Is hockey just a ‘suburban thing’ ?

The Pioneer Press’ report today on a study of hockey facilities in Ramsey County raises an interesting theory: Urban kids aren’t interested much in hockey anymore, so kids from the suburbs are muscling out opportunities for the few city kids who want to play.

The theory comes from Como Park High School hockey coach Mike Searles, who says it’s been a struggle finding ice time for his kids, especially since the rink at the state fairgrounds closed.

The county has 10 ice arenas, including the Vadnais Sports Center, which was financially on the rocks when the county bought it in 2014.

The study of the county facilities will consider the cost of upgrading them, but one lingering question seems to be: for whom?

We definitely could go out and get more customers from outside Ramsey County, for example, to fill the (ice) schedule and bring in revenues, but that doesn’t meet the needs of our community. … I am looking at how to provide the right service for our young people,” (County Commissioner Rafael) Ortega said.

Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman said she also is looking forward to the comprehensive analysis, particularly after recent decisions made about county ice arenas.

Rettman did not support the purchase of the Vadnais Sports Center so soon after Biff Adams arena was taken out of the hockey ranks. She has expressed reservations about recent investments made by Cretin-Derham Hall and Hill-Murray School into county facilities.

Cretin is adding locker rooms and a community room to the Highland arena, where it has leased ice for many years. Hill-Murray completed a locker-room addition to Aldrich Arena in December.

While those are nice benefits for those communities, Rettman said, she’s concerned about equity for county arenas in neighborhoods without deep pockets.

The spectrum of possibilities for the 10 arenas is wide open, according to officials. That includes the possibility of closing or selling some of them.

  • Gary F

    Highland Central, now St Paul Capitols, Edgcombe and Langford Park programs seem to be doing just fine in St Paul. Maybe its an East Side thing. The neighborhoods have changed on the east side in the last 20 years, Central American and East African immigrants aren’t doing hockey. Convert them to indoor soccer facilities.

    • didn’t one arena around here convert to curling?

      • Gary F

        I don’t have a nice enough sweater to be into curling.

      • Kassie

        Frogtown Curling Club is at the Biff Adams Arena, mentioned in your story above.

  • Maura

    Yes, it’s a suburban thing, (or wealthy urban thing – see Cretin). I live in NE Mpls, with 2 young sons. None of their friends or neighbors play hockey, nor have they ever even been asked to play. I think there is a fledgling hockey assn run by area parents, but it is volunteer run & thus no $ for marketing or recruitment. I’m not even sure Northeast or North high schools have hockey teams at this point. Mostly it’s the cost, but for many parents the dangers of concussion/injury are enough to keep our kids out of the sport.

    • Sareen

      City of Lakes Hockey (serving primarily North and NE Mpls) is a fantastic organization. Equipment is included, fees are about $100 per kid and you can start at 3yo. The fundamentals are sound and kids are supported. Three of my girls started there. However, a 5 month schedule with three practices a week didn’t fit into how we allocated our pre-school time and money.

      That being said, when other teams roll in from the suburbs, even the children felt comfortable to call the practice, equipment, lack of discipline “cute.” Even the 4 and 5yo’s could see the inequities and felt comfortable talking down about it. Things like “OMG, their helmets don’t even match” or “look at her, she doesn’t even have the team hockey socks.” That part got me even more than the toll of a very long season.

  • Mike

    We recently moved to Eden Prairie and go to the community center to workout. There are 3 hockey rinks attached to the community center. From my people watching over the last year or so, I would say not only is hockey a suburban sport, but an upper middle class sport. I never thought it as an ‘elitist’ sport until I started seeing the people coming and going from the hockey rinks.

  • MrE85

    “Urban kids aren’t interested much in hockey anymore….” Were they ever interested in hockey? I didn’t grow up here, so I really don’t know. Gary is right that the urban neighborhoods have changed….perhaps soccer would be a more popular sport for many. Certainly a less expensive one.

    • Kassie

      My local high school has a girls varsity badminton team. I think all the St. Paul high schools do. I’d like to get to a match, but they are all before 5:00.

      • Sareen

        In the late 90’s in St. Paul, the softball team teased and then challenged the badminton players to a game. We were fully expecting that we would be able to hold our own. 100% incorrect. Those ladies are tremendous athletes and it is a fantastic varsity sport.

  • Veronica

    I grew up in a hockey town and even then, hockey was for the upper middle class. It’s just too darn expensive, not to mention you need to have parents (or a parent) with a normal 9-5, 5 days/week job that allows for the early Saturday morning practices and long weekend tournaments.

  • paddy

    Interesting thought process on part of Ramsey County, Are Cretin and Hill Murray not part of the community or just the wrong part of the community. I’d be willing to bet those families pay a lot of taxes to Ramsey County

    Sell the buildings if you don’t want them. Hamline would buy Oscar Johnson in a heart beat. Hamline is forced to use trailers for locker room the arena is so crappy

    • Kassie

      Hamline isn’t forced to do anything. They could build their own arena with nice locker rooms if they wanted to.

  • lobd

    Our lack of participation is all about time. We could afford to play, but, oh boy! A year-round sport? No way. I want my city boys outside in the summer. I don’t want them to lose their precious time to one sport. I don’t want them to choose between cabin time and rink time. The hockey schedule is unsustainable.

    • Tim

      This seems to be an increasingly common thing with all youth sports, unfortunately. When I was young, we played whatever was appropriate for the season and most kids played two or three sports over the course of the year, but the trend now is towards specialization at a young age.

  • Cosmos

    I’m from southern Minnesota where wrestling trumps hockey so I don’t get this hockey obsession. As our demographics change, hockey will increasingly become a white middle class sport. Parents have to be just as committed to hockey as their children, and that isn’t likely among immigrant families.

  • Al

    I’m not sure Aldrich Arena sits in a neighborhood renowned for its deep pockets. (Though Hill-Murray hockey families are likely pretty well-off compared to their St. Paul counterparts–or their own classmates, for that matter.)