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The Endless Hockey Season: Is It A Good Thing?

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The off-season for hockey will start in a few weeks.

Or will it?

Apparently not. These days, it seems many hockey parents and players consider what used to be the traditional off-season, when kids played outdoors and changed sports until the next winter season, as the real season, because it is the time of year when AAA all-star teams are formed and tournaments are played, weekend after weekend. The off-season teams have cool jerseys, expensive jackets and warm-ups for players and parents. It's also a time for tournament organizers to rake in the big bucks. 

This is part of an e-mail I recieved today promoting a three-day camp for female hockey players (because I coach a boys' high school team in Minnesota and the camp is located in Toronto, Canada, I am not sure why I got it):  

A 3-day high intensity ON and OFF ice training camp for dedicated rep level
who want to get an advantage at the end of the season. You will be
working on your 
speed, skills and conditioning ON the ice and you will also
work on your speed, 
strength, quickness, and conditioning OFF the ice so
that you head into your 
final games of the season, and tryouts for next
season, feeling and performing 
your best. 

In addition to working on
individual skills like skating, shooting and stickhandling, 
we will also
spend time each day working on position-specific skills for forwards 

Wow, all of this in three days? If only it were so easy and for the meager cost of $32.50 per hour per player plus travel and hotel rooms. That a cool grand for the weekend! What is wrong with adults, who are quite rational in the rest of their lives, but then fall prey to false claims like this? A weekend event in my hometown called "Super Series" nets $100,000 for a 4-day event. Kids need to miss school for the first couple days in order to play a few games. The sponsors say that they are a non-profit organization. Who are they kidding besides the IRS?

Playing youth and high school sports is about being a well-rounded student athlete. Athletics has the ability to teach sportsmanship, teamwork, respect, confidence, and how to operate in a team environment. The kids who play sports look down on their classmates who spend most of their time in academic studies and activities, but the joke is on the athletes who sacrifice their academics in pursuit of unrealistic dreams of professional athletic careers, as less than 1 percent will get a chance to play professional hockey. Only 35 boys per birth year out of several thousands in Minnesota will get a chance to play Division 1 hockey, and most only after they have toiled for two long years playing junior hockey following high school. The biggest joke is on parents of kids who are don't have athletic talent to begin with.  No number of camps or lessons will change this fact. 

Hockey tournaments are big business.  A review of tournament ads in Let's Play Hockey for the Midwest area lists an incredible 114 invitational tournaments in February, 52 for March, 44 in April, 22 in May, 28 in June,  9 in July, and 17 in August to get warmed up for the winter season. No doubt many more will be posted in the coming weeks.  I think hockey was a better sport when it was played outdoors and, when the ice melted, the season was over, so the kids got a break!  

Hal Tearse

Coach-in-Chief, Minnesota Hockey