Should I pay less because my son is a bench warmer?

Our Game's experts field a question about whether registration fees should reflect ice time.

An Our Game reader asks the experts if registration fees should reflect ice time

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The topic we're discussing: Is minor hockey too expensive? Have your say. Click here to find out more about the forum and to set an email reminder to get involved.

Now for today's question: 

Q: "If my son plays A hockey and is considered by the coaching staff to be a 'support player,' his role on this team will consist of about three minutes of ice time a game. A primary player who would be the captain or assistant will be getting approximately 20 minutes of ice time a game.

"Why should I, the parent of a support player, be paying the same amount of hockey fees as a 'primary player'? Minor hockey is a bought and paid for commodity, just like any appliance you buy. The Better Business Beaureau would step in and enforce the laws made by society for consumer protection.

"Is it time for minor hockey in canada to either mandate equal ice time and consider it a purchased commodity, or make the hockey organization dictate who is a primary player and who is a support player and adjust the fees accordingly?" Derek, Cambridge, Ont.

A: Derek, are you serious?

I have a feeling you're looking to ruffle some feathers here, and hey, we appreciate it.

You and your son made the choice to play competitive hockey. You can't just turn around and decide that since your son isn't a star player, you should pay less.

What you're proposing here is that the kids who play more should be 'taxed' because they're better players, and their parents should have to shell out a few extra hundred bucks. That's ridiculous.

I also wonder if you would have asked this question if your son was a 'primary,' star player. I don't think so.  

If you want equal ice time in competitive hockey, you need to find a coach who stands by that philosophy — and good luck with that. Or your son needs to move down a level, or even stick to house league.

Our Game blogger and president of the Greater Toronto Hockey League's Mississauga Terriers Ken Wolff also fielded this question. Here's what Ken had to say:

"I'm going to start with the details about your son and next year's coach.

"Cal Botterill, who writes for Our Game, has written a parent's handbook that says one of the key ingredients to a good relationship between a parent and a coach is open communication.

Make your expectations known

"You seem to know what the coach thinks about your son, but I'm not sure this is based on your own assumptions or a conversation you have had with the coach. You must talk with the coach about expectations so you know exactly what is in store for you and your son during the season.  Don't guess and don't assume, you must have an honest, direct conversation.

"The coach needs to give you a clear understanding of what he thinks will unfold during the coming season.  Even if you don't like his plan, it's better to know the plan now when you have lots of chances to make changes. 

"If the coach does see your son as a 'support' player with a limited role on the team you and your son have a choice to make.  Stay with this team with a full understanding of what is in store or move to another A  level team. I assume there is more than one A team in Cambridge. Maybe your son's skills will fit better on another A team with a different coach.

"Don't discard the option of moving down a level.  I've seen players drop down for a year or two and then move back up as an improved player.  Being a 'go to' player at another skill level can do wonders for a player's confidence.

"The second part of your note is unique, to say the least. You suggest we should think of a player's ice time as a commodity, nothing more, nothing less. More ice time in games would mean higher fees; less ice time in games means lower fees. I'd hate to be the one to come up with that mathematical formula.

Mathematical ice time fee formula?

"I also hope that you are not one of these guys who carries a stopwatch to time shifts. I can just see it now. The team manager creates a spreadsheet and enters how many minutes each player plays for each game. At the end of the season a mathematical formula is applied to calculate a fee. Yikes!

"As much as you want to turn hockey into a clear-cut exchange of goods, it isn't going to work.  Canadians love the game precisely because of the emotions. When I go to the rink, especially now when playoffs are well underway, I'm struck by the emotions that envelope you the minute you walk in the door. 

"The cheers, the shouting, the on-ice celebrations of the victors and the tears of the losers all remind me how much is at stake for the players, the coaches and the parents. 

"None of that is based on an exchange of commodities.  It's based on passion and commitment.  Those elements may make the game harder, but they also make it the game we love."

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