Canada is a hockey factory. I mean that in the best possible way. Hockey is the most beautiful game. I say that as someone who never watched hockey in any serious manner until my kids began playing it competitively.
Canada contributes more than half of all NHL players to the league. We are without question the best hockey players in the world. For those Canadian players who are not quite good enough to play in the NHL, there are many European professional leagues where a guy can make over $100,000 a year tax free playing professional hockey eight months a year. Those are also populated largely by Canadians.
Canadian teams will often travel to the United States or Europe only to find themselves battling other Canadian teams for the championship. Canada’s Olympic hockey teams both won gold in the last Olympics and the men have won gold three of the last four Olympics whereas the women have won gold in the last four Olympics. Lots of Canadian girls get hockey scholarships to NCAA colleges.
I have twin ‘06s (hockey talk for a child who was born in 2006), an ‘08 and a ‘13. My twin boys are on the ice at least 12 hours a week. They are big, strong kids who are beautiful skaters and good teammates. One plays offence and the other defence. And they love to play hockey.
In Toronto, Triple A hockey starts at age 9, so for my ‘06s this is the year when all of the Select hockey players in town start jockeying for positions on one of the 12 Triple A clubs in town. The politics at play, money thrown around, alcohol-laden schmoozing, false promises and veiled threats made in that endeavour between October and April are legend. And remember, at the end of the day we are talking about 8 year old boys playing hockey.
My 5-year old daughter was the only girl and the youngest kid on her Select hockey team last year. This year she is a veteran and one of the best players. She is still the only girl but no longer the youngest. Girls’ hockey has grown exponentially in Canada since 1990. Although there are approximately one girl playing hockey for every six boys, that percentage becomes far less at the elite level. In our experience there are 20 boys playing elite hockey for every one girl. And she absolutely loves it.
Do I worry about my children suffering concussions? Do I worry about physical contact starting at age 13? Do I wonder why fighting has to be such a big part of the game? Yes, yes and yes. But do I absolutely love watching my kids play hockey? Yes.
For my ‘13, she will begin skating when she turns age 2. For anyone not involved in hockey, the obvious question will be why? She won’t possibly be able to skate at age 2 in any meaningful capacity. I’ll have to break my back holding her up for at least half a year. What is the rush? Why not wait until she turns three or four and can skate on her own? I agree that would be the sensible approach. But we are Canadians, Canada is a hockey factory, and this is just what we do.