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Quick.  Name a sport that is safe, open to all, great for making friends and learning the value of team-work, a fantastic way to get exercise, and that can teach new skills that will be of benefit throughout one’s entire life.  Many will immediately think of soccer or basketball or baseball.  One that seems to be slipping in popularity is hockey and perhaps that is because of misperception and the need for greater outreach.

In the last few years the Streetsville Arena (especially the House Leagues involving kids aged five to eight) has seen a drop-in enrollment.  The question of why begs asking.  Is the drop due to a change in demographics in Mississauga?  Is the sport seen as being too costly or time consuming?  Is the increased awareness of the danger of (particularly head) injuries giving parents pause?

Unfortunately, it is possible that some or all of these factors play a role.  It is unfortunate because such perceptions are largely inaccurate.  General Manager of the Streetsville Arena, Jeff Duggan, was able to clear the air about many of these concerns.

With respect the costs, the Streetsville Hockey League (SHL) offers ‘all in’ pricing for its house leagues and since the practices and games all take place at the Streetsville Arena the cost of travelling around the city is reduced.  Registration runs in the neighbourhood of $6-700 for a season that lasts over six months.  Compared with the $2-300 for a summer of soccer, that’s not too bad!

As for time commitment, belonging to a house league team involves one practice on Mondays and a game Saturday morning, leaving plenty of time for other activities at school or with the family.  No experience is required to join the league and if one wanted just to try the sport out, there are learn to skate programs and ‘Stick and Puck’ sessions so parents can see if their little ones take to the ice.  Also, the introduction of ‘half-ice’ games means that kids legs won’t become worn out skating the full length of a rink and gives more opportunity for puck control and play making.

The House League, as is the case for all those involving youth, is non-contact.   This is important for parents to realise if they are especially concerned about head or other injuries.  The degree of padding and protection that modern kit provides has never been better and there have only been a handful of inadvertent concussions over the past six or seven years.  Compared with the risk routinely assumed by kids on a playground climbing frame with no protect whatsoever, becoming involved in hockey seems a wise choice.

Finally, there is the idea that changing demographics has led to a decline in participation.  While those new to Canada or who do not have any exposure to hockey may not initially consider becoming involved, the sport is a great way to become more acclimated to a large component of Canadian culture, have a lot of fun, and make new friends at the same time.

For more information about the programmes available, please come by the Streetsville Arena or call 905 826-3011.