. Midget AAA and Tier III costs can be as high as twenty thousand dollars a year depending on what part of the country you are playing in.
Junior team owners, most of them anyway, are not looking to turn huge profits by owning a team. Most of them would be happy to break even or have a small loss at the end of the year. Most of them own teams because they love the game, they think its good for the community and they want to provide opportunity to young men to advance up the ranks.
It is not even close to being logical that anyone can expect owners to continue to spend tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in order to have a “free to play” team. Most owners are not multi millionaires. Most have some significant assets, but not millions in the bank.
If you had two million in the bank and owned a business where you were making one hundred thousand a year, would you be willing to loose one hundred thousand a year through owning a junior team? Think how stupid that sounds? If thats a real scenario, you are giving up your entire annual income, and spending your retirement just to live while you own the team. In short order you will be broke.
If you wouldnt do it, how can you ask anyone else to keep on doing it? The above is a very real scenario.
Players in baseball, football, soccer and every other sport, pay to play. Grass does not cost that much to maintain, but no one complains about paying for these sports.
I have to question the common sense of anyone who thinks it is alright to be upset about this change in the system. Maybe we should be thanking all of these owners who have done this for so long instead of complaining about carrying our own weight. Maybe we should be greatful for having it so good for so long.
Maybe you should send a thank you card along with your first payment to the team this year. Without these owners, there are no teams. Far too often it is the owner that never gets thanks.
Then again, you can always continue to look west and south.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher