BY Daniel Scheer & Evan Milner
“My son just turned seven years old. His classmates are starting to enter novice level hockey leagues and he’s been asking me if he can play with them, but it’s not so easy,” says Jonathan Katz.
“Our family friend’s son has been playing for three seasons now and they have had to buy two sets of equipment already. Add that to the price of registration and it’s a pretty penny.”
When adding that all up and multiplying it by two, it becomes an extremely daunting task, says Katz, a father of two.
“My second son who just turned five, when he sees his older brother playing, he’s going to want to play right away. Add in another registration fee along with more equipment, I’m not sure it’s feasible at this time.”
The cost of parents placing their children in organized sports has been rising dramatically in recent years. Registration fees have become expensive and other expenses like equipment and tournaments have made signing their children up for sports a financial burden.
Not all sports equipment is expensive, and there are options that are available at different price points. But quality hockey equipment can be pricey. A stick alone today can cost anywhere between $150 to $400 and often children like to bring two sticks to the arena in case one of them breaks.
Even in a sport like baseball, where there’s not much equipment on the body, the costs can be high due to purchasing a baseball bat, mitt, and batting gloves.
According to Lorne Cohen, a financial advisor at the Richter. INC family consulting firm, while there are some options parents can look at to make youth sports more affordable, the choices are slim.
“Obviously there is nothing parents can do about registration costs, but there are ways to make the equipment much more affordable, especially if you have multiple kids who want to play the same sport,” says Cohen.
Cohen emphasized that equipment is always the most stressful part about enrolling children in youth sports programs because of how expensive it can get. However, it is often possible to find used equipment in condition at a lower cost, especially if there are other children who have played sports in the family.
“Parents can give their younger children hand-me-downs or buy used equipment,” he says. “There are many used equipment stores all over the city looking for clientele and are happy to help. If there is one piece of advice I can give to anyone, it’s that you don’t have to have the best equipment to be the best player.”
Besides investing in used equipment, parents can also look into special programs that are in place to help further offset the cost of organized sports for their children.
NDG Minor Hockey Association , one of the largest hockey organizations in Montreal, offers a specialized grant called the Kruger Big Assist program. Families in the NDG area who are in need of assistance with registration costs are offered a maximum subsidy of $200.
“I’ve been part of the organization for a long time now, and this is probably one of the most important things we’ve done as a group here,” says Association President Brenda Gallant. “My team and I just want all kids in the NDG area who want to play hockey to be able to do so and be part of something special. We know how expensive this sport can get and we want to give families every opportunity possible.”
Youth hockey registration in Canada has increased dramatically in just over 10 years. According to Gallant, the average cost of registration for minor hockey (kids ages 5-17) in the 2012-2013 season was $110 to $130. However, in the 2022 season, the registration fees fluctuated anywhere from $680 to $706, five to six times the amount it was 10 years ago.
When looking at combining all aspects together, including equipment, registration and travel fees, being part of a youth hockey team can cost a parent anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000.
With hockey becoming increasingly expensive, parents may want to look at other, more cost effective sports such as soccer or basketball.
Sports psychologists have been advocating for children to not be afraid to try new sports at a young age.
“Sometimes with some children that I’ve spoken to, I have to just recommend trying different sports,” says children’s sport psychologist Sarah Atlas. “There are really not many alternatives with hockey equipment and registration becoming so expensive. However, thankfully during the winter time, there are so many sports to choose from. Kids don’t often have to look very far when figuring out which new sport to enroll in.”
It may be an attractive alternative for people like the Katz family.
“My two kids shoot hoops with me on our net in front of the house,” says Katz. “Maybe I can enroll them in a youth basketball program before buying them hockey equipment and see if they change their minds.”