FanDuel - WFBC

March 09, 2007

Diversifying a Colorless Game: Jeff DiNunzio writing in Sportscentral has penned an outstanding piece. "Hockey is dichotomous: while experiencing a period of great popularity in the number of new players registering with USA Hockey, its official governing body,(in the United States) the sport continues to suffer waning popularity on a large scale, especially in predominantly non-white regions." Referencing Scott Burnsides piece for ESPN this is a comprehensive and compelling read.

posted by skydivedad to hockey at 07:59 AM - 42 comments

As the article states you gotta have ice to play hockey, an item not readily available unless it is winter. (for the areas that experience winter) or have rinks. Also, for some families the cost is a major factor. I don't think it is "blacks don't like hockey, have no interest in hockey.." I think it is lack of opportunity. I am sure there are talented children/young adults, regardless of race, who could play but for some reason can't. I won't even start on "peer pressure" to have the "latest, flashiest" equiptment!

posted by steelergirl at 08:48 AM on March 09

Hockey is only expensive if you don't have a proper winter season. In Canada, outdoor rinks are everywhere, and they're free to use for everybody. Everyone has learned to skate on one of those. The only equipment you need to enter a pickup game is a pair of skates and a stick. Sure, the cost starts to build up when you enter an organized league, but I'm certain it's not that far from, say, american football, where there's no shortage of black players. I think the economic argument is weak. The more decisive factors are culture and climate. Unsurprisingly, the two often go hand in hand: in cold countries, hockey is part of the culture.

posted by qbert72 at 09:15 AM on March 09

Diversifying a Colorless Game : the sport continues to suffer waning popularity on a large scale, especially in predominantly non-white regions." Wow, I thought I was pretty strong in geography in school, where exactly are these "non-white regions" in the U.S.A. ? The author lost me right there. The facts are that hockey is a more expensive sport to play than basketball or soccer. There is an general economic inequality between blacks and caucasians in the U.S. and as a result, it is only logical that more white kids would play than black kids. I work in a business where we deal with many travelling youth hockey teams, both from Canada, and America. There tend to be at least a couple of black players on every team. Of course, these are travelling teams and they cost even more than house league to involve your kid with, so it's fairly logical to assume that their parents are more economically stable than others. I don't think you can make someone hockey's 'Tiger Woods'. Stars just happen, it has to be a natural occurence. I can't tell you how many visible minorities are playing in the N.H.L. right now, and I'm proud of that fact. I don't inventory hockey players by their skin colour, but rather by their ability. My best guess would be about 40 African-Americans are in the league at this time. That would be many more than have ever been before. It's a process, as more people can afford to have their children play the game, more kids will rise to the level of being capable of playing in the N.H.L. I firmly believe there is no racism involved. Any G.M. or coach that would play a lesser white player rather than a more talented black is an idiot. If George W. could help the Leafs win the cup, I'd welcome him to the Blue and White (and silver), even though I despise the man. Kinda like I was thrilled when Rickey Henderson became a Blue Jay in the '93 season. I'd always thought he was an asshole, but I just said to my friends, now he's OUR asshole.

posted by tommytrump at 09:22 AM on March 09

The facts are that hockey is a more expensive sport to play than basketball or soccer. But not significantly more expensive than football or baseball, no? Do these sports have a problem attracting black kids?

posted by qbert72 at 09:40 AM on March 09

where exactly are these "non-white regions" in the U.S.A. I hope this is not misconstrued as rascism, but areas like Bed-Stuy, East New York, Harlem, Ridgewood, South Jamacia, Brownsville and Bushwick are populated mostly by blacks and Latinos. You need to learn to speak Korean if you want to go grocery shopping in Fresh Meadows or Hebrew if you want to survive in Whitestone. In L.A. you have South Central, Compton, inglewood, and East L.A. Every major metropolitan area has sections that are predominantly black, white, asian, latino, native american. Sure, the cost starts to build up when you enter an organized league, but I'm certain it's not that far from, say, american football, where there's no shortage of black players. Again I am speaking about the region I was born and raised in so I don't intend this as Macro view of economics, minorities and sports but on Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn football is a school sponsored sport but hockey is typically run as a "club" activity or not affiliated with the school in anyway. Bottom line there is more of a chance you can play american football free or relatively in expensive as opposed to hockey.

posted by HATER 187 at 09:43 AM on March 09

Hater said what I was going to say -- most football in the states is covered by either by the school, or in the case of outside kids' leagues, by one fee at the beginning of the season. The equipment is passed down from year to year, and there's very little (aside from cleats) which is specific to a player and must be repurchased each season.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:49 AM on March 09

where exactly are these "non-white regions" in the U.S.A. ? Well, the nation's capital, for one. on Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn football is a school sponsored sport but hockey is typically run as a "club" activity or not affiliated with the school in anyway This was also my experience in Upstate New York and Connecticut. Even beyond the schools, football helmets and pads were provided by the organizations/leagues, but in hockey you were lucky if you got goalie gear.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 09:51 AM on March 09

But not significantly more expensive than football or baseball, no? Do these sports have a problem attracting black kids? Sports Illustrated had an article just a year or so ago, saying the percentage of black kids in America playing baseball is down dramatically. When I was a teen, all hockey equipment except the jersey was purchased by parents. The high school football team supplied everything except your jockstrap and shoes. In local baseball parents paid for everything except the game balls, and bases. These are Canadian facts, I can't speak for what happens in the U.S.A.

posted by tommytrump at 09:55 AM on March 09

where exactly are these "non-white regions" in the U.S.A. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of Bophuthatswana and Ciskei, rather than simply areas, or neighbourhoods that are predominantly one race or the other. Some days I'm just a little extra proud I am Canadian.

posted by tommytrump at 10:03 AM on March 09

I guess I was thinking more along the lines of Bophuthatswana and Ciskei, rather than simply areas, or neighbourhoods that are predominantly one race or the other. There are still some strong regional trends in the United States that don't have anything to do with segregation. For instance, rural New England is largely majority white, for reasons of history and economics: the post-Colonial population was largely white, there was never large-scale slavery to establish a large African-American population throughout the area, and the region hasn't attracted a lot of new population of any kind since the Industrial Revolution. The demographics don't change much because the population doesn't change much -- there's nothing to make new people move in.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:27 AM on March 09

Y'all are funny. Being black I like to think that black kids are smart enough to know that if you are going to be playing a full contact sport you wear a helmet that fits, a face mask, and a mouthpiece to go along with the pads...especially when what you are playing on is hard as a brick. Yes economics has something to do with it, but do you see football players missing their teeth?

posted by Drallig9399 at 11:00 AM on March 09

Don't some sports go through a cycle there are a ton of Hockey Fans in america even after that stupid strike a few years back first of all there lucky fans did come back second of all the cycle will turn and hockey will become somewhat popular again I for one used to know a lot of players names when I was younger I could barely name anyone now I'm 38 too and I wonder what is going on with the NHL

posted by luther70 at 11:14 AM on March 09

The high school football team supplied everything except your jockstrap and shoes. In local baseball parents paid for everything except the game balls, and bases. These are Canadian facts, I can't speak for what happens in the U.S.A. Football is pretty much the same, or used to be, in the Midwest. Shoes, mouthpieces, but otherwise very little else purchased by the player/parents. However, Baseball can be a little different. Most of the entry-level little leagues supply all helmets, bats, balls, jerseys and field and protective equipment for practices and games. Again, glove and shoes are kids/parents responsibilities. Granted, to practice/play on your own - add on a bat and balls (the latter of which are cheap). Never played hockey but that's partially because leagues are limited and the schools that offer hockey programs are predominantly "richer" districts. But, I've always had the impression (correct or not) where I can easily see where economics and overall availability still affect popularity. In central Ohio, winters are not harsh enough to have outdoor rinks and my alma mater still doesn't have a hockey team - a school of nearly 2,000 students (much-larger-than-average for the area) in an overall upper middle-class town. but do you see football players missing their teeth? No, just concussions, torn-up knees and broken hands. Nice argument. Lord, I hope you were trolling.

posted by littleLebowski at 11:21 AM on March 09

But not significantly more expensive than football or baseball, no? I suppose, but in the States, most equipment is provided for football and baseball by teams. Hockey seems to assume you will bring your own. I realize someone is footing the bill for the equipment in either case, but it's a barrier to entry for individual kids. There's also a chicken-and-egg problem: schools/ teams provide equipment for football and baseball because they already are popular. And once the initial upfront investment is made, it's relatively inexpensive to maintain the stock.

posted by yerfatma at 11:54 AM on March 09

Here on the west-coast, you have to pay for rink time everytime you go to practice. Also, the gear is more expensive than any other sport. There's no denying it. It's true that if you live in a cold-ass place that freezes, then you can find an outdoor rink, but that ain't happening in CA or FL or TX. These are the states where the majority of professional athletes in the NFL, NBA, and MLB come from. Back to the "school-team" aspect, I don't know about you all, but here in CA electricity prices have been skyrocketing. Imagine a school that can't afford books for 1/2 of their students, justifying spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep an ice hockey rink frozen. That would be a tough sell.

posted by yay-yo at 12:42 PM on March 09

But not significantly more expensive than football or baseball, no? Do these sports have a problem attracting black kids? qbert, have you priced hockey? Skates $2-300 for any kind of quality, up to $1,000 for top notch stuff. Knee pads $100. Pants $200. Shoulder pads $200. Elbow pads $75. Gloves $2-300. Sticks $15 for the wooden one sI used (for which you'd be laughed out of a rink now.) $100+ for modern comp models. Helmet $100 + facemask. Just to be outfitted runs well over $1200. Add to that the cost of ice time, even at a muni rink it's not cheap. Sorry, the reason more inner city (you can substitute black if you like) kids don't play or enjoy hockey is the money. You can throw a group of kids a soccer ball, football or basketball and give them an open space and they'll play. Baseball isn't much different, just ask Sammy Sosa about his beginnings. You just can't do this with hockey. There's a reason that three people I played with as a kid now own professional sports franchises. It (in America, especially) is a wealthy person's sport, period. Anyone who thinks money isn't the largest reason for the shortage of minorities in hockey really doesn't get it.

posted by tahoemoj at 02:02 PM on March 09

Great comments on a situation that needs to be discussed amoung people who love hockey and for those future fans of the sport. Living in Michigan affords my children more opportunity to experience the sport I grew up playing and came to love. The resources and coaching available in this area is probably one of the best in the Nation. As a fan I can't help but wonder what talents we aren't watching because the they didn't recieve the opportunity to learn the sport. I know how much I paid this year alone for my son to be in his league with fee's and equipment cost over $1500. I'm lucky because nearly every High School in this area has a Hockey Team and when he gets older he will get the opportunity to compete for a spot and my cost will go down. It's competitive around here and many players don't make a team but it's been great watching him learn Hockey. (He leads his league in scoring but wants to be a Goalie, yikes..bring $) He's coached by a former Olympian and Coach Ireland of the Grand Rapids Griffins Coaches a Mites Team in his league. The facilities are world class as is the available Coaching and summer camps are happening almost weekly. Anyway my point being that many factors contribute to the lack of minority participation but I blame decades of indifference and neglect. At least as pointed out in the Burnside piece the NHL is making an attempt to provide resources to those who might not otherwise have the same opportunity that I provide for my children. I do have to agree with the writer that their name for the program (Hockey in the Hood) needs to go. Thanks for the great comments everyone.

posted by skydivedad at 02:07 PM on March 09

Another thing that adds to the cost of hockey is rink time. Most schools around here do not have their own rinks and therefore must pay for ice time at local rinks. When you consider all the practices and games the cost really adds up. Also, as yerfatma said, hockey doesn't provide as much equipment as other sports.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 02:13 PM on March 09

When I went to university there was this black guy I knew. Athletic type. When asked to try out for the hockey team, his response was, "You want me spend hours in a freezing cold room with a bunch of white guys who carry sticks and have knives on their feet? No thanks." This has no real bearing on the discussion at hand, but it made me laugh at the time.

posted by fabulon7 at 02:52 PM on March 09

thanks sdd. i finally have a reason to post a link to Ice Hockey in Harlem. while it's just as much a community service and educational program as it is a hockey program, the organization has exposed hockey to a lot of kids that probably wouldn't have picked up a stick otherwise.

posted by goddam at 03:00 PM on March 09

qbert, have you priced hockey? Skates $2-300 for any kind of quality, up to $1,000 for top notch stuff. Knee pads $100. Pants $200. Shoulder pads $200. Elbow pads $75. Gloves $2-300. Sticks $15 for the wooden one sI used (for which you'd be laughed out of a rink now.) $100+ for modern comp models. Helmet $100 + facemask. Just to be outfitted runs well over $1200. Add to that the cost of ice time, even at a muni rink it's not cheap. Sorry, the reason more inner city (you can substitute black if you like) kids don't play or enjoy hockey is the money. You can throw a group of kids a soccer ball, football or basketball and give them an open space and they'll play. Baseball isn't much different, just ask Sammy Sosa about his beginnings. You just can't do this with hockey. There's a reason that three people I played with as a kid now own professional sports franchises. It (in America, especially) is a wealthy person's sport, period. Anyone who thinks money isn't the largest reason for the shortage of minorities in hockey really doesn't get it. This is also probably largely a U.S.-Canada thing in terms of the degree to which expense is a barrier to entry. As qbert noted above, in Canada, there are many free rinks for kids to use; in the U.S. (even in places like Michigan, where I grew up), not so much. In Canada, because there is already a critical mass of people playing the sport at all levels, presumably there is also a larger opportunity for kids to get hand-me-down equipment and/or to purchase equipment on a secondary (used) market. These factors presumably drive the costs down. P.S. -- Welcome back sdd. Good post

posted by holden at 03:07 PM on March 09

I know there's second hand equipment out there, but dang! I'm sure most of us have smelled a hockey bag! And skates these days, the most expensive article of equipment, are all pretty custom.

posted by tahoemoj at 03:21 PM on March 09

And skates these days, the most expensive article of equipment, are all pretty custom. I think this suggests the disconnect qbert and holden are talking about: in the US, hockey is thought of as an organized sport, the kind of thing you need a coach and a team and ice time and someone in the stands to make it all worthwhile. In the States, we certainly don't think of baseball as requiring 18 kids and a league to make a game happen.

posted by yerfatma at 05:03 PM on March 09

I grew up playing pond hockey in Hartford. I understand the possibility. I just don't think it's as easy as throwing out a football and seeing what happens. Maybe the experience is just like that in many parts of Canada and the northern U.S. But for a kid to make it in the NHL, there has to be some sort of organized team play in his background. I don't care how good a skater a kid is, or even pond hockey player, hockey is a game that takes money to reach the highest level. For example, look at the path Jordin Tootoo took from small town boy to big leaguer.

posted by tahoemoj at 05:31 PM on March 09

There was a pond in the mall? Did you play in the wishing well?

posted by yerfatma at 08:03 PM on March 09

Hockey is only expensive if you don't have a proper winter season. In Canada, outdoor rinks are everywhere, and they're free to use for everybody. Huh? What? London, Ontario Canada here. City of 350,000, ZERO outdoor hockey rinks. ZERO free hockey rinks. Maybe I should move to Montreal.

posted by tommytrump at 09:27 PM on March 09

I agree with tommytrump, there are no longer that many free hockey rinks. When I was growing up in the 60's and 70's there were city rinks (Minnesota), but those are all but gone. No city supports free hockey rinks due to cost of maintaining, and liability for injuries. The small town rink that I used to play on, now has signs everywhere noting the ban on shooting hockey pucks. The issue comes down to one point The cost is incredible for hockey. Skates, pads, sticks, etc. So, any disadvantaged kid is not going to get a chance to play. I live in Dallas now, and the wealthy suburbs have hockey, the less well off do not.

posted by dviking at 01:28 AM on March 10

I grew up playing pond hockey in Hartford. There was a pond in the mall? Did you play in the wishing well? The G. Fox building used to have a problem with pipes bursting. My hockey career ended when I got to the level that no longer had clothing racks to hide behind. You can tell a hockey player from Hartford because they reflexively giggle at the term "coat check."

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 02:12 AM on March 10

I was never good enough for the mall, and the wishing well never froze over at our local plaza. But damn, sousepaw, did we maybe scrimmage the year Santas workshop flooded? Howd you know my accent was East Hartford?

posted by tahoemoj at 03:52 AM on March 10

The issue comes down to one point The cost is incredible for hockey. Skates, pads, sticks, etc. So, any disadvantaged kid is not going to get a chance to play. I live in Dallas now, and the wealthy suburbs have hockey, the less well off do not. Exactly... The rink is nothing as far as cost is concerned, it's all that gear... and when you're growing? That much coin year after year after year... If your folks don't have money...forget it. Playing hockey costs a ton of money. My father took my brother and I to a local pond, we messed around growing up. I could play road hockey as well as most guys on the block.... but then, we grew up... organized sports, and that meant equipment - tons of it. Many of my friends played, but for me and my brother, hockey was never even discussed as an option. My bro played baseball, I played basketball: 2 pairs of shoes, $50 for the baseball league, 2 balls and a glove covered it. And as I grew up, i noticed I didn't outgrow my ball. (maybe I lost a couple tho...including one in the ocean...ha) It's about money - This is why soccer is the sport of the world. Unfortunately money and race are still related.

posted by 2 time mvp of the shittiest team ever at 09:25 AM on March 10

The G. Fox building . . . Chess King, Deb, beeper stores. Where the hell is Yukon for this discussion?

posted by yerfatma at 10:00 AM on March 10

Sorry, busy cleaning out the Ground Round's neverending salad bar.

posted by YukonGold at 02:34 PM on March 10

Huh? What? London, Ontario Canada here. City of 350,000, ZERO outdoor hockey rinks. ZERO free hockey rinks. Maybe I should move to Montreal. For the last week or so, it's been bitterly cold here in London. If someone who owned a large enough backyard wanted to make a rink, they could have. I doubt free arenas have been available all that often in any hockey-mad town, but home made rinks (frozen ponds or backyards) have been (and still are) available.

posted by grum@work at 03:30 PM on March 10

Grum, you in London?

posted by tommytrump at 09:12 PM on March 10

Ah the prohibitve cost isn't the reason. Much like baseball, football and basketball, you don't need thousands of dollars to play hockey. You need skates, a puck or ball, a stick and a couple pylons - and a place to play. Much like basketball in Northern climates, you can't play it all year round - or you need an arena. There are barriers for sure (much like how most kids who love football don't have access to a football field), but you don't need to play in a $1,200 league to love hockey, have a favorite team and follow it. You just need to be exposed to it - and like it. These kids have no barriers to playing hockey - street hockey, ball hockey whathaveyou - it's not expensive to play that. That's not the problem. The problem is that hockey has no relevance in the places they live. That's what needs to change.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:38 AM on March 12

Weedy, I'd have to agree with you there. Living in the Kansas City area, we have no NBA franchise or NHL franchise, therefor I and most of my friends haven't really taken the time to develop favorite teams, hated teams, or favorite players. The only exposure we really get are 30-second highlight clips on Sportscenter. If the exposure isn't there, lack of interest will probably soon follow.

posted by hawkguy at 09:16 AM on March 12

The problem is that hockey has no relevance in the places they live. That's what needs to change. Weedy... you may be right, i dunno but... I live in a place where hockey has a $hitload of relevance, just about everyone I knew played, but we couldn't afford it. I played road hockey with them all and was almost as good as my school's best player (without the skates of course, and yes... he'd kick my ass too., dude became a monster....lol). Money was the only reason I wasn't in hockey. It was real relevant.

posted by 2 time mvp of the shittiest team ever at 01:46 PM on March 12

2 time, Weedy didn't say that money wasn't relevant, or even that it couldn't be a barrier; he said that it wasn't the reason why hockey is such a white sport. We see the same thing in ski racing, which is even more location-dependent: money provides considerable advantages, and can certainly be the reason why a young racer doesn't continue in the sport past a certain point, but when it comes to getting started in the sport as a youngster, it's location location location. The best ski racers aren't kids who come from wealthy families -- they're usually kids from families that are of very modest means who live in a ski town. They start skiing at a very young age, when a parent gets a job at the area to get passes for the family; just like hockey kids pick up their stick and skates and head for the pond and head for the pond as soon as school is out, ski kids head for the hill. It's when they get to a certain age and a certain state in their development that they can't continue doing it on the cheap, and that's when lack of money can start weeding 'em out.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:09 PM on March 12

it is mostly white because you need a parent willing to get up at 4 am to drive you to and pay for ice time.

posted by cavwa at 05:11 PM on March 13

Wow, cavwa, you're really a class act, you know?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 06:57 PM on March 14

it is mostly white because you need a parent willing to get up at 4 am to drive you to and pay for ice time. ....And, an African American parent won't do that? Or a Native American parent? Explain please.

posted by tommytrump at 07:34 PM on March 14

Mike Greer is hella good.

posted by swj247 at 12:59 AM on March 15

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