I remember clearly the moment I decided to quit playing hockey.
I was 14 years old, and skating at a pre-season tryout – where they quickly weed out the top players for the rep teams, and divvy up the rest of us for the house leagues. It was my first time on the ice in a few months, and my feet hurt.
My knees hurt, too – far more than a young teen’s should – but after dealing with the up-and-down, up-and-down, fall-and-get-up motions of the goaltending position since I was seven years old, I was used to that.
But my feet? That was the last straw.
I skated past the bleachers where my parents were standing, pointed at my skates, opened the gate, and left the ice.
That was it.
Looking back, I realize there was more to my hanging ’em up than just one day with sore feet. I remember not particularly enjoying the season prior to that. There were some kids on my team that season that I didn’t get along with, for one. And for another, I’d grown to really detest those 4 a.m. Tuesday wake-up calls for practice.
But instead, I blamed my skates, which had become too small for my feet over the summer.
Had I wanted to continue, my parents would have bought me another pair, because that’s what they’d always done: spent an absurd amount of money for me to play sports. For my brother, too.
A few years ago, when they sold the house I grew up in, there’s a reason it wasn’t completely paid off – hockey. They remortgaged it on more than one occasion, so – among paying for other expenses – my brother and I could play the sports we wanted to play.
Not every kid is that lucky.
And really, no matter how generous a family you come from, real estate should not be needed as collateral for a child’s extra-curricular endeavours.
But sports – be it hockey or football or track and field – are incredibly expensive, and not getting any cheaper.
It really is a great shame. There’s not enough space in this column to list all the things sports provides for young people. It teaches you everything from teamwork, to dedication to how to deal with others. You learn to win with grace and lose with dignity (though I’m still working on that last part).
And then there’s the friends you make. My 29-year-old brother, for example, plays on a rec-league hockey team with the same group of guys he’s played with since he was eight.
And Tuesday night at Hazelmere Golf Club, site of KidSport Surrey-White Rock’s Nite of Champions dinner, MC Jim Hughson regaled the audience with the tale of his old junior hockey team, which went 0-22-1. He still keeps in touch with his ex-teammates, he said, and though it’s unlikely they spend much time dissecting that season’s on-ice highlights, there’s a bond there that has lasted decades.
There were plenty of young athletes on hand, too – some of whom have been part of the KidSport program, and others, like hockey-playing brothers Bennett and Zac Wheatley, who each received a $2,000 inheritance from their grandfather with the caveat that they donate it to a charity.
They both told their grandfather that they wanted to help other kids play sports, so they chose to donate their money to KidSport, which, in total, raised $84,000 that night to help cover registration fees for local youth.
The Wheatley’s gesture was an incredibly selfless one, and received a well-earned round of applause.
Had KidSport been around when I was that age, I like to think that I’d have done the same. But the idea that sports could be so expensive was lost on me back then, though surely not on my parents.
At least I saved them a few bucks on a pair of skates once.
Nick Greenizan is the sports reporter at the Peace Arch News.