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Hockey families get creative in solving time, cost concerns

By Stephen Whyno (AP Hockey Writer)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Megan Lincoln couldn’t put her son into hockey right away when he wanted to play.

She didn’t have the time to take off from work to shuttle him to practice or the money to pour into a traditionally expensive sport.

”Nothing is cheap,” Lincoln said. ”There’s nothing about hockey that is cheap. Maybe some laces.”

But Reggie Hunter became a hockey player when the family found out Snider Hockey was offering free equipment and instruction 20 minutes from their New Jersey home. He learned to play multiple positions over time as his great-grandfather drove him to and from the rink in Pennsauken. That was seven years ago. Hunter, now 21, went on to play junior hockey.

Many families wrestle with the time and money needed to play youth sports, but those challenges can be even more significant when it comes to hockey, with all of its equipment and rinks that are sometimes far away. For the less wealthy, having a child who dreams of hockey can look like a nightmare.

”The challenge is that hockey is a very unique sport and it’s a very expensive sport,” said NHL diversity ambassador Willie O’Ree, who broke the league’s color barrier in 1958. ”To go into a sport shop and outfit a 10- to a 13-year-old boy or girl, it costs about $800, and a lot of these families, they just can’t afford the money.”

The cost of protective equipment, sticks and ice time is one factor that keeps hockey lagging behind sports such as basketball and soccer in the U.S. among minority children. Snider Hockey program director Dan Rudd estimates the expenses of travel hockey alone can cost a family $2,000-$3,000 a year.

Steps are being taken to address those concerns, including programs like Snider Hockey in Philadelphia, Detroit Ice Dreams and Hockey is for Everyone, Future Goals and Learn to Play from the NHL and NHL Players’ Association. Many outfit kids with all they need to get on the ice.

Detroit Ice Dreams vice president and program manager Cynthia Wardlaw likened the cost of her children playing hockey to a car bill or a mortgage bill.

”I would’ve never been able to afford hockey if it wasn’t for a program like this because it wouldn’t have ever fit in my budget,” Wardlaw said. ”No matter how much my kid might’ve enjoyed it or liked it or loved it, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. We have a lot of parents that are thankful for our program because they would’ve never been able to experience the game of hockey because hockey is very expensive.”

Neal Henderson, who founded the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club in Washington in 1978, said his organization outfits kids from head to foot with safe equipment. Some rinks rely on donated or used equipment that can be passed down from older to younger players.

Snider Hockey provides equipment, too, as part of almost $5 million in annual expenses. It also helps parents trying to figure out what to buy.

”Sometimes the parents don’t have the experience in the sport to understand what to look for, so they need mentors, they need subject matter experts,” said Jim Britt, the since-retired first employee of Snider Hockey. ”They need coaching along the way to make sure they know a $500 piece of equipment isn’t necessarily better than a $300 piece of equipment or a $200 piece of equipment.”

Coaches are also part-time drivers at Snider Hockey, and parents run carpools for practices and games. Detroit Ice Dreams Founder Jason McCrimmon said he barters with city-run rinks by offering basic classes to get favorable ice time that allows kids to practice and play after school – hours more favorable than early in the morning or late at night.

Small-ice practices, where a team needs just a third of the rink, also helps organizations keep costs down.

”You divide the dollars you spend on an hour of ice by 60 instead of 20,” Snider Hockey executive vice president Jan Koziara said. ”It’s a huge return.”

NHL, NHLPA and USA Hockey assistance goes a long way as the organizations try to grow the game. Henderson believes the onus is still on parents to explore options.

”The parents have to make a sacrifice, and they have to make a sacrifice to become involved,” Henderson said. ”(A child who asks their parents to play) knows the answer will be they’re too busy or they’ve got to work or they think that the price is too high. They have no idea of cost, and they don’t know what a commitment would be.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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    Gallant responds to ‘clown’ DeBoer for ‘chirping’ comment

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    The war of words in the Vegas Golden Knights-San Jose Sharks series has now extended to the coaches, and friends, things are getting spicy.

    On Monday Sharks coach Peter DeBoer was critical of his counterpart, Gerard Gallant, for “chirping” at Sharks players during the series, saying: “I don’t know if it works in our favor. I mean, there’s still chatter. Their coach is chattering. He’s probably doing the most chattering. He’s talking to our players constantly during the game, which I haven’t seen before.”

    DeBoer went on to call the chatter, “ridiculous.”

    On Tuesday, just hours before the decisive Game 7 (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live Stream), Gallant was asked about DeBoer’s comments and responded not only in great detail about the incidents, but by also calling DeBoer a clown.

    “I really don’t want to talk about that, but I think I’m going to have to a little bit,” said Gallant. “For that clown to say that in the paper yesterday, it’s not right.”

    [NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    From there, Gallant explained when and why he was chattering from the bench.

    “There might have been two incidents that happened, and I’ll tell you both incidents,” Gallant began.

    Logan Couture, I thought it was an embellishment, so I’m yelling at the referee. Not Logan Couture. The other one, in Game 2, Evander Kane, he is yelling at Ryan Reaves between the bench. Evander yells at me, he says, ‘hey coach, when are you going to send your big guy out on the ice and play him more than four minutes?’ I said, ‘he’s played 10 minutes every game and he’s going to play a lot more.’ Those are the two times. If I’m going to be a chirper and a loudmouth, I think people know me as a coach and respect me as a coach. If he’s going to yap about that, that’s a little unclassy for me.”

    The trash talking in the series began with Reaves and Kane having a very public back-and-forth, complete with Kane referring to Reaves as “the muffin man” after their Game 3 fight and Reaves cracking jokes about Joe Thornton‘s age and vision.

    This is only the Golden Knights’ second year in the NHL, but having already played the Sharks in the playoffs each year, and having some wild regular season matchups in between, it is very clear they have their first true rival.

    The handshake line on Tuesday night, no matter who wins, should be an interesting one.

    Related: Trash talk between Reaves, Kane almost as good as their fight

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    Pressure once again on Babcock, Maple Leafs in Game 7

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    Trying to pick the winner of a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is completely futile. It is there that one of the most random sports, at its most random time of year, descends into its most random madness where anything and everything can happen. That unpredictability is a big part of what makes it so great and captivating.

    It doesn’t really matter what happened in the previous six games of the series, or at any other point in the season because Game 7s usually come down to which goalie plays the best game for 60 minutes, or which team gets the right bounce at the right time. Those are things that are just impossible to predict before the game begins. You just have to watch and see how it all plays out.

    With that said, I have no idea what is going to happen between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream) , but I do know this much — the Maple Leafs better win.

    Don’t care how. Don’t care why. Don’t care what the score is. They just need to win.

    They better win for the short-term reputation of their core, and they better win for the long-term reputation of their head coach.

    I’m not going to go as far as to say Mike Babcock is coaching for his job on Tuesday night, because there is literally no indication of that. Plus, deciding the fate of your coach based on one game is kind of a foolish thing to do anyway. At this point he is either your coach, or he is not.

    But at some point these people have to win something.

    [NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    And I’m not even talking about the Eastern Conference or the Stanley Cup itself.

    Just something.

    A playoff round, for example, would be a huge place to start for an organization that hasn’t played in the second round since before the salary cap era began (2004), and has built a roster that has championship aspirations right now. This isn’t a team whose window is still a couple of years away from opening. They are in it right now, and with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins (and maybe Washington Capitals after Wednesday?) out of the picture this season the field is wide open for every team in the Eastern Conference.

    But again, let’s just start with a round.

    It would be huge for the best collection of young forwards in the NHL that was only strengthened this summer with the addition of John Tavares. At some point Round 1 exits — and a loss on Tuesday would be the third in a row — will not be enough for this core.

    It would be huge for the highest paid head coach in the NHL whose actual results-based resume has not matched his reputation and league-wide standing in quite a while. At some point third place finishes (a Babcock coached team has not finished higher than third in its division since 2010-11) and Round 1 exits (he has not been out of Round 1 since 2012-13, and only once since 2010-11) will not be enough. I again go back to the fact that 25 different NHL head coaches have won a playoff series since Babcock last won one. If you’re the Maple Leafs, you’re not paying more than $6 million per season for those results.

    It would be huge for Nazem Kadri, an incredibly valuable player, who once again failed his team by doing something completely reckless and senseless to take himself out of a playoff series. It would be an awfully bad look to have your team go out early, again, while you’re sitting in the press box for a significant chunk of the series for a totally avoidable reason. This will be the 14th playoff game between the Bruins and Maple Leafs the past two years, and Kadri has made himself available for only six of them. Would you be able to bring him back after that?

    It is a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the pressure is on everyone to win.

    If Boston loses it would no doubt be disappointing for the organization and the fans. But this Bruins’ core at least has a championship to fall back on, and has at least made some kind of a run at some point in the past decade. It would be frustrating, but it wouldn’t be something that would make the organization take a long look at itself in the mirror and try to figure out why this sort of thing keeps happening.

    But Toronto? A loss on Tuesday night would sink them into a sea of questions regarding their core, their coach, and just why in the hell they can’t get through this Boston Bruins team.

    That will not be fun — or good — for anyone.

    Anything can happen in a Game 7, but Toronto needs this one more than any other team playing in a Game 7 in this round.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    AP/CP survey: Players pan delay of game, goalie interference

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    The pace and excitement of 3-on-3 overtime isn’t just a thrill for hockey fans – NHL players love it, too.

    An Associated Press/Canadian Press survey of NHLPA representatives from all 31 teams found that 97% of those polled enjoy the league’s current overtime format during the regular season. The survey also found there are other rules the players are less thrilled with, ranging from delay-of-game penalties to confusion about goalie interference.

    For Arizona Coyotes defenseman Kevin Connauton, the worst rule in hockey is resolving a game with a shootout when overtime fails to produce a winner.

    ”I don’t really like the shootout,” he said. ”I think you just play 3-on-3 and eventually someone will score.”

    The survey found that 30 players like the 3-on-3 setup. Only Philadelphia defenseman Radko Gudas said he did not, preferring the previous 4-on-4 setup better. He and said having fewer players on the ice is too much like ”summertime hockey.”

    ”You work your bag off 60 minutes 5-on-5 and then all of a sudden it’s 3-on-3, a speedier, faster guy pretty much wins,” he said. ”I think 4-on-4 would be more hockey-like situations than 3-on-3.”

    Still, his peers said they love it. Playing a five-minute 3-on-3 period provides a fair way to end the game while allowing fans to see some pure skill, Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares said.

    ”(It’s) exciting and you see the best players in the world with that type of time and space,” he said. ”It goes to show it’s a good way to end games. There’s no perfect science to this. We want a winner, but we can’t play forever. It’s a great way to showcase the talent, the skill of the game.”

    The pace can be tough for the guys on the ice, New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider said.

    ”I hate it as a goalie, but I like it as a hockey fan,” he said. ”I think it’s better than the shootout, for sure. And I know it’s not perfect, but it gets you a decision, it gets people excited, you see some amazing skill and the way the league is now, it’s a great showcase for what these guys can do.”

    The NHL moved away from 4-on-4 overtime in the 2015-16 regular season in a bid to create more space on the ice, allow for more goals and reduce the number of games going to shootouts. In the postseason, overtime is in 20-minute, sudden-death periods at 5-on-5. There are no shootouts.

    Dylan DeMelo of the Ottawa Senators loves 3-on-3, but said there is one tweak he’d like to make. The defenseman said he wants to see a rule that would stop players from taking the puck over center ice and then back again to regroup. He thinks that would make OT even more entertaining.

    There are a number of other rules players would love to see changed, including 63.2 that stipulates a delay of game penalty when a puck is shot or batted over the glass.

    ”I don’t think it should be a penalty. I think it should be the same as an icing. Whistle, faceoff in your end, no ability to change,” said Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ian Cole, one of five players (16%) who said the rule is the worst in hockey. ”A penalty for a play that has a high chance to happen in a course of a game or a (penalty kill) or whatever, it seems a little drastic.”

    For other players, the uncertainty around what constitutes goalie interference is particularly irritating. Three players, or 10% of those in the survey, said the inconsistency was their least-favorite part of the NHL rule book.

    ”What is goaltender interference and what’s not?” said Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse. ”Maybe having more of a clear line, but any time you talk about something within the game, things happen so fast out there that judgment calls and whatnot, they’re hard to make.”

    According to the league, there are only two situations where goaltender interference should result in a disallowed goal: if an attacking player stops the goalie from being able to move freely within his crease or defend his goal, or an attacking player intentionally or deliberately makes contact with the goalie.

    Some players say what counts as interference in one game might not be the same in the next.

    On Friday, Flyers goalie Cam Talbot tweeted his dissatisfaction with how the rule was applied in the Maple Leafs’ 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins.

    ”Once again the NHL goalie interference review is flawed,” wrote Talbot, who was not part of the AP/CP survey. ”Someone that’s played the game in the blue paint should be in the situation room. Games are being lost in the playoffs and it’s not right. (hash)inconsistent.”

    Three players said what they most dislike are offside reviews. Nine others named other rules, including tripping being called alongside diving, and the ban on time outs being used when the puck is iced. Eleven players did not provide a specific answer.

    ”Rules are the rules. I just follow them,” said winger Anders Lee of the New York Islanders.

    More AP NHL: http://www.apnews.com/NHL and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports

    Sabres’ Zach Bogosian out 5-6 months after hip surgery

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian will miss five to six months after his second hip operation in a little more than a year.

    The Sabres provided the update Tuesday, two weeks after their season ended. Bogosian missed the final eight games with what the team referred to only as a lower-body injury.

    The timetable for recovery means Bogosian is in jeopardy of missing the start of next season.

    The surgery is the latest setback for the 28-year-old hard-hitting defenseman, who has played 70 games just twice in his 11 NHL seasons. Bogosian was limited to playing just 18 games in 2017-18 before season-ending hip surgery in January of that season.

    Last season, he finished with three goals and 19 points in 65 games, matching the most he played since 2011-12, when Bogosian was with Winnipeg.

    More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports