As any hockey parent knows, having a child play the game takes commitment, especially a financial one. Beyond the league fees, there always seems to be something that's needed or wanted that cuts into the checking account.
It's not a complaint, though. We knew what we were getting into, long before the big bills of travel hockey. I must admit, though, to longing for those days, that weren't even that long ago, of Hockey 101 and 201. To us, really, it's a lifestyle choice.
Rather than check out the latest TexMex/Asian Fusion/Grilled Cheese restaurant, be the first in line at the new Legoland here in Florida or watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster with a $6 tub of hot-buttered popcorn, you're more apt to find us in some sort of hockey environment, most likely a rink, with a $2 cup of generic coffee.
That's where we feel most at home.
Still, though, after dropping $2,250 for a fall-winter travel season, payable in installments, and then another $360 for some rec league games and ice time, it's amazing just how quickly the extras add up. Trust me, too, there's no nickel-and-diming here.
Over the past seven weeks, we've bought:
~ A $50 tournament T-shirt;
~ two more tournament T-shirts for $44;
~ a new pair of Bauer hockey pants for $50; and
~ a Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning warmup suit for $72.
And that doesn't include the hotel stays, meals out, skate sharpenings, skate laces, rolls of sock and stick tape, bottles of Gatorade and Powerade as well as the weekly Wednesday $5.35 skating sessions at the Westfield Countryside mall. Let's not forget the costs of transportation and food between games. That's how these costs quickly add up.
Granted, these are our decisions. It would be just as easy, I suppose, to say no. Though we don't have as deep pockets as some of our fellow hockey parents, these are the things you do as a parent to support a child's dream. Understand, too, that we'd do the same if Colin wanted to play baseball, chess or the violin.
Some could argue that we'd likely be better off setting money aside for his college education. Valid point. We're fortunate, though, that his grandparents have been doing that. We've focused the past two years paying down our debt. Though we still have some work to do, the end result, given current employment conditions remaining the same, is the opportunity to gain liquidity, so to speak, and play catch-up -- for him and for us.
So, no, we're not putting all of our eggs in one basket.
Given recent developments at my employer, which include another 5 percent across-the-board pay reduction as well as hopefully dodging yet another pink-slip bullet, we're fortunate to afford our hockey luxuries. It's my freelance work that pays the hockey bills.
That doesn't mean, though, that we're standing pat and crossing our fingers that current conditions will continue. That, to me, wouldn't be too smart. I've had a few ideas rolling around in my head for some time now on how to add to our bottom line through hockey.
No, it's not selling autographs. In the weeks ahead, we'll see just how realistic they are. I'll never know if they'll work unless I try. It's time, folks, that we take those steps.