View Full Version : Where have all the players gone?
Hockey..not just inline hockey is at a hiatus right now. The NHL in crisis at the top of the game, is showing the symptoms of a malaise far greater than a simple dispute over salaries....
The sport of hockey, with it's roots as a sport of the poor, something that cost almost nothing to play, available to all as a great form of aerobic recreation, has become a sport of the elite in a matter of 10 years. Once played in the streets and unused parking lots, tennis courts, or in more northern climes on open ponds and lakes for a few months of the year, whether as as ball hockey, or ice hockey, the sport of hockey was there for anyone who could afford a $10.00 stick and a $75.00 set of skates and pads from Wal-Mart. Kids could go out on their local streets and have some fun without Mom and Dad carefully watching if the coach was teaching their kid the right stuff or giving them enough rink time, on a surface that costs $200 - $400.00/hour to play on.
During the growth years of inline down here in the US, starting in the early 90's, the sport was being played everywhere as pick up recreation on any available surface...Coincidentally during those same years USA hockey saw growth points of 25 - 30% in their ice hockey memberships. Then as the sport went more and more elite...fewer and fewer kids were taking to the streets, or the local disco rinks to play some pick up ball hockey. Anyone who did this was soon disdained by those who played "the real version" of the sport..with the $300.00+ skates, another $300.00 worth of expensive protective and cosmetic accessories plus a stick which cost at least $100.00 The sport dried up in the disco rinks, in the streets and tennis courts and parking lots. These players are the base of all hockey fans and that base is dieing...the players and the families of those players are the ones who buy the jerseys and watch the game on television...the fans of the sport come only from those who played or whose kids have played or play. Since street hockey and it's brothers and sisters has all but disappeared, replaced by dedicated facilities which only a few can enjoy(afford)..the growth of USA Hockey memberships(ice) has fallen to less than 1%...Just coincidence?
Here in the USA the warmer climates do not have "pond hockey" but for them "street hockey" was the equivalent...the intro level to the sport. Without the sport making a dedicated effort to get these grass roots growing once more....the numbers of players in the sport..in any version... will continue to erode, and the current malaise to spread.
11-17-2004, 03:07 PM
Very good post and I would have to agree with you a 100%. When I first started playing here in Las Vegas it was on the street in front of my house. IT wasn't as big as we all got into hight school but some still played. I hardly ever see kids playing hockey on the streets. There are parks around where I live where i occasionally see people play. Most of the rinks put themselves out of business because they started charging to much. SOmething needs to happen to the sport of hockey before it disapears in areas that it recently got big in. I love to play but the price is getting to much.
11-17-2004, 04:16 PM
If you recall hockey took off when the NHL came back from there last lockout. Games were on TV more, and the NHL had a huge promo out to kids and adults. I believe it was "GAME ON". Well the NHL needs to get there act together and come back and have another huge marketing slogan.
11-17-2004, 04:39 PM
I hate it when Mike does an in-depth analysis of the thing...
Public rinks, with Learn-to-play hockey lessons every Monday evening for free, Saturday games for kids ages 4-18, three games for each kid (3-month season player fee of $25, including equpment usage), and after-school free rink time, Monday through Friday, using the Parks & Recreation rink as the pond, might be the way to go.
But only if the Parks & Recreation department offers a program as described, eh?
Right now, most P&R departments in the country do not think that there is a need for them to offer recreation inline hockey programs as part of their job. After all, the private sector is providing that service as a business.
Private sector rinks, as well as private sector tournament organizations, are killing the sport.
<font color=purple>DannyG</font color=purple>
Well I know you didn't need a wake up call.....but there has to be another 100 cities doing what you have accomplished....Not trying to be negative, but someone has to ring the bell.....
Well I have seen the programs in the old disco rinks desolve in frustration wherever the local clubs went to play any local tournaments, where they were generally smoked by put together travel teams....there seemed no point for them to go and compete. I understand what you are saying, but the "kids" from the 90's were still exposed to all the video games etc. but we still saw the greatest growth in hockey during those years.
As an example of not being able to play "cheap"...we have to travel a minimum of 45 miles to play some open hockey....right now, some 90 miles return....at approximately $.50/mile current cost of operating a car....$45.00 just in car costs for a couple of hours of hockey plus whatever fee is charged..My son was invited to play a Tohrs tournament...18U about 3-4 weeks ago...cost...about $500.oo with fees, hotel, meals an travel for the event....this is what I mean. There needs to be a different venue where kids can play cheaper and have some fun..whether it's just in the streets at local disco rinks or outside in parking lots or tennis courts....Why would parents of kids just beginning the sport spend that kind of money to send their kids out to play teams in games which are finished before the end of the first period? But so many local rinks have folded their in-house programs, because of the cost of equipment and the percieved gap between "real inline hockey" and what they play in house.
There is a huge gap in the levels of play, and the "entry levels" seem to me to be much more expensive (with some exceptions) than they were a few years ago.
12-16-2004, 04:57 PM
Hello to everyone,
I think we are looking at the bad side of the situation, and like someone said, we will need like 100 places like the one that Dan operates to begin making the sport succesfull, but well at least we have the first one and it's operating right now, and I'm proud to say that I started playing hockey there.
I'm a 30 years old guy, who loved and played soccer (indoor and outdoor) for more than 12 years. In february of this year (2004) before one of my indoor games I saw some guys of my age playing hockey, so I started asking questions about how to get enrolled and the price (which was my main concern) I been playing in-line hockey since that day and I started getting some cheap equipment (I got some equipment borrowed from the place)
After some guys from the league realize that I give up soccer for hockey, they even laugh at me (in a good manner) cause they never imagine that a hispanic (Mexican) guy, will give up the most popular national sport in his country for inline hockey. And I also started to try to bring my friends and people that I know to the game, is hard, cause they think that hockey is just fighting and hitting each other on the rink, but I already get a couple of guys in to the sport... why do I write all of this in my bad english? Well just to prove that Dan's (DannyG) program of Public Rinks is definitly a very nice solution, and like MD3 said, some has to ring the bell, but we also need someone who can start getting the idea in the Parks & Recreation departments in you community, so if you can, please give it a try... people like me who are new or want to become new to the sport well be very thankfull.
And again sorry for my bad english!!
12-16-2004, 06:37 PM
just a side highlight to "George's" (as we have anglicized his name locally) note above:
Jorge is the perfect example of the learn-to-play adult, and what our sport can offer to the new player, if only we can get him in the door.
Jorge has now, in three seasons of play, greatly expanded his abilities, and is that rare player who plays hard in all parts of the floor. Every game, somebody remarks out loud on his hustle, his never-quit attitude, and the fact that he makes several plays a game that nobody thought he would be able to make...
This is one category of player that we all want to get into our programs, and we need to have the program where this player can be successful.
<font color=purple>DannyG</font color=purple>
12-17-2004, 11:02 AM
We are located in the deep south (La.) and when a town 35 miles from us started an ECHL team the ICEGATORS, hockey took off like a rocket for 5 years. The pro team had record ticket sales and we even managed to start a rec outdoor league here. We had two roller rinks in the Laff. (where the gators were) both had 5 to 6 teams in every age group and our league had the same. Now 5 to 6 more years down the road we are down to one roller rink in Laff. with age groups being mixed just to have enough teams to play. We are a hockey family and heavily involved in league, travel and in both ice and roller. We have tried everything that someone who doesnt own a rink can do but we are coming to the end of the road for hockey. It is to bad, as my son is only 12 and has played every sport but only wants to play hockey. The ECHL team is in its last year here and after they are gone I think it will be lights out. I wish it wasnt so but we will try to make the most out of this travel roller season and if someone can figure out a cure please let us know.
Did the outdoor rec league start to fade pretty much when you started going more to the dedicated indoor facilities, or did they all decline simulataneously? Did you think it was the cost of the sport that curtailed the interest? Was the competition in the tournament circuit for inline higher than you could compete with from a local player draw? Those are all symptoms which I have seen elsewhere which might have had the effect you are seeing.
<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by MDE3 on 12/17/04 01:26 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
12-17-2004, 03:18 PM
The outdoor rec league was cheap to the end. The problems with it was more the city run refs being unqualified and causing problems. The city changing the directors of the program every 3 months and the new directors not having a clue about hockey or recruiting by advertising at the schools. The local school coaches not allowing atheletes to play hockey if they wanted to play other sports for thier school. Lack of coaches (I was really tired of coaching a team in every age group for 3 years straight). We got involved as much as possible but, when we moved more to indoor inline in Laff. it fell apart in one season. Now our city was only one feeder of the leauges thier but it wasnt long before they were on a downhill slide also. You are right about the cost being a factor there. They charge more than a season of ice to play roller. (Go figure that one out) $175.00 a session for ten games. In La. the kids can play all sports year round and soccer is very cheap and growing into a monster here. Not even taking into account baseball and the big one Football. They are starting a sports complex in our city with 12 baseball fields and 10 soccer fields. I could not get even one concilman to even consider hockey because of the league that collapsed before.
12-17-2004, 05:34 PM
The causes of diminished participation over time are all in a single category:
A player stops achieving any personal success and therefore satisfaction.
causes of this are:
1. The player refuses to be patient enough to get through the learning curve to develop skills.
2. The player is physically unable to get through the learning curve to develop skills.
3. The team/program the player plays with disbands, or stops having success.
4. Pyramid-recruited travel teams tell the player he's not good enough.
5. No personal satisfaction is gained through simple recreation play.
6. The player has no further aspirations of future achievement in the sport.
On the contrary side, causes that keep the player playing:
1. The player still believes that he can gain more skill through continued participation.
2. The player continues to develop despite physical limitations.
3. The player's team or program continues to achieve successes, however those successes might be defined.
4. The player either continues to enjoy success through travel team participation, or acquires the ability to define success through recreation play alone.
5. The player fosters the belief that through the "renewing" repetition of weekly recreation play, he achieves success...rather than react to the "same old game" each week with boredom, the player looks forward to each new game as a challenge, regardless of what the outcome was last week.
6. No matter what the player has achieved in the past, the player always looks for new challenges, new avenues of achievement, new successes to strive for.
I'm sure everybody has a list similar to this. If you look at it, you can define and demand specific program components into a league or club program that can help engender these attributes. It ain't easy, and even the most successful program has ups and downs. I will be glad to discuss this with anybody who wants to. email me.
Happy holidays to everybody. Hope your new year is challenging and successful, out on the blue floor.
<font color=purple>DannyG</font color=purple>
12-20-2004, 03:56 AM
This is the best assement of the state of inline hockey I have possibly ever read. Those who know me are well aware that I was extremely dedicated to DEVELOPING young talent as I coached for 3 consecutive years until I finally became fed up for the same reasons that Danny points out.
What needs to be explained is the causes of the reasons listed. Is it simply that a league system with some sort of boundries for recruitment would even the playing field? Can that even be developed with the current structure of inline hockey? The only money in the sport to be made is in running tournaments and until there is away to change the focus of the sport from tourneys to leagues, I'm afraid inline hockey will never change.
Who will the best youth teams be this year, the ones that recruit the best.
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