Letter to the Editor: Response: Youth hockey is affordable

In response to Denny Rice’s concerns about youth hockey fees being exorbitant, I’m afraid he has skated full speed into the boards! I’m not sure where the idea came from, but it seems necessary to clear up the misconception. The current fee for youth hockey at all levels is $45, which includes all protective equipment. It is a complete anomaly that equipment is provided at all, let alone included in the fee, AND at all levels. Gunnison, for instance, charges a $20 fee for equipment rental and then only for ages 5-8.  Families have to foot the bill for skates and a stick (Parks & Rec offers used of each for $5-10). By way of comparison, in Gunnison Mites (ages 5-8) pay $150 for the season, Squirts (ages 8-10) pay $385, and Pee Wees (10-12) pay $500. In Durango, Mites are $210, Squirts are $705, and Pee Wees shell out $810.  Fees like that belong in the penalty box!

You see, Alamosa’s youth hockey program is not built on the backs of the players and their families. It is built on the backs of Parks & Rec employees, volunteer coaches, and advocates in the community. Andy Rice, Jes Jolly, Don Mendoza and their team make every effort to keep the program affordable and well-run with the safety and welfare of each child at the forefront of decision making. They are passionate and detail-oriented people who now have added responsibilities running the league and facility, and none has missed a beat. The volunteer coaches do so with joy and humor, spending hours per week on the ice with the kids not to mention time at home planning drills and activities to make practices enriching. Advocates in the community find grants and other resources to move the program forward, including partnering with USA Hockey and the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association.

Due to the efforts of many, which includes the staff operating the facility itself, the youth hockey program is growing strong. As a parent of two players, when they started on the ice at Carroll Park, a lot of kids would show up to the first practice with it being their first time on the ice that year, or possibly ever. Our great facility provides more opportunity to dull edges and sharpen skills prior to donning the gear and grabbing a stick. The first year one of my sons played Mites, there were barely enough players for two teams. Last year, there were plenty for two teams. This year, four Mites squads will take the ice!  Other levels are growing similarly in number. 

I never played hockey as a kid, because I was told it was too expensive. Pity, because it is a great game! I have seen my kids, and many others grow in confidence, creativity, coordination, and camaraderie through this very affordable youth program. I helped distribute gear to the players this past Monday, and saw the glee on their faces as their bags filled with the various trappings of the sport, eager to try it on in their living room. They’ll take to the ice next week not knowing everything and everyone that went into getting them there, all for a fraction of the cost of their peers over the pass. 

Mark Pittman,

Hockey parent, coach, & enthusiast


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