I’ve only just realized that I’ve never been a fan of any National Basketball Association (NBA) team, but simply a fan of fun basketball. The Minnesota Timberwolves helped me realize this by playing the least fun basketball I’ve ever seen on Friday night, while the Milwaukee Bucks repeatedly made me smile and laugh. My first love, basketball, has returned.
I gave up professional basketball for a long time after Michael Jordan retired a second time in 1999, but I never stopped watching Duke University men’s basketball. I’ve been a fan of Duke University men’s basketball for as long as I can remember. And I wasn’t a bandwagon fan like I was with the Minnesota Twins, with whom I took an interest because of a chubby, gleeful center fielder who carried his team to a World Series Championship in 1991.
Even though the Duke Blue Devils won it all in 1991 and got there on the back of Christian Leattner’s “Shot Heard Round the World,” I attribute by Duke fandom to my aunt’s indoctrination of me. She was a campus dispatcher at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and hated it, so she sent me a postcard featuring an overhead look of the Duke University campus surrounded by the Duke Forest. I think I checked their academic standards and immediately wanted to attend after high school, but when I first witnessed the energy at Cameron Indoor on television, I was hooked.
I was a nerd who was always a better coach than player, so I appreciated the idea of smart kids beating the talented kids with schemes and heart. I was bringing up the rear in the top 10 percent of my high school class of 88 graduates, so I’m relatively smart given where I grew up. My best friends were the two smartest kids in the state. But when I watched the 1991-92 Blue Devils, it felt like I was meant to go there. I didn’t have a very good concept of my family’s fiscal situation, however.
So while I relentlessly rooted for the Chicago Bulls of the ’90s, it was because they were so fun to watch. They played my kind of basketball—above the rim and in the paint on offense, and physical on defense. That’s why I came back to the NBA in 2009, when Derrick Rose arrived on the scene as Rookie of the Year, then All-Star, then youngest MVP ever. But I didn’t come back because of Rose; I came back because the Bulls were holding teams to under 90 points with physical defense.
Besides Michael Jordan’s final game at Target Center, it was Tom Thibodeau who got me watching the NBA for the first time in six years. It was Tom Thibodeau who brought Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves and got me to spend money on a 10-game, season ticket package. And it’s Tom Thibodeau who now has me watching anyone but the Timberwolves.
I had already put down a $250 deposit to retain my season ticket package with the Timberwolves, but it wasn’t difficult to find 10 games I wanted to watch. In the NBA, there are enough athletic freaks to go around that aren’t playing for the Timberwolves and would be worth seeing. Giannis Antetokounmpo is one. Antetokounmpo alone, scoring just 15 points, made the $80 I paid to sit a little lower than I sat when Jordan played his last game in Target Center worth every penny. That and seeing Sterling Brown get into the game and score some points. His jersey was the first NBA jersey I ever bought, not for his play on the court, but because of the way he handled himself when questioned and then tased by Milwaukee police for parking in handicapped spaces. Despite a vast Milwaukee crowd, I was the only one in the building proudly sporting Brown’s jersey.
LeBron James is obviously another one of those athletic freaks worth seeing regardless of your team’s ability, and the Los Angeles Lakers visit Target Center twice this season. Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are another two. Anthony Davis another. Joel Embiid is another. James Harden another. Kawhi Leonard. Kyrie Irving and his coach Brad Stevens make the list. Speaking of coaches worth paying to see scheme, Gregg Popovich is one. And with all the hoopla over Jimmy Butler’s trade request, the Timberwolves’ home opener against the lowly, LeBron-less Cavaliers was must-see. That’s 10 games worth watching regardless of whether Jimmy Butler or anyone else plays for the Timberwolves.
Now I’m even planning a basketball/ski trip to Utah during the first round of the NBA Playoffs. I don’t expect the Timberwolves to be playing Utah, and couldn’t care less who does. I like Utah’s game. They play pretty good defense. I also like the Lakers’ game. They score all the points they can in the paint and as fast as they can to make up for their collective inability to shoot the three. It’s exactly what the Timberwolves should be doing, but Tom Thibodeau’s in the way. I won’t let it stop me from enjoying my newfound love of fun basketball, and I don't even like the evolution of the game via the exploitation of the three-point line.
Back in 2013, ESPN senior writer Steve Wulf published a rundown of all the costs incurred over the course of his daughter’s decade’s-worth of days playing youth hockey. With travel, club/registration dues, and instruction, the grand total came in just under $50,000, and the sport has only gotten more expensive, especially when it comes to reserving ice time, which is generally covered by league registration fees.
Registration fees for the 2018-19 youth hockey season with the Edina Hockey Association (EHA) in Edina, Minnesota, arguably the epicenter of youth hockey in the United States, range from $149 to $1,430. And that doesn’t even include the mandatory EHA registration fee of $200 for all players besides Termites (seven- to 10-year-olds) and a rostering fee of $150 for players on teams in certain leagues. While scholarships can lower those costs for underprivileged families of exceptional youth hockey players, the cost for parents of children playing their first year is at least $150, and not one piece of equipment (except maybe a pelvic protector) is provided. Online equipment outlets and resellers of used gear aren’t making the price to play the sport of hockey less prohibitive either.
You don’t need demographic research to prove that the prohibitive costs of youth hockey are dictating the faces playing the sport. National Hockey League (NHL) teams generally have just one non-white face on the ice if that, and that’s not because non-white kids prefer to play basketball, baseball, or football. It’s because basketball, baseball, and football are made more accessible to underprivileged youth.
High school football’s popularity is what provides the safety pads necessary to play. And while hockey is more popular than football in the Twin Cities area, the similarly expensive safety equipment necessary to play the sport is seldom provided. That's why Gordon Bombay's Mighty Ducks first practiced in football helmets, and it's why the face of hockey is as white as the ice upon which the game is played.
Lacrosse, the only sport with equipment costs comparable to hockey (and only slightly more expensive according to Time Magazine), sees 56 percent of its youth participants come from families making more than $100,000 annually. Just four percent of the sport’s participants come from families making less than $25,000, and it’s not simply because underprivileged kids don’t want to play lacrosse. I’m sure plenty would like to but their parents can’t afford it, and I’m sure youth hockey consists of players from similar economic advantages. I didn't find that research, but what I did find was an estimate of youth hockey equipment costs by Moms Team of $595—$30 more than the cost of lacrosse equipment. Whether hockey or lacrosse equipment is more expensive is irrelevant because the costs associated with off-ice training expected of youth hockey players, like dry-land training and spring hockey, make it the most expensive youth sport to play, and certainly the least accessible given the required playing surface.
I would have loved to play youth hockey, but there wasn’t even an outdoor ice rink maintained in my hometown let alone a youth hockey league. I wanted to play rec soccer, too, but my parents couldn't afford to pay registration fees for both baseball in the summer and soccer in the fall (youth football didn’t start until sixth grade in my hometown). I also played youth football until I broke my ankle in my second season, and despite the high equipment costs associated with that sport, my parents paid next to nothing for me to play it. Even my cleats were hand-me-downs. Basketball was easily the cheapest sport I played in my youth. I got my first basketball for Christmas one year, and there were basketball goals within walking distance of my house had my father not scored a used one he installed on the roof of our garage. Even my days running track in middle school cost my family nothing. All our gear was provided by the school—even my running spikes. Nothing is provided to youth hockey players except pucks.
Minnesota Nice Skates will work to lower the economic barrier to entry into youth hockey by leasing youth hockey equipment in the Twin Cities area. To do so at an affordable yet sustainable rate, however, a thorough understanding of upfront equipment costs and lifetime equipment costs is necessary. Since Wulf’s report on the costs of youth hockey is five years old, and Cindy Pom’s Canadian version is lacking in detail, I set out to discover the absolute minimum costs of equipping your youth hockey player in his or her first year and over a lifetime (10 years), for both used or new gear, and considering the resale value of each piece of equipment.
The best deal for used, youth hockey skates is going to be on Craigslist, especially in the Minneapolis area. If you don’t live in the Twin Cities, or don’t know someone in the area who can complete the transaction for you and ship it, Mercari had a pair of used, youth hockey skates for less than $30 including shipping. Frankly, in your son or daughter’s first year of skating, you’re better off buying a new pair of hockey skates for beginners. You child is less likely to enjoy hockey if her skates aren’t comfortable, and new skates will form to your child’s feet rather than come preformed to someone else’s.
In year one of your child’s youth hockey career, you can expect to pay as little as $30 and $50 on average for a new pair of youth hockey skates. Junior hockey skates, if your child is starting early, tend to be more than $50. The nice thing about buying your child new skates the first time around is that they’ll grow out of them rather quickly, so the skates should retain their resale value when you sell them used. Still, getting less than half your investment back leaves you with an year-one expense of $15 at minimum and $25 on average. But that doesn't include sharpening the blades.
If you’re youth hockey player is practicing daily, their skates will likely need sharpening weekly. At $5 a pop, that amounts to another $60 in sunk skate costs over the course of a three-month season. If your youth hockey player is playing on traveling teams, that amount can balloon to over $100 quickly. You shouldn’t have to worry about replacing your rookie's new blades, though.
If your child plays youth hockey from age eight to 18, you can expect to pay at least $600 and up to $1,250 just to maintain the blades of her skates. This doesn’t include replacing broken shoelaces or lost blade covers, or repairing the shoe of the skate if it explodes upon puck impact. Both are likely to occur, costing another $100 or so.
You can expect your youth hockey player to grow out of five pairs of skates or more, and they only get more expensive as your child’s feet get bigger and their skating better. While you can get your child onto the ice in $40 skates in year one, their next new pair of skates is going to be double that. The third pair will cost between $100 and $150. A fourth pair will cost between $160 and $200, and your child’s fifth pair of youth hockey skates will range from $200 to $240.
Assuming you can recoup half the purchase price on your child’s used skates, you’re looking at costs of $15 to $25 on pair one, $40 to $60 on pair two, $50 to $75 on pair three, $80 to $100 on pair four, and $100 to $120 on pair five. Pair six, hopefully, your son or daughter will be purchasing and replacing with their own revenue stream.
The sooner your child grows into a senior-sized pair of skates the better. While senior skates for advanced skaters sell for more than $400, they should be the last pair you have to buy. The estimate above is based on a pair of skates listed at $420.
Buying used doesn’t save you considerably more money than buying new and reselling. Sure, you can find a used pair of skates in any size and have them delivered to your door for half the price of a new pair, but your child is going to be less comfortable on the ice. You can buy insoles to remedy the situation, but then you’re spending another $50 every time you buy a used pair of skates. Even so, considering you find a deal on a used pair of youth or junior hockey skates for $25 in year one, the next pair of used skates is going to be at least $40. A third pair of used skates could be found for $50 or $60. A fourth pair could cost $80, and a fifth $100, with your sixth costing between $140 and $200. In the end, you’re spending less but won’t likely be able to ever resell the skates.
Buying all used skates throughout a decade of youth hockey is going to cost you more than $1,000 and up to $2,000 including maintenance.
Buying all new skates for your child over 10 years of youth hockey is going to cost more than $1,500 at minimum and up to $2,500 or more. If you’re able to resell your child’s youth hockey skates, you’re still spending close to $1,400 and up to $2,100 over a decade. And we haven’t even put a helmet on your child yet.
Craigslist again provided the best deal, and a used youth hockey helmet in year one is perfectly acceptable as long as there isn’t any obvious damage to the helmet that will worsen with hits to the head. They must have a full cage as well.
The cheapest youth helmet with a full cage can be purchased new for $50. Helmets aren’t equipment easily resold, however, as sweat smells them up something fierce. If your child does outgrow their first helmet quickly, though, you can maybe make back $20 on the purchasing price.
Wulf said his daughter went through four helmets in 10 years. If your child does the same, you can expect to pay more for each helmet you purchase bigger than the last. If your child’s first helmet was purchased used for $20, the next will be $30 to $40, then $40 to $50, then $50 to $60. When your child’s head stops growing (test this with fitted hats), the last helmet you buy them should probably be new, but that’s not included in this estimate.
You can spend as much as you like here, and it’s not a bad place to focus your funds. Wulf said he spent $1,250 on the five helmets he bought his daughter, which is insane to think about, but he spent $250 per helmet. Protecting your child’s brain is worth every penny, but helmets can be had for much less than Wulf paid. If your child’s first helmet is $50, the next will be closer to $60, then $80, and then $100 or more, so the cheapest cost of protecting your child’s cranium with new helmets is $300. It is recommended that the last helmet you purchase your youth hockey player when fully grown spares no expense.
One of the most prohibitive expenses associated with playing hockey is hockey sticks. You can’t play without them, and they eventually break. This estimate assumes your youth hockey player makes it through the season on one stick, but it’s recommended you buy them at least two so they have a replacement if they break one mid-game. We had two tennis rackets in case we broke strings, or in my case, broke the frame bashing it into the ground in anger. It's the only record I hold at my high school, and it became an expensive habit at over $100 per racket. Sticks are similarly expensive once your youth hockey player gets good at hockey.
Your child’s first hockey sticks should be made of wood. There’s absolutely no reason to put a carbon composite hockey stick in the hands of your eight-year-old unless you get one for free. She’s going to outgrow that first stick in what seems like a heartbeat, or break it just as quickly. You shouldn’t be in a hurry to spend a bunch of money on hockey sticks. You’ll have plenty of time to do so.
After your child’s first hockey stick breaks or is outgrown, you should resist purchasing used hockey sticks; they’re just going to break sooner than a new one would. As your youth hockey player gets better, they’ll want their equipment to be better so they can do more on the ice. Not unlike a youth tennis player graduating from a Kmart racket to her first Prince or Head racket, a youth hockey player should likewise graduate to nicer and nicer hockey sticks as their body and skills grow. I learned how to serve with a wooden tennis racket from the '70s. That said, over the course of a decade, you’ll likely go from paying $20 for your child’s first hockey stick to more than $200 for their last.
So, if you buy two hockey sticks in year one at $20 ($40), two more in year two at $30 ($60), two more at $40 ($80), and so on until the $150 sticks you buy in year 10, you will have spent $1,380 on hockey sticks alone. Wulf estimates he spent $1,750 just to keep a stick in his daughter’s hands. Hockey sticks are also an equipment item you’ll be unable to resell, but not the most likely piece of equipment you'll be unable to resell. That would be hockey gloves.
Used, youth hockey gloves are $120 a dozen on Craigslist in Minneapolis-St. Paul, but outside of hockey hubs $20 was the lowest rate on Ebay. Beware: gloves tend to be the stinkiest of all hockey equipment. Wulf said he spent $55 on Febreeze spray and special hockey detergent mostly due to smelly gloves.
Dick’s Sporting Goods has a pair of new, youth hockey gloves for $25 online. Bundled with a five-piece set they’re marginally cheaper.
If you buy gloves new, which is recommended, don’t expect to resell them or to resell them for much. In fact, while you might end up paying $100 or more for a pair of gloves your kid will outgrow, that pair of gloves isn’t going to retain a resale value comparable to skates. If you sell skates at 50 percent of the retail cost, you’ll probably end up selling gloves at a quarter or a third of their retail cost. If your youth hockey player outgrows four pairs of gloves in 10 years, and you spend $25 on the first pair, $40 on the next pair, $60 on the next, and $80 on the last, you might get $75 back on your $205 investment. Wulf spent $400 and probably didn’t resell a single pair.
Here’s another item you won’t often find available for resale and probably shouldn’t buy used.
Whether you need a traditional jockstrap and cup for your son or a “Jill” for your daughter, you can expect to buy about five different sizes over the course of a decade at around $20 each.
You aren’t likely to find used neck guards except for in lost-and-founds at hockey arenas or in the bottom of some equipment bag in the back of some equipment closet at a coach’s house. It’s something your child needs but isn’t prohibitively expensive.
Ten bucks is a bargain when it comes to protecting your child’s windpipe from being crushed by a flying puck.
Wulf said his daughter went through seven neck guards over the course of a decade.
Craigslist, again, served up the best deal on used, youth hockey shin guards in the Twin Cities area, but used shin guards can be found on Ebay or Mercari at similar prices. Used shin guards are perfectly adequate for protecting your child, but the protective padding in them eventually flattens as they take repeated impacts from the ice or from pucks. The last pair of shin guards you buy once your child stops growing should be new.
Shin guards are an item you can resell, but you’d still be better off buying used even if you can’t resell the used shin guards.
Wulf’s daughter grew out of three pairs of shin guards over 10 years of youth hockey.
If you bought the cheapest, new pair of youth hockey shin guards every year your child needed a new size, you’d likely be out $100. After reselling the shin guards your youth hockey player outgrew, the lifetime expense of youth hockey shin guards would likely be around $60. Wulf climbed the price ladder a bit when it came to shin guards because his daughter blocked a puck with one of them and limped off the ice despite the shin guard’s protection.
Like shin guards, junior and youth elbow pads can generally be found used at affordable prices. While the Twin Cities Craigslist page provided plenty of options, Ebay and Mercari offered options that were just a bit more expensive. You might want to search arena lost-and-found bins to score a pair for free.
I was as surprised as you probably will be to learn something as simple as elbow pads could cost more than $100. Your mite doesn’t need $100 elbow pads, though, and this is a minimalist look into equipping youth hockey players with the necessary safety equipment.
Wulf said his daughter went through three pairs of elbow pads in 10 years of youth hockey.
Wulf spent an average of $50 per pair of elbow pads over the course of his daughter’s 10 years playing youth hockey. But he probably could have gotten $20 to $25 on each pair of elbow pads back by reselling them.
Junior and youth shoulder pads tend to be as plentiful as elbow pads and shin guards, so they can be found on Craigslist for the same price as both. You aren’t likely to find a set in the lost and found, however.
If you choose to buy junior or youth hockey hockey shoulder pads new and resell them, you’re looking at a similar albeit slightly more expensive option.
Your child will grow into three sizes of shoulder pads in 10 years, and depending on what you’re willing or feel you need to spend (maybe your child delivers or receives hard checks), protecting your youth hockey player’s shoulders will run you at least $60 and up to $270, according to Wulf’s budget.
Used junior and youth hockey pants in good condition are harder to find than used shoulder pads and elbow pads. The cheapest option in the Twin Cities as of this writing was $15, and most listings on Craigslist were around $30, which is what you can expect to pay at minimum online.
Buying new hockey pants for your child will be slightly more expensive than buying used, but you’ll have the comfort of knowing no other child has sweated into those pants. They can get pretty stinky from absorbing the water from the ice as well.
You’re child will likely go through four pairs of pants over 10 years of youth hockey. Wulf spent $240 in total. You can certainly outfit your youth hockey player in used pants throughout the decade. You’ll likely spend at least $30 per pair, or $120 in total.
Unless you do laundry everyday, your child will need multiple pairs of hockey socks as well as undersocks, which can simply be non-cotton, dress socks. They should be thin as to maximize your child’s control over her skates (unless her skates run big, which means you have to fill them up). Hockey socks, however, aren’t as easily substituted. Luckily, they’re pretty easy to find. In the Twin Cities there was a listing on Craigslist advertising free socks with the purchase of any of their items. You can even mix and match lost socks you find. If you aren’t in a hockey hotbed, Ebay’s cheapest listing for a new pair was around $8 with shipping.
At a retailer like Dick’s Sporting Goods, you can expect to pay $15 to $20 per pair of youth hockey socks. That’s outrageous given your child will outgrow them every few years and that a cap full of bleach can pretty much clean anything, including used, youth hockey socks.
Wulf estimated that he spent $150 just on socks for his daughter to play 10 years of youth hockey. You can get away with paying nothing in places like Minnesota, Maine, or Canada, but that’s not likely the case in Las Vegas. Since socks are being given away, don’t expect any recouping of costs via resale.
You can’t practice without practice jerseys, and you’re child will probably want more than one. You might find these in the lost and found at your local arena or for cheap on Craigslist or Ebay. Otherwise, an oversized shirt will work, preferably something breathable like Under Armour or Nike Dri-FIT material. A football jersey is fine if you can find a long-sleeved, non-cotton shirt to go under it.
Dick’s Sporting Goods has a youth hockey jersey for less than $15, which is on par with the prices you’ll find on Ebay for new practice jerseys.
Wulf spent around $100 just on practice jerseys throughout his daughter’s 10 years of youth hockey. You can expect your youth hockey player to grow out of at least three if not four sizes, so unless you can get your hands on hand-me-downs, expect to spend at least $45 on practice jerseys over 10 years...and that’s if you only provide your player with one.
It might not seem essential, but before you know it your youth hockey player will demand to have tape so she doesn’t have to borrow from teammates. It’s recommended you buy black, white, and clear tape in bulk, which saves you a dollar on each roll. Over 10 years, Wulf estimates he spent $550 on tape alone.
Your youth hockey player can’t carry all that expensive gear in a garbage bag, and while you can find cheap or even free gym bags to work as substitutes, when your son or daughter stops growing, you might consider buying a nice hockey bag for the final set of gear you’ll be buying for them.
Again, you can find hand-me-down workout gear but eventually you’re youth hockey player will want their own undershirts or even tights to wear under their gear.
Those non-cotton, dress socks will work for as long as you can find them for free or cheaply, but you will eventually need to invest in a couple pairs of undersocks for your full-grown, youth hockey player. They run about $10 per pair.
This estimate is based on the availability of used, youth hockey equipment in the Twin Cities area and will be more for those living in places that aren’t youth hockey hubs.
This estimate is based on the availability of used, youth hockey equipment for sale online.
This range is based on the availability and costs of used, youth hockey equipment available online.
This estimate is based on the availability and costs of new, youth hockey equipment available online.
So, if your child plays one season of youth hockey, on equipment alone, you’re out at least $285 in year one, unless you can find practice jerseys, hockey socks and undersocks, neck guards and elbow pads for free. That would save you $50, but when is anything free? You still have to go somewhere to get it.
Minnesota Nice Skates comes to you and properly sizes your child for gear. If your child outgrows any piece of equipment or something breaks at no fault of their own (including sticks), Minnesota Nice Skates replaces it. And there’s no need to bring back the equipment if it still fits at the end of the lease. Just keep the gear that fits and replace the gear that doesn’t. It’s that simple. The annual lease for equipment automatically vests if gear isn’t returned within a year.
A $250 annual lease with Minnesota Nice Skates will save parents between $465 and $3,930 over 10 years of youth hockey. More importantly, it lowers the cost of entry into the sport by allowing underprivileged families to pick and choose which gear they want to lease and which gear they want to try to find for free. If you only want to try and find elbow pads, neck guards, practice jerseys, socks and undersocks for free, do it. It’ll only cost you $200 to get your child the necessary equipment to play youth hockey. The most important thing is that more kids play youth hockey so better athletes end up hockey players instead of football players, growing the popularity of the sport.