Featured Hockey Hockey 101

Travel or House League Hockey: A Helpful Guide to Choosing the Right Team

The months leading up to the start of the hockey season can be stressful for families who are deciding whether their child will play travel league or house league hockey. Since travel hockey can be more demanding on the player and on the parents when cost and time is considered, the decision must be made as a family. There are many aspects to consider before coming to any conclusion.  The list below can act as a helpful guide through the decision-making process:

  1. Player’s desire to play and passion for the game
  2. Financial cost
  3. Amount of travel required
  4. Playing environment

Player’s desire and passion for the game

The young player in your family must express a strong desire and passion to play hockey at a competitive level before even considering travel hockey. In many cases, a player might love the game, but might just enjoy playing for fun, on a recreational team. The important thing is to never pressure your child into playing travel hockey. Just because a parent enjoyed playing a more competitive level of hockey, does not mean that the child will want to follow in those footsteps.  Players will need to commit a lot of time, and mental and physical energy to the team, which might require sacrificing other hobbies and sports. With long hours of practice, showing up early before games, and additional training, playing travel hockey is a full commitment.

Financial cost

In comparison to other sports, hockey can already be more expensive. Whether playing house league or travel hockey, players are required to purchase skates, sticks, pads and team uniforms. However, travel teams can come with even more costs. Registration costs will be higher for travel leagues since the team will have more ice time for practice and training, and there will be costs associated with distance games. Other costs can include tryout fees and matching team gear, such as bags, helmets and training uniforms. Before signing up for tryouts, be sure to confirm with the team about any additional costs beyond playing fees.

Amount of time and travel required

When a player joins a travel team, he or she commits to attending practices, training and games. Ice time is much more frequent than house league hockey, so parents are expected to make sure that their child attends each team event. This also will include traveling to away games and tournaments. Committing the time involved in the team can also be difficult if your family is juggling other schedules of siblings in different sports and activities.  Still, in some cases, house league hockey can also require some travel to neighboring communities when there are not enough teams in the local area.

Playing environment

There are pros and cons to the playing environments of both travel league hockey and house league hockey.  It is important to determine which environment your player and family wants to be involved in.

Travel hockey is a higher level of competition. It is more physically demanding and tougher mentally for the youth players to earn a spot on the ice. However, the teams often have more qualified coaches that offer better training and skill development.  Travel hockey requires tryouts to play on the team (17 players total; 3 forward lines, 6 defensemen, 2 goalies), so the players risk being cut and the disappointment that can follow. The coaches of a travel team can also limit play time depending on the player’s performance, so the players need to work hard to earn that time.

In contrast, if you are looking for a fun, recreational experience without added pressure on the player, house league is the better option. House league welcomes all players and offers equal playing time to each team member. House league hockey offers a community that allows the player to learn the skills of hockey as well as the positive characteristics of being a part of a team.  House league is also a great environment to develop skills and practice for travel tryouts for the following season if your child does not make the team he or she hoped for.

Travel Hockey or House League

Each of these factors should be considered before making a decision to play travel hockey or house league.  As a recap, here are four questions that can help your family find the league that is best:

  1. What is your child’s level of desire to play and passion about hockey?
  2. Can your family afford the additional costs?
  3. Can your family commit time and miles to travel?
  4. What environment and learning experience do you want for your child?
Featured Figure Skating

Youth Figure Skating: The Basics

Whether or not you live in a wintry climate, kids’ figure skating is a year-round activity that can lead to several other competitive youth sports. Or it might be a hobby your child will enjoy their whole life!

The basics: Skating starts with learning how to balance on skates and move from point A to point B, usually in a “Learn to Skate” or basic skills program.

From there, kids can branch out into freestyle figure skating, ice dancing, hockey, synchronized skating, or speed skating. And on dry land, roller skating or in-line skating!

Age kids can start: Toddlers of two and three years old can begin to skate, sometimes with a metal bar to hold onto for balance. Learn-to-skate lessons can begin at about age 4.

Skills needed/used: Flexibility, muscle strength, endurance, balance and coordination.

Best for kids who are: Patient and persistent—it can take time to see results. Figure skaters need to be both athletic and artistic.

Season/when played: Winter; many (but not all) indoor ice rinks are open year-round, and competitions happen year-round too.

Team or individual? Figure skating is performed individually, in pairs, or in small groups for artistic events. Synchronized skaters compete in teams. And don’t forget that boys can and do figure skate. In fact, they are in demand as pairs and dance partners!

Levels: The U.S. Figure Skating Basic Skills Program has a series of levels that young skaters pass through depending on their performance of specific sets of skills.

Competitive skaters also take a series of tests in several disciplines: moves in the field (formerly figures), freestyle, and dancing.

Appropriate for kids with special needs: Yes. Kids with intellectual and physical disabilities can even participate in a Special Olympics skating program.

Fitness factor: Recreational skating burns 250 calories or more per hour; the rate is higher for competitive figure skating. As with swimming, if your child is taking lessons, make sure they get plenty of active ice time (vs. waiting-their-turn time).

Equipment: To start, skates (can be rented at ice rinks) and warm clothing, especially water-resistant mittens or gloves. Helmets are recommended for kids 6 and under and all beginning skaters. As figure skaters progress, they will need costumes for performances and competitions. You will need to pay for ice skate sharpening after every four to six hours of ice time. (When you buy skates, find out if the retailer offers free sharpening.)

Costs: Group lessons for beginning skaters cost about $10/half-hour, often including rental skates. Rental skates cost a few dollars per session, as does open skate time. But competitive figure skating can be very expensive, when you add up costs for private coaching, gear, ice time, costumes, fees for tests and competitive events, and travel.

Once a figure skater is receiving private coaching, they typically join a figure skating club for access to ice time, as well as special events such as ice shows.

Time commitment required: For beginning skaters, weekly lessons (usually 30 minutes) and some practice time. As skaters progress, they will spend significantly more time on the ice. Serious skaters practice or take lessons at least four to five days a week, plus train off the ice. Competitive figure skaters also travel for testing and competitions. Top figure skaters may turn to homeschooling or online learning to balance skating and school commitments.

Potential injuries: Falls onto the hard surface of the ice can be risky, which is why novice skaters should wear helmets—and learn the correct way to fall down and get back up. More experienced skaters who do not wear helmets should know how to prevent and treat concussions.

Skaters can be susceptible to both overuse and traumatic injuries, usually to the hips, spine, or lower extremities. Get a tip sheet on preventing figure skating injuries from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

Associations and governing bodies:

U.S. Figure Skating
Professional Skaters Association
Ice Skating Institute

If your child likes figure skating, also try: Roller skating or in-line skating; ballet; gymnastics; ice hockey; speed skating.

Featured Hockey Hockey 101

Youth Hockey Team Fundraising

Hockey Fundraising

As hockey tryouts approach, every parent is faced with the costs of the expensive sport.  Expenses can include registration, ice time, travel and accommodations for tournaments and away games, on-ice gear (helmets, skates, jerseys, sticks, pads, socks, shorts), bags, and off-ice training uniforms.  In many cases, hard-working families and single parents have to face the fact that these costs may dictate whether or not their child gets to play.  Fortunately, fundraising is an excellent game plan to bring in more money for the team and to help offset expenses.

Fundraising has provided youth with an opportunity to participate in community sports and activities for years.  There are two fundamental approaches to fundraising: the first is through corporate or small business sponsorship and support, and the second is through community activities and events.


Company names can be found on jerseys and on the boards and walls at the rinks, showcasing sponsorships from local or corporate businesses that support youth hockey.  These sponsorships can be approached at the organizational, team, or parental level.  Sponsorships at the organizational level help to cover major costs that can relieve some of the upfront expenses for parents and players.  However, teams can take their fundraising further by brainstorming a list of local businesses that might support the team and reaching out with a proposal.

Do not forget to keep supporting companies updated throughout the season and to send a thank you at the end explaining how their contribution has helped. It is important that the company knows that their support is appreciated and worthwhile; this will also help to encourage returning sponsors for the following season. If a company is not willing to provide financial support, they may be able to offer support in other ways such as through donations for raffle items, or donations of their services.

Community Activities & Events

The ideas for community activities and events are endless. They can be effective in generating an income for the team, but also as opportunities for team bonding. Here is a list of ideas and examples:

  • Sales: Bake sale, Community garage sale, Lemonade stand, Craft sale
  • Sell tickets to dinner events: Spaghetti dinner, Chilli cook-off, Fish bake, Pancake breakfast/dinner
  • Game night: Trivia, Bowling, Poker
  • Tournaments: Baseball, Golf
  • Create a team product to sell: T-shirts, Calendars, Cookbooks
  • Intermission activities: 50/50 raffle tickets, “Chuck-a-puck”
  • Raffles (ask for product donations from parents and local businesses)
  • Car wash (When it’s warm!)
  • Bottle/Can drive

Successful Fundraising

Fundraising is most successful when the whole team is involved, including kids, parents, and coaches.  Not every parent can dedicate time and not every parent can donate money, but every parent can be involved in some way. There are many roles that can add value to the team, so make sure to offer many options and to be appreciative of any help that can be brought to the table. Here are some ways to get involved:

  • Fundraising committee: Parents who can commit to the time involved in planning and organizing fundraising initiatives.
  • Sponsorship team: Parents who can reach out to local businesses for support.
  • Volunteers: Coaches, parents and players who can volunteer time at fundraising events.
  • Financial contributors: Parents who can donate funds.
  • Other contributors: Parents who can cook, bake, or donate other resources (ex: soap for the car wash, raffle items, etc.).

Remember to keep the kids involved in every area with some responsibility. After all, it is for them.

Featured Hockey Hockey 101

99 Common Hockey Terms: Getting Familiar

99 Common Hockey Terms: Getting Familiar with Hockey

Starting a new sport can sometimes feel like learning a new language. Some terms may already be common, like Zamboni (the machine used to prepare a new sheet of ice before a game or between periods), or stickhandling (to control the puck along the ice). Other terms may sound completely foreign, such as an Odd Man Rush (when the number of offensive players heading into the attacking zone is greater than the number of defender), or ragging the puck (when a player kills of penalty time against his time by circling back towards his own goal while in possession of the puck).  Lack of communication between players and coaches can cause delays and challenges on the ice, but clear communication can take a team to victory.  Get familiar with the language of hockey using the directory below.

Find great local coaches on Travelsports here!