Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday October 29, 2016
‘Pretty Good Rich Kids’: Reaching the OHL takes more than talent
What does it take to make it to the Ontario Hockey League?
Skill? Certainly. Speed? Sure. Strength? No question.
But it also takes something else — something over and above raw talent and physicality. To make it to the OHL, you also need a winning ticket in the lottery of birth.
A year-long Spectator investigation finds a highly significant number of the league’s Ontario-raised players are from suburban neighbourhoods where most people are well-educated, earn high incomes and live in expensive homes.
The odds of them crossing paths with someone living in poverty are extremely low.
For anyone familiar with the extraordinary cost of playing hockey in Ontario — $15,000-or-so annually for an elite AAA player and getting higher — this won’t come as a shock. If you want to be the next Sidney Crosby, says Wilfrid Laurier University’s William McTeer, “the first question you have to ask is how much money do your parents have and are they prepared to invest in your future as an athlete.”
But cost isn’t the only thing keeping children in Hamilton and across Ontario out of the game.
Several factors, including geography, public policy and the funding mechanisms of non-profits, are making it increasingly difficult for low- and middle-income families to access the sport, particularly at competitive levels.
“I think it’s tragic,” says Philip White, a sport sociologist at McMaster University. “You live in a culture where everybody is supposed to have an opportunity to advance and kids are simply shut out.”
Our analysis is grounded in data. Stick with us while we get the heavy stuff out of the way. (Continued: Hamilton Spectator)