How to be a Good Hockey Parent: 10 Tips

Hockey for my money is the greatest sport in the world.  Not just because it is fast and exciting to play and watch but because of the social aspect and overall fun aspect of being involved in the game.  I’ve played hockey, officiated hockey, watched hockey, coached a little and now am a dedicated hockey parent.  While I’ve always been a fan of the game of hockey (hence the name of this blog), I have developed a further appreciation for the game having become a hockey parent in the past couple of years.

Being a hockey parent is no easy task either.  It takes time, commitment and dedication.  Of course we all want the best for our children and it is my belief that all kids should have the opportunity to play organized hockey if they so choose.  Which is why programs like Right to Play or The First Shift program by Canadian Tire are so important.  The First Shift program for example is designed to ensure a positive experience for new-to-hockey families by offering a program that is accessible, affordable, safe and most importantly, fun!

Hockey View from bench

With that in mind, I thought that it would be great if we provided an updated list of tips for hockey parents to ensure that their children enjoy the great game of hockey.  The Hockey Fanatic presents ten tips for being a good hockey parent.

How to be a Great Hockey Parent: 10 Tips

Ok so these tips are not just for being a “good” hockey parent, these tips are for parents who want to be a great hockey parent.  Most of these tips are geared towards minor hockey level players, but a number of them can be applied to players in their teens and beyond. A great hockey parent is one that is patient and supportive and empowers their child to develop a passion for the game. A number of these tips may be obvious ones, but here are ten tips that should be practiced in order to become a great hockey parent.

  1. Be supportive – honestly this goes for any sport.  Being a supportive parent at an early age can help boost the confidence of your child.  Not every kid is going to be the next Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid or Erik Karlsson.  It’s not about that.  It is about the kids having fun, learning new skills and developing their skills.
  2. Encourage creativity – hockey is a fun sport.  There is nothing better than watching the kids on the ice try a little creativity in their passing, shooting and positional play.
  3. Teach your kids sportsmanship – as with other sports, yes hockey can be a competitive game.  However regardless of the level of play, as a hockey parent you should instill the concept of sportsmanship.  Sportmanship does not just mean respecting your opponents.  It’s also about respecting your coaches, the officials, your teammates and yes your competition.
  4. Hockey is not a babysitter – as a parent of a young child it amazes me as to how many parents drop their kids off at soccer, hockey or other activity only to pick them up at the end of practice.  We tend to see this more in other sports (such as soccer), but it does also happen in minor hockey as well.  We get that your life is busy, and we can appreciate that you may children in multiple activities at the same time.  However hockey is not meant to be a babysitter.  Don’t just drop your kid off and leave to go get groceries or, grab a hot beverage.  Take an interest in your son or daughter’s practice, games or tournaments. Be there to support them.  Especially at younger levels where the children often look up to parents to see if they were watching as they made that great pass or great play.  Being a great hockey parent means, in part, that you are dedicated and that you are not just dropping your kid off at the rink while you go about your errands.
  5. Be an informed and involved hockey parent – now we don’t mean involved in the sense that you should be replacing your son or daughter’s coach.  By being involved means understanding where you can provide additional support, whether that is volunteering to manage your child’s minor hockey team, helping with team fundraisers, sewing the name-bars on the back of jerseys, booking hotels for out of town tournaments. Take an interest in being an actively engaged hockey parent in terms of supporting and helping out with the team.  Being informed simply means understanding the needs of your child during the season and as they get older  potentially in the off season.  Do they require new equipment?  Should they be getting their skates sharpened more frequently?  Should they be getting more rest prior to games and practices?  Should their diet be modified for the purposes of training?  Work with your children and understand their needs when it comes to their hockey activities.
  6. Teach life skills through hockey – being part of a team can help a child grow and develop their social skills. Furthermore hockey is a great avenue for kids to develop life skills.  Hockey Canada for example teams up with sponsors to provide programs such as the Chevrolet Hockey values at the Pee Wee level– where core messages such as Believe, Care, Determination, Heart, Motivation, Perseverance and Unity are promoted. As a hockey parent you can work with your child to develop life skills that they can use both on and off the ice. Hockey can be a great avenue for teaching life skills such as:
    • personal health care
    • social skills and manners
    • organization skills – organizing their hockey bag and equipment
    • communication skills – communicating with coaches, teammates and officials
    • coping with emotions and keeping emotions in check when needed
    • empathy for teammates and opposing players
  7. How to be a team player – hockey is a team sport and while the team is made up of individuals, being a good team player can help teach life skills.  As a hockey parent, its not a bad thing to mentor your child into being supportive of their teammates and to be a positive team player.
  8. Encourage your child to play hockey for the right reason – For fun, to be active and healthy, to develop life skills and to experience the camaraderie. Be realistic, the fact is that the chances of your child making the National Hockey League are very limited.  While it’s not impossible, most kids will not make the NHL.
  9. Let the kids be kids – As this article from Today’s Parent suggests, “In the world of sports parenting, there’s a fine line between supporting and smothering.”  Let the kids be kids. The World is in a pretty big hurry these days.  Enjoy the time you have with your kids.  As they get older you’ll appreciate the time that you have now.  If they flop around on the ice making snow angels at younger ages, is that really a big deal?  Probably a different story if they are 13 years old and doing that, but then again maybe not…
  10. Make it fun – Remember, it’s just a game, and it’s supposed to be fun. It’s not about wins and losses, goals and assists, especially at younger levels. Being part of a team instills a sense of working with other to achieve a common goal. At all levels that goal should be to have fun. A positive hockey experience will help your child develop a passion for the game, makes lifelong friends and memories, and learn important lessons along the way.  It’s not always the on-ice activity that the kids remember, it might be the out of town tournaments, playing mini-sticks in the hallway, the year-end wrap up party. It’s about the kids.  There really is not benefit to placing extra pressure on your child to perform.  There is nothing better than seeing the huge smiles on the children’s face as they look to the stands for parents or grandparents.  Hockey is fun!

Being a hockey parent can be a thankless job.  Getting up at 4:30 am for a 5:30 practice can be challenging.  We’ve all been there.  However being a hockey parent is also very rewarding.  For me it is one of the most cherished roles that I have.  And like most things in life there are always exceptions to the rule.  “Everything I am is because of him,” said Wayne Gretzky of his dad, Walter whom I have great respect for.  Walter Gretzky just might be the greatest hockey dad ever, and I say he is an exception to the rule, because at an early age, he recognized that his son had a gift.  While he may not have followed the tips above, he was none-the-less one of the greatest hockey parents ever.