Think about what organized hockey has done for us!

Maeve Blake


When I start to think about what organized hockey has done for us, I am reminded of that old Monty Python line about the Romans: “Apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?” Similarly, apart from facilitating regular exercise, instilling life lessons such as the importance of cooperation, teamwork, work ethic, discipline, and keeping a positive attitude, and also apart from creating community, self-esteem, and life-long relationships, and last but not least, apart from hours and hours of FUN and excitement, what has hockey ever done for us?

As an immigrant family from Ireland, getting our kids into hockey was never on the agenda. We’re both from rugby families, so getting them onto a pitch with an oval ball was our initial focus. When Cormac, my eldest son, first expressed a desire to play, I actively tried to dissuade him; I was concerned about rumoured 6:00 a.m. practices and the high costs of registration and equipment. Cormac is persistent, and after a year of declining, we resignedly signed him up. It is the single biggest gift we could have given him (his younger siblings quickly followed suit).

As far as I can figure out, 6:00 a.m. practices are an urban legend as we have never had even one in seven years. While the initial outlay for hockey registration can seem high compared to other sports, it’s important to take the length of the season into account. It lasts six months! Last year, registration fees for the Ottawa East Minor Hockey Association ranged from $440 to $680 per child, with team fees (which cover the costs of tournaments) around $250-$300 per kid. Each kid will be on the ice for somewhere around 100 hours over the course of our long, cold, dark winter, which makes it a pretty good deal, proportionally speaking. What’s more, we buy the bulk of our hockey equipment second-hand, and it is passed-on through the sibling line. This helps bring costs down — although perhaps it doesn’t do much to increase inter-sibling affection! The Ottawa East Minor Hockey Association also has a Reach Out program that provides financial support to kids where finances are a barrier.

Yes, getting kids into minor hockey involves a financial and time commitment. The question for most parents when they consider activities is, is it worth it? When Cormac started playing hockey at the ripe age of 9, a dreadfully misinformed former colleague told me that he was too old to start playing. Maybe he has missed his shot to make the NHL. But when I consider the ways in which our kids have grown and matured with their various hockey families over the years, I can only reply that it is absolutely worth the parental commitments. Our daughter plays on a mixed team, and at the age of 11 has gained self-confidence and an athleticism we can only admire. Our middle son has learned how to trust in his own abilities, how to overcome challenges, how to lead, and how to encourage others. Our eldest son has learned that failure is an inevitability on the road to success, that perfection is neither achievable nor desirable, and that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

It’s not just about the kids. After a family bereavement, hockey friends were quick to reach out to offer comfort and support to us, and that experience once again made me so incredibly grateful for the community that hockey provides. That community is waiting for you, Sandy Hill!

Registration for the 2023-2024 season of Ottawa East Minor Hockey Association opens in early June with an early bird discount for kids registered before August 1.  See for further details.

Ottawa East Minor Hockey Association emblem at Sandy Hill Arena
Photo F. Adam Sopuck