By: Nick Guzi
Hockey, one of the most violent and fast paced sports the world has to offer has an expensive backside that many people are not aware of. Hockey is one of the most expensive sports to play with equipment and fees to pay for. The financial burden paid by players and parents alike is an obstacle that must be surpassed in order to play, perhaps even changing the culture of the game itself.
It is often seen by Saratoga Varsity Hockey players that hockey tends to target a particular monetary class of people due to the price. “You can either afford to pay or you don’t, it’s as simple as that,” said senior Zak Ogden of Saratoga Varsity Hockey. Hockey sticks alone can cost up to three hundred dollars apiece and a pair of top of the line skates such as the Easton Mako 2’s cost around eight hundred dollars (without tax) not to mention the several other pieces of equipment that are required. Yet the gear required is absolutely essential to play the sport.
With the rise of travel hockey, the teams haven’t gotten any cheaper either.
“Travel teams can cost anywhere from a grand to four grand a year, and that doesn’t include travel and boarding for away tournaments,” said senior Ryan Jones of Saratoga High School Varsity Hockey. Playing up to sixty games a year, youth travel hockey teams consume a significant portion of a player’s career at a young age. Often, they are key to a player’s development and improvement and if a young player has any sort of dream of playing in college or beyond they will play travel hockey competitively. It’s easy to see how certain classes of people are targeted to play hockey with its countless expenses, but how does this affect the culture of the game?
It’s not news that hockey isn’t a diverse sport. Originally due to the special conditions required to play (such as cold weather and ice), now due to the price of the sport. It can even be argued that the game is starting to lose itself due to the increase in “white collar” athletes, “I don’t believe that the sport is starting to lose its soul; a game is a game it’s not going to change just because the sport has become pricy” said junior Rob Maslak of Saratoga Hockey.
Ryan Jones added, “Although there may be a different crowd playing from the olden days the game is still just as rough and is faster and more competitive than ever before, money can’t change the hunger to succeed.” As of recent years, the only changes to the game have been made for player safety. Such as the requirement of helmets to be worn by players by the National Hockey League in 1979 and new concussion protocol introduced in recent years. Other than that it’s the same game as before. It would be unwise to make assumptions that the game is losing its soul and the players clearly think the same.
As the market for hockey gear inevitably grows, three companies seem to hold a monopoly over the sport (Bauer, CCM and Easton). Not one single skater will be seen without gear from one of these companies. They have an iron grip over the hockey industry with no real competition in sight other than one another. Constant advancements in stick technology has taken players’ ability to new levels, though durability is a constant issue. For a professional player, who has an unlimited supply of sticks at his disposal durability is not an issue but for a younger player on a much tighter budget it is. “I would say a player breaks about two sticks on average a year at a minimum. It gets real pricy,” Maslak said. A top of the line retail stick will cost three hundred dollars (with tax). Hockey players know that sticks don’t last long. Even with companies preaching new sticks with “advanced durability” nothing seems to change.
Although the soul of the game has stayed constant, the prices most certainly haven’t. With no clear end to the price rise in sight the future seems grim and the prices will continue to rise and the pockets of those paying will continue to become shallower. Furthermore, Ogden said, “In order for the sport to grow more…the prices need to drop.”