When I was new to the sport of youth ice hockey, a well-intentioned hockey dad told me, “Don’t buy big when it comes to skates. Buy the best stick.” A $200 starter stick? Gulp! Thank goodness that didn’t prove to be true. An inexpensive stick won’t cheat your child out of her goals. When you’re just starting out, bad advice can spin you in all the wrong directions. I teamed up with veteran Camillus, N.Y. hockey mom Caroline Stanistreet to help set the record straight with our list of Top 10 Youth Hockey Myths.
Myth 10. Hope you don’t require much sleep, because early ice times are inescapable.
Fact: There’s some truth to this myth, but only when your athlete is very young, or in a tournament. Things get better with age, and especially if you play in an area with adequate sheets of ice.
Myth 9. Youth hockey requires costly equipment. You should expect a huge upfront financial commitment.
Fact: Like many sports, some equipment is required to play youth hockey. And new equipment is often expensive. But new equipment is not a prerequisite to success. In fact, gently worn hand-me-down equipment is always available from other parents or your local Play-It-Again Sports (or equivalent), and most teams participate in a handful of fundraisers throughout the season to defray ongoing costs. It all makes a difference! For those at the very preliminary stages of evaluating this sport, USA Hockey even provides opportunity for you to try it for free!
Myth 8. Prepare to clear your calendar, because you’ll have no time for anything else six months out of the year.
Fact: It’s really not that bad. And you’ll likely be hanging out with your friends (or making new ones!) Truth is, youth hockey typically requires a couple of weeknight practices and a few hours on weekends. But if your kid loves hockey, is there really anything else he or she would rather be doing (or you would rather have them doing)?
Myth 7. Invest in some industrial-grade nose plugs, because the stank of sweaty gear is out of this world.
Fact: OK, turns out this is true. BUT, with an Odor Gladiator in your athlete’s hockey bag and a rigorous routine of air drying (and periodically cleaning) equipment after every session on the ice, you can sink the stink.
Fact: Most parents are fantastic, and we’ve built some lasting friendships while investing time at the rink. Sure, there will always be that one dad who berates his child while he’s playing (and that one mom who thinks her progeny is the only child on the team). But that’s true for baseball, soccer and lacrosse, too.
Myth 5. Brrr…! All rinks are icy cold.
Fact: Well, it is ice hockey, and sitting besides a sheet of ice is bound to be cold. But most rinks have a warm concession area, video games for the kids and occasionally a decent pro shop for parents to shake off those shivers during downtime. On the positive side, you’ll never suffer a sudden deluge while rink side. Nor will you risk sunburn, bug bites or other environmental nastiness common in outdoor arenas.
Myth 4. Youth ice hockey is plagued with serious injuries.
Fact: Thanks to improved equipment (notably, helmets), there are fewer injuries today than in the past. Both parents and officiating bodies are focused on initiatives related to concussion prevention and identification, and safe behaviors on the ice. Nevertheless, youth players still occasionally encounter the larger skater who’s at the peak of his growth spurt and decides to deliver an illegal check from behind. That behavior is intolerable. Your coaching staff’s instructions on proper checking combined with your child’s ability to listen, learn and practice such techniques reduce the likelihood of serious injuries arising on the ice.
Myth 3. It’s important for my kid to score rather than skate.
Fact: While everyone likes to see their child score, well rounded skaters (and their parents) focus also on developing shooting, stick handling and skating skills. And while scoring is an important part of the game, so is providing an assist. And good sportsmanship. Remind your hockey player not to be a puck hog, especially as assists add points to player statistics.
Myth 2. The parent sitting next to me is still my best friend, even after my kid scored three goals and her kid scored none.
Fact: Well, maybe not this evening. But we’ll be best friends again tomorrow, I’m sure. Truth is, at this age our young athlete’s performance is often inconsistent. And tomorrow my kid might not play so well, and hers might be a star. Meanwhile, parents can take a page out of USA Hockey’s playbook and relax, it’s just a game.
Fact: Ah, statistically speaking, probably not. And that’s OK. Let’s face it, becoming a pro in this or any other sport is an extraordinary occurrence, and while it might be aspired to it really shouldn’t be the primary goal of parents, particularly when there are so many intermediate benefits that the sport provides youth athletes. More generally, however, parental encouragement of their athlete’s hockey passion is welcome. Kids who love the sport should be encouraged to play in high school, and later, perhaps, in college. And who knows…maybe someday, your child will skate with the pros!
Heard a good hockey myth? We’d love to hear them! After all, bad advice can cost you plenty, but good advice is more valuable than a tournament hat trick.