An Alternative to Spring & Summer Tournament Hockey Teams
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
Hurts me to admit -- I was fooled a lot more than twice when it comes to Spring and Summer Tournament teams.
I totally understand the allure of playing for these types of teams. Around here, the town league's seasons end in the middle of February. The higher level club teams that my sons play for wrap up in mid-March and, in both cases, it just feels way too early for a hockey season to end when there's still snow on the ground.
Spring leagues and tournament teams, you know, make it feel like you can extend the season a bit longer before baseball, lacrosse, and soccer start jamming up the schedule and maybe even even bring home a big plastic trophy or two in the process too.
Add in the colorful uniforms and clever team monikers they often use, and it's all really appealing!
I've fallen victim to all of it for, what, 4 years in a row now?
But, I'm done.
Earlier this year, at a Spring Tournament (which I won't mention by name) that Duncan played in, the team was so short on players that the Friday night before their second game, they had parents send out emails to former teammates looking for, well, warm bodies to wear cheap practice jerseys two hours from home on short notice.
The differing stickers on the helmets and the rainbow of colours on the gloves and hockey bags (thank God no one had a GRIT Tower bag) in the locker room made it obvious that our own team was just "thrown" together in haste.
I knew that.
Err, I should have known it.
How was I not picking up on that? Ugh...
It was the same scenario in the adjacent locker room too.
Hilariously, during the first incredibly sloppy game, a parent from the opposing team standing next to me in the crowd said, "Wow, you guys are really good. You can tell you've been playing together for a long time?"
Dumbfounded, I responded, "We'd never met anyone on this team until 10 minutes ago when they handed out the jerseys."
Bit my lip before mentioning that we needed to give the jerseys back immediately afterwards...
That tells you a little about the quality of the competition we were facing too...
I don't know why I've always thought that these were "real" tournaments with "real" teams. Like, all-star teams, or whatever.
Fancy names like "North American Premier Championships" or "Mountain Dew Elite Challenge Cup" or "Empire State Games" are just that; fancy names for garbage tournaments.
We packed up and came home following that game as it wasn't worth hanging around for another 4 hours for the next game, getting a hotel for the night, and then playing another game the following day for what amounted to what was essentially nothing more than bad pick-up hockey.
Like, really bad non-competitive pick-up hockey.
Not really suprising, but that Saturday night, we were included on an email from another team in the same tournament looking for players...even though we were rostered for their opponent in the morning.
Some tournament, huh?
And I don't want to come across like some sort of youth hockey snob, even though to some degree, I've become one that always looking more towards development than anything else, but even for kids that play at an in-house level of hockey regularly, while these tournaments might be fun and maybe feel competitive, they're a waste of time and money.
Spring tournaments routinely charge between $1000 and $1500 to enter around here -- for a whole team. The teams make a little money by offering roster spots for $150 to $200 for each player so someone's obviously making some money for putting together a team -- I don't have a problem with that.
What I do have a problem with is that you end up paying $200 to play four games (usually) and likely need to take a day off from work on Friday to make the first game and then stay in a hotel for a night or two because of how they schedule the games.
I don't know about you, but I wouldn't take a day off from work, drive a few hours, spend a night in a hotel and then pay $50 for an hour of ice time for a pick-up hockey game of unknown skill level.
I say now that I wouldn't...but only because I have.
But there is a alternative, I've found, to keep the kids skating...
The new trend at local rinks lately, filling up otherwise un-used ice time, are 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 leagues.
They're not really leagues...but more semi-supervised and regulated age and skill appropriate stick time on a set schedule.
It's pick-up hockey, re-branded, plain and simple. And just for kids.
Conveniently, it's closer to home.
It also costs a lot less than $50 per hour.
It's always competitive too...and if it's not, mid-period trades to even things out are the norm.
Best of all, for the cost of one lousy tournament team commitment, you can extend your hockey season a solid two months and have even more fun.
You know... taking all of this in, I'm starting to think the lousy attendance for these tournament teams is because people have figured it out already...
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