Hockey For Rookie Parents – What You Need To Know

Hockey 2 Evaluations – they skate for 2 hours for 2 days in a row and are ranked according to skating ability. This way teams are balanced to start the year.

My youngest son Matthew is playing ice hockey this year, like any good Canadian kid. It is awesome watching him skate around out there and having fun! Like Matthew, I’m a rookie too, as this is the first year either of my kids are playing organized ice hockey. I’ve already learned some lessons that I can pass along to future hockey parents – hope you enjoy the post.

What Level Should My Kid Play In?

Matthew is playing hockey with the Semiahmoo Minor Hockey Association. He turned 6 this year, which puts him at the Hockey 2 level, which is in the Initiation or Tyke age category for Hockey Canada or PCAHA. The Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association is the umbrella association for minor hockey clubs like Semiahmoo Minor.

Category

Hockey Canada

PCAHA

Players’ Ages

Hockey 1

Initiation

Tyke

primarily 5 year olds

Hockey 2

Initiation

Tyke

6 year olds

Hockey 3

Novice

Novice

7 year olds

Hockey 4

Novice

Novice

8 year olds

Kids older than 8 years will play in the Atom level and advance from there:

  • Atom (ages 9-10)
  • Pee Wee (ages 11–12)
  • Bantam (ages 13–14)
  • Midget (ages 15–17)
  • Juvenile (ages 18–20)

My Kid is Really Good – What About Rep Teams and Junior Hockey?

First of all, everyone’s kid is really good. Yes, every single kid is going to the NHL. However, should you really and truly be raising the next future NHL star (like everyone – yes, everyone), elite players will play on travel or “rep” teams which scale up all the way to various junior level leagues, which are for players from 16-20 years of age. The age at which rep teams start varies between associations and provinces. I’ve seen rep teams begin as early as age 6 or 7. To make the roster of a rep team, tryouts are typically required. Those that don’t make it to rep are encouraged to stay in house leagues.

How Much Does It Cost?

Well, that depends. First – how good is your kid? No, seriously. Second – how much money do you have?

Here’s a breakdown of payables. For us, Matthew is beginning young, and in a house league, so this is probably the cheapest season of hockey we will ever pay for.

Registration Fee:

 $535

Equipment:

 $200

Tournament Entry Fee:

 $60

Trophy, Socks, Gift for Coach:

 $65

Volunteer Fee:

 $200

Total:

 $1060

We got the cheap starter equipment bag from Canadian Tire, which includes pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, shinguards and a practice jersey. We got a cheap composite stick from Costco. Matthew’s skates are hand-me-downs from his older brother, and he had a helmet that still fits from his old skating lessons. So this is on the very cheap side of the scale, even for a 6 year old player. The Volunteer Fee is interesting – if you choose not to “volunteer” you can pay a fee of $200. All others are “Voluntold” to put in at least 4 hours of work for the association, which usually involves fundraising of some kind.

There is a much broader conversation about the cost of hockey in North America. There have been many articles written about how much minor hockey costs, and how the cost to play is prohibitive.

“We are catering to the kids that are more spoiled in that they come from money – they want this, they want that – and those are the kids that eventually down the line don’t make it because they’ve had everything given to them easy. It’s the ones that have to work harder, train harder and don’t have the money (who) are hungrier to get (successful) and we’re knocking those kids out of the game.”
– Peter Zezel, former NHL player. Quote via The Star

The cost to put Matthew in minor hockey, playing with his 6 year old buddies is on the very low end of the spectrum. As the kids get older, registration and equipment can cost more than $10,000 a season, and God forbid you have a kid that’s a goalie.

What Do We Get For This Money?

Semiahmoo Minor has hundreds of players registered every year, and the vast majority of people are volunteers. Matthew’s team has a Head Coach, two Assistant Coaches, Team Manager, Player Safety person. In addition, there is a power skating coach who specializes in improving the kids’ skating skills.

If you’ve played any hockey, you know how expensive ice time can be, even if you’ve got a dozen players splitting the cost at midnight. Despite the cost, I thought there was actually decent value for what we’ve paid – 2 to 3 sessions each week, varying days and times. Ice times are as early as 7AM, as late as 6PM, which is not bad at all. From October to mid-December, it’s strictly practices, power skating and scrimmages. Our one tournament is just before Christmas, which is also when games begin against other league teams.

What’s Next?

Matthew and myself both love hockey, and we’re both competitive. Once he and his brother threatened to cheer for the Blackhawks because they had beaten the Canucks in the playoffs. I then promptly told them to pack a bag if they want to cheer for another team. I’m certain there will be some future posts about Crazy Hockey Parents, which may in fact be introspective. I’m also hoping to write posts about coaching, scheduling and finances.

If you’ve got any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know below.

Canucks Summer: No News is Good News?

The Colour of Money – it’s not Canucks blue and green

Two of the biggest free agents this summer were Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They signed twin contracts in the Twin Cities with the Minnesota Wild. Both players signed for 98 million over 13 years. Are these guys worth their contracts? Are any players worth this kind of money? Inevitably, comparisons will always be made to other contracts in the NHL. Parise’s contract makes sense looking at other big name offensive stars in the league, but Suter’s contract is the type of deal that artificially drives up the prices of lesser players. Suter’s cap hit is the 2nd highest for an NHL defenceman, only behind Shea Weber, and ahead of big names such as Zdeno Chara, Mike Green, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith. Time will tell if Suter is worth that type of money, without Shea Weber playing next to him.

Rick Nash was traded from the Blue Jackets to the Rangers. Although Columbus GM Scott Howson insists that this was a good deal for the Jackets, it’s not. Columbus gets Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon. Dubinsky and Anisimov are two roster players, and Erixon is a young depth defenceman who will get a chance to play in Columbus. Generally speaking, the team that loses the best player loses the trade. In this case, Nash is by far the best player in the deal. Columbus lost their best player, and look to be treading water again. The Rangers on the other hand look great – they still have a great young defence corps, and added a top notch goal scorer to help out up front.

The Canucks did manage to pick up Jason Garrison, for a cap hit of 4.6 million per year, over a 6 year term. Garrison will hopefully fill the holes left by Sami Salo and Aaron Rome. Garrison could be described as a combination of the two – he possesses the heavy shot of Salo, and has the size of Rome. Time will tell if this former Panther is worth his contract, as the jury is decidedly still out on both David Booth and Keith Ballard, also picked up from Florida.

Luongo not yet traded, Schneider signed to 3-year deal

Roberto Luongo is still a great starting goaltender, and his cap hit of 5.3 million is actually 9th among active goalies. Not bad, but it’s not the cap hit that teams are shying away from – it’s the length of the term, and to an extent, the uncertainty of the upcoming CBA structure.

As if to confirm the Canucks are looking to trade Luongo, they signed former backup Cory Schneider to a 12 million dollar contract over 3 years, at a cap hit of 4 million per year. With Luongo at a cap hit of 5.3 million per year from now until eternity (2021-2022), that means 9.3 million per year is tied up with 2 goaltenders. Mike Gillis doesn’t want to be burned with a bad trade (see: Rick Nash), and he has stated that he isn’t afraid to start the season with both goalies in the lineup.

Having said all that, Luongo has gone on record saying that he believes it’s time to move on. During this interview, Luongo was thoughtful, humorous and candidly retrospective – qualities that were missing too often from his post-game appearances, especially during his tenure as the team’s captain.

Roberto Luongo Interview with CFOX’s Jeff O’Neil Show

What does this all mean?

At this time, the core roster players are mainly the same, including the excellent goaltending tandem of Luongo and Schneider. Arguably, the Canucks have lost a key piece of their defence with Salo leaving, but Garrison fills that spot and adds durability. With the Canucks winning the President’s Trophy for the last two seasons, they might be alright heading into this season. Then again, with some of their divisional rivals getting better (the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild), points will be tougher to gain in the Northwest Division.

Fans should keep the faith. The Canucks always seem to play well when the pressure is on, and with management holding onto vast majority of last season’s roster, the pressure has never been greater.

Canucks Season Post-Mortem: Everybody Relax

Now that the taste of bitterness of the Canucks first round exit has diminished, and the second round is now underway, it’s a good time to look back on the Canucks season.

The Canucks earned their 2nd President’s Trophy in a row this season, earning the most points in the league again. Say what you will about a weak Northwest Division, I maintain that it’s still a great accomplishment. Look around the NHL – the only truly competitive divisions in terms of playoff calibre teams are the Atlantic, and the Central. If you’re the class of the Pacific, Northeast, Southeast or Northwest, you should have a shot at the President’s Trophy. So where are those teams in the race?

With respect to the playoffs, every year there are teams that win and lose unexpectedly. The playoffs aren’t played on paper, they’re played on the ice. Teams rise and fall in cycles – players get hot and cold, teams look good and bad. If you’ve ever played any competitive sports, you know this. Sometimes you’re in the zone, and feel unbeatable. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, you can’t get it together. If you’ve watched the Canucks for a long time, this isn’t the first time you’ve suffered, and you know it won’t be the last. If you’re new to being a Canucks fan, welcome aboard, and hang on tight. There will be ups and downs, but it’ll be fun.

Coaching controversy

Alain Vigneault is still the coach of the Vancouver Canucks, and I feel he will be for next season. There is no shortage of opinion on the matter on Twitter, and @korvan made an excellent point just after the Canucks lost their series to the Kings:

If you let go of Vigneault, who’s out there that’s better?

Vigneault won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year in the 2006-07 season. All he’s done since then is gone on to coach the team to two President’s Trophies and to the Stanley Cup Finals. That’s not too shabby. Who is available that can be better than that? Ron Wilson? Marc Crawford? Mike Keenan? Come on now.

Goaltending controversy

We will look back on this time as a golden age of goaltending in this glorious city. For a city with fans that love the backup more than they love the starter (Attaboy Troy!), we may all rue the day that we had to trade Number 1 away. A lot has to happen for Roberto Luongo to be traded away from the Canucks, but this seems to be a foregone conclusion. He has said he will lift his no movement clause if that is what’s best for the team, and speculation about where he will go to has run rampant since then. Toronto, Tampa Bay and Florida seem to be the most popular destinations. Other cities in the conversation include Edmonton and Chicago, among others. Personally, I can’t see Mike Gillis trading Luongo to a team that could come back to haunt us early in the playoffs, unless the deal is something he can’t resist.

Make no mistake: Roberto Luongo is the greatest starting goaltender ever to put on the Canucks uniform. The statistics below don’t lie. It’s also no coincidence that teams and cities that loved to cut Luongo down are falling all over themselves, in search of a starting goaltender who can take them deep into the playoffs. Yes Vancouver, it’s true. Many teams in the NHL believe Luongo can take them deep into the playoffs, even as some of us have doubts.

Goaltender Season GP W L T OTL     GAA     SV%
Roberto Luongo     2010-11     60     38     15     -      7 2.11 .928
Kirk McLean 1991-92 65 38 17 9 - 2.74 .901
Richard Brodeur 1981-82 52 20 18 12 - 3.35 .891
Dan Cloutier 2003-04 60 33 21 6 - 2.27 .914
Arturs Irbe 1997-98 41 14 11 6 - 2.73 .907
Corey Hirsch 1995-96 41 17 14 6 - 2.93 .903
Cesare Maniago 1976-77 47 17 21 9 - 3.36 -
Félix Potvin 1999-00 34 12 13 7 - 2.59 .906
Cory Schneider 2011-12 33 20 1.96  .937

I believe Cory Schneider looked good this year. I believe he will be a great goaltender for this team. However, what I believe, and what is factual are different things. Here are the facts:

  • Schneider is a Restricted Free Agent still in search of a long term deal. If a long term deal can’t be made, the Canucks can always make a qualifying offer for him, but risk losing him as an Unrestricted Free Agent next summer if they do so.
  • Schneider didn’t play a starting goaltender’s minutes in Vancouver this year.
  • The glare of the spotlight is much brighter – and much hotter – on the starting goaltender in this city.
  • Schneider has 1 playoff win to his credit, and 38 career regular season wins.

Hopefully Mike Gillis can get a long term deal done with Schneider, and trade Luongo to a team that won’t break our hearts in the playoffs next year.

Playoff Injury Report

It is always interesting to see which players had which injuries once they are out of the playoffs and the Cone of Silence is finally lifted. As it turns out:

  • Ryan Kesler has problems with a shoulder, as well as nagging post-surgical hip issues. He is looking at a long period of physical rehab and strengthening this summer. Only his abs remain uninjured.
  • Chris Higgins was suffering from an abdominal strain as he took the sit-up contest with Ryan Kesler a little too far.
  • Kevin Bieksa has finally admitted his “Maintenance Week” was just a little more serious than “Maintenance Days”.
  • Alexander Edler indeed played with one eye, and only one half of his brain in the first round.
  • Sami Salo is remarkably uninjured.
  • Alex Burrows and Max Lapierre were drinking Faderade instead of Gatorade.
  • Mason Raymond as suspected, has a serious leg length discrepancy, which explains all of the falling.
  • Roberto Luongo played despite a broken heart.

Nothing wrong with the Sedins – they were pretty good.

Thoughts regarding the early demise of the Canucks

The Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the Company is true.

Galadriel – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

There is no question that the Stanley Cup is the most difficult championship to win in pro sports.

There are 8 great teams in the Western Conference that made the playoffs this year. No easy matchups – just ask the Red Wings, Sharks, Blackhawks and Canucks – all out in the first round, joined by the Bruins and Penguins in the east. I have long stated that to go deep in the playoffs, it sure helps to have a hot goaltender. I have to amend that this year – it sure helps to have two hot goaltenders.

Still doesn’t work?

To go deep in the playoffs, it sure helps if you have two hot goaltenders, and play a goaltender that isn’t hotter, and you can score a few goals.

When the playoffs begin, it is a new season. A chance to clear away the disappointments of the regular season. As the Canucks learned, if you have a slow start in the playoffs, you might as well pack your bags. There’s no room for error. If you’re lucky enough to make it through one round, you get to do it all over again. And again. And again.

The Canucks have a great team. Two President’s Trophies do count for something. Not as much as a Stanley Cup, but .. there’s always next year.

And The Beats Go On in the NHL

With apologies to Sonny and Cher:

The beats go on, the beats go on – Checks keep pounding hits to the brain…

Raffi Torres Suspended 25 Games for hit on Marian Hossa

Raffi Torres: 5 time! 5 time! 5 time! 5 time! 5 time repeat offender!

Brendan Shanahan and the NHL Player Safety Department made a statement by suspending Raffi Torres for the remainder of this year’s playoffs, and probably well into the 2012-2013 regular season. I do not have a problem with the length of this suspension. My issue is with the consistency of the suspensions as a whole. The Torres hit on Hossa was dangerous, but according to Justyna Gluch (@MidwayJustyna from Midway Madness), it was a borderline hockey play – maybe a fraction of a second too late, and if Torres had not leaped into Hossa, the hit would have a little more legal. I’d like to add and underline the word “reckless“. Torres is a 5 time repeat offender with respect to the NHL and supplementary discipline, and all of his hits have the same careless, reckless nature. They’re all at high speed, and all direct shots to the head, with the elbow or shoulder.

There’s no need for that type of play. It’s clear Torres didn’t see the pre-season video from the NHL Player Safety Department, or maybe his copy was switched with Don Cherry’s Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Hockey. Either way, if Torres wants to stay in the NHL, he needs to re-tool his game, much like Matt Cooke did this season with the Penguins.

Very little consistency from NHL Player Safety department

Torres was handed a 25-game suspension, yet Shea Weber’s WWE turnbuckle smash of Henrik Zetterberg’s head got him a $2500 fine. Other star players received fines or 1-game suspensions that did not hurt their team. Perhaps it’s just anecdotal evidence that I’m looking at, but it does seem that “star players” in the NHL are not served the same rulebook as “role players”.

No respect among NHL players

Respecting the opposition doesn’t mean you have to invite them to the team-only Super Mario Kart tournament, or to the pregame soccer warm-up. Respect to me is some basic human decency, within the framework of a game of hockey. Bodychecks are legal hits, meant to dislodge a player from the puck. A legal check doesn’t have to be thrown at 50 M.P.H. with the intent to hit the player into next week.

This has been happening for a long time. Scott Stevens made a career out of hard hits, half of which would be borderline hockey plays, and likely reviewed for suspension. There is a long list of players that have ended their careers early because of hits to the head. Hockey fans have to wonder how hockey history would be different if players like Keith Primeau, Eric Lindros, Paul Kariya and Marc Savard had played full and healthy careers. Sidney Crosby may yet be added to that list.

Is there anything wrong with letting up a bit? Hits at 30 M.P.H. along the ice are still just as devastating. How about a quick “Heads Up”, or God forbid letting your skills do the talking?

Players expect too much of the league, and should expect more of themselves

How many times have you watched player interviews after a game with a questionable hit? Coaches and players are guilty of trying to “let the league deal with it”. The players go out and play their game, hit their hits, and then take whatever happens with respect to discipline. Am I the only one who believes the players should just know better?

 

 

Canucks Need to Stop Drinking Faderade

 

Gatorade. It’s the classic sports drink for rehydrating athletes.

Haterade. It’s what everyone outside of BC drinks when the Vancouver Canucks come up in conversation. The sports beverage of choice for chirping and trolling in Calgary, Toronto, Boston and Chicago, among others.

Faderade. It’s what the Canucks are drinking this post season.

There’s no other explanation for their performance in the playoffs this year. All the way up and down the roster, with perhaps the exception of the goaltending, the Canucks have been underachieving. The Canucks were picked by many to have a good chance to go deep in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Many had picked the Canucks to meet the Penguins in the final, and now both teams are facing a 3-game deficit.

Defensive coverage has been indefensible. #PunIntended

Alex Edler, who led the Canucks in points from the defense, has been nothing short of abysmal. In fact the entire Canucks defense corps in Games 1 and 2 of this series was suspect. Shot blocking techniques aside, if you play defense in the NHL and you find yourself diving to reach for pucks, there is a good chance you are out of position. If you are trying to play goaltender as a defenseman, even though you have one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL, chances are you are out of position.

If the Canucks are going to win, they will need the type of coverage we saw in Game 3.

Offensive production has been offensive. #PunIntended

The basic objective of the game of hockey is to score more goals than your opponent. The team that scores the most goals wins the game. As such you need to score in order to win.

Yes, having Daniel Sedin on the sidelines has not made it easier for the Canucks. He was the Canucks leading scorer during the regular season. However, the Canucks are built for depth. When one player is out, others have always stepped up in the past. Henrik, Kesler, Higgins, Booth, Raymond, Burrows – these guys are all capable of putting the puck in the net. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has been very good, but he hasn’t been required to be spectacular yet.

Inspiration

The Canucks have all the tools they need to win. They’ve beaten the Kings before, without Daniel Sedin. They have usually adjusted well after losses, and come back with good effort. This year’s playoffs seem to be different. You could see it in the player’s post game interviews – frustration, with a touch of disappointment.

If the Canucks and their fans need inspiration to stay positive, confident and motivated, they need to look no further than their captain, Henrik Sedin.

Henrik was rocked by a hit from the Kings captain Dustin Brown, right in front of the Canucks bench. Brown had a line on him from well below the blue line; not at full speed, but from a long distance. The hit wasn’t dirty per se, but Henrik had a hard time getting onto the bench. After gathering himself, Henrik left for the dressing room.

Minutes later, Henrik was taking his regular shift. Later in the game, he had an amazing shift on a Canucks power play that lasted for well over 3 minutes, and did everything except put the puck in the net.

That is the type of effort that will lead the Canucks to a win in Game 4.

That is the Heart of a Canuck.