According to Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s diversity ambassador who broke the color barrier in 1958, outfitting a thirteen-year-old ice hockey player costs about $800. This initial cost includes protective gear to prevent injury, proper sticks, and sturdy skates. The additional invisible price includes gas from driving children to and from rinks, equipment repair fees, and more. 

Expenses stack up quickly in ice hockey, more so than they do in sports like basketball and soccer. Often, if the $800 sticker price doesn’t scare parents away, invisible costs of driving to rinks—which are few and far between compared to fields and courts—can quickly sour the experience. Parents have shared their stories online, wishing for more affordable ice hockey experiences for their children. 

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Philanthropy and community efforts have addressed these very issues, using generosity and passion for funding families and making ice hockey an affordable, accessible, and equitable sport. Reggie Hunter is one individual for whom charity made a difference. The Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, established by former Comcast Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider, offered free equipment and beginner lessons just a short drive from Reggie’s house. The program led to Reggie’s love of ice hockey, and in 2019—seven years after his first lesson—he continued with junior hockey.  NHL clubs also offer free gear programs for first-time hockey participants ages 5-9, but they do so only once per year which is helpful, but not nearly enough to meaningfully grow the game. 

USA Hockey continues to do an excellent job by supporting the development of grassroots hockey programs. As the fundraising arm of USA Hockey, The USA Hockey Foundation’s purpose is to support ice hockey by raising money and awarding grants to various youth hockey organizations to help fund initiatives including participation, opportunity, safety, player development, education, and commemoration. Their collaborative efforts seek to attract and build a diverse and inclusive organization and membership at every level. 

Nowadays, more ice hockey-based charities and organizations are making themselves known. From the Black Bear Youth Hockey Foundation to the Detroit Ice Dreams to Hockey is for Everyone, countless foundations have pooled resources from local and national teams to encourage those from different socioeconomic backgrounds to try the sport. 

Inner-city ice hockey programs have seen massive success in recent years, thanks to the generosity of these foundations. For example, the NextGen AAA Foundation provides mentoring, education, and hockey programs to diverse, low income and at-risk youth throughout North America. Bryce Salvador, a NextGen ambassador and former captain for the New Jersey Devils, states, “At NextGen, we strongly believe that reaching children through athletics, like hockey, is an investment in building community — through teamwork, education, funding, and support – this is our social impact.” Thus, it is important that children from low-income families can experience fun and education through such hockey programs, and they can also find camaraderie with like-minded peers. In this sense, it’s easy to see why hockey should become more affordable—it offers the exercise, education, and experience that adolescents need.

If you want to help make ice hockey more affordable, there are plenty of ways to do so. Many ice rinks depend on used or donated gear, both for visitors to rent and players to use. Additionally, local leagues need passionate coaches and referees to help games run smoothly. If you’d like to help but have no prior ice hockey experience, donating to foundations and teams or fundraising for local players are the best ways to make hockey a game for everyone.