My boy's gonna play in the big leagues?
Statistics show only 0.03% of Ontarian hockey players at best make a career of it
As the new minor hockey season gets into full swing and streams of parents get up before the sun to haul their kids and gear to frigid arenas, most have at least a passing dream of seeing their child play professional hockey. Many more are opening their wallets to pay for personal training, extra ice time and rewards just to give their kids an edge over the others in the hopes of a return on their investment with a professional career. Even daughters are starting to carry the weight of those dreams as the profile of women’s hockey continues to grow. But what are the odds these little skaters will actually make it to the NHL?
Long-time amateur hockey insider Jim Parcels, who has extensive experience in the Ontario Hockey League and the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, wondered exactly the same thing when he conducted a study entitled “Straight Facts About Making it in Pro Hockey”. He believed the innocence of minor hockey was being turned into a breeding ground for future stars and putting a disproportionate amount of pressure on young athletes to exceed and develop.
He examined a sample group of Ontario hockey players — who account for 40 percent of all minor hockey players in Canada — born in 1975 and tracked how many were actually able to make a career in the NHL. At the time of the study, there were 22,000 16-year-old players registered in minor hockey programs plus an additional 8,000 players who had dropped out before their 16th birthdays. According to Parcels, “the 1975 group of players was considered by many NHL Scouts as the strongest group of players the province had ever produced.”
So how many made it through the OHL and into the NHL? Here is what he found.
In 1991 and 1992, the years that 1975 players would be drafted, there were 232 Ontario players selected by 16 junior teams. So of the initial pool of 30,000 players, only 0.8 percent were drafted to the OHL. Of the 232 drafted, only 105 ever actually played an OHL game. Of the 105 who played at least one game, only 90 finished their full 3 or 4 years of eligibility. Of the 30,000 players in the initial 1975 birth year pool there were a mere 48 players drafted to the NHL. Of that group, only 39 signed contracts and only 15 players played more than one full NHL season. At the time the study was written, only nine players had played the minimum 400 games required to collect an NHL pension.
Despite all of this many parents will still think their child could be the one. And maybe so.
“This is neither an attempt to downgrade or diminish the efforts of minor, collegiate or junior hockey programs,” says Parcels. “This study serves as an eye opener.”
There is nothing wrong with having a dream provided it is not at the expense of the parts of hockey that can benefit your child now: being part of a team, making friends, working toward a goal, having fun and fostering a love for sport. There are other important elements in a child’s life like education and developing friendships, which are much more real than an NHL career.
As Parcels so eloquently puts it: “Don’t sacrifice a normal family lifestyle trying to turn your 12-year-old into a pro. He is up against a lot more in life at that age than having to deal with the pressure of being his parents’ retirement plan.”
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