SELLING THE DREAM
HOW HOCKEY PARENTS AND THEIR KIDS ARE PAYING THE PRICE FOR OUR N
Drawing on decades of combined experience in hockey at all levels, Ken Campbell and Jim Parcels pull back the curtain on hockey to show just how far our national game has strayed from its roots.
What they reveal is a system driven by unrealistic expectations of a financial windfall, where minor-hockey fees and new sticks for kids are deemed “investments”— and where there is no shortage of entrepreneurs more than happy to take money from starry-eyed parents.
Always informative, often shocking, Selling the Dream is not only a guidebook for legions of hockey parents across the country, its a defence of the game we all love, and of childhood itself.
If you ever find yourself playing the Genus V edition of Trivial Pursuit, you might be faced with the following question when you land on an orange Sports & Leisure square: Whose single-season scoring record of 104 goals in 40 games as a sevenyear-old was broken by Mitchell Davis, who got 109 goals in 17 games?
The answer: Wayne Gretzky.
In the early afternoon of January 15, 2000, little No. 7 for Niroc Construction of the East Nipissing Minor Hockey Association (just east of North Bay, Ontario) scored nine goals in a game at the Astorville Arena. It was hardly an anomaly for him. Earlier that day he had scored ten, and most games he was good for at least a double hat trick. Once that season, the coach of an opposing local team had refused to play Niroc Construction in an exhibition game unless Mitchell Davis played in goal. He did, and his team won 2–0.
As the 4-foot-4, 65-pound phenom darted and weaved his way between wobbly skaters and past helpless defencemen, he continued to pour goals into the net at a prodigious rate. His fifth goal that game gave him 105, which broke the “record” for goals by a seven-year-old held by Wayne Gretzky. And that was also the precise point in time when, in the words of his father Jonny Davis, “our world turned upside down.”
It’s one thing to possess unique talents and show big-league potential as a seven-year-old. There are hundreds of children who do that every day in rinks all across North America and Europe. Only an infinitesimal number of them will ever come even close to playing in the NHL. Fewer will have a career that will last more than a few seasons, and perhaps one or two of them will win the lottery and become NHL stars with tens of millions of dollars in their stock portfolios.
But it’s quite another thing to not only break, but shatter a scoring mark held by the greatest offensive player in the history of the game. At least on the surface. Playing for the Nadrofsky Steelers in Brantford in 1969–70, Gretzky scored 104 goals in 62 games (some records show 40 games) at the age of...
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“Ken Campbell has written the most important book on minor hockey that the game has ever known. Selling the Dream should be mandatory reading at registration. It is an extraordinary, compelling and profound look at what happens to a marvellous game when those who love it make it matter too much. It does not shatter the dream, but places that dream in perfect, undeniable and realistic perspective. Read this, parents — every single one of you — and then go and watch your child doing what the game intended: play.”
—Roy MacGregor, author of Home Team: Fathers, Sons, and Hockey
“We all know the stories of hockey success ... the young minor hockey protégé becomes a junior first round pick or college star who finds fame and a long career of riches. Ken Campbell balances those successes with the stories of the many more young players whose families spend countless hours and money trying to achieve that dream only to fall short. Selling the Dream is required reading for all hockey fans, parents and those connected to the game.”
—Pat Morris, Newport Sports Management, agent to NHL stars Chris Pronger, Brad Richards, James Neal and others
“An absolutely fascinating read for someone in the NHL...a shocking accounting of the costs of minor hockey. I don’t think the average person realises the lengths parents will go to in order to get their kids into the NHL. I was flabbergasted. This story needs to be told.”
—Jim Devellano, Senior Vice-President, Detroit Red Wings
“As a father of a young boy, I'm getting ready to navigate my way through the Canadian Minor Hockey system. You hear all sorts of stories, get all kinds of advice. This book does a great job of making me much more prepared for the challenges, choices and opportunities we'll need to address.”
—Elliotte Friedman, Hockey Night In Canada