Ice breakers: Cottage Grove Hockey Association offers free equipment, intro pricing for youngest players
With the substantial costs associated with playing hockey, Cottage Grove’s Chad and Lise’ Rediske didn’t plan on having their two boys Connor and Aaron play the sport. However, because of the Cottage Grove Hockey Association’s Try Hockey program the whole family now has a love for the game.
The CGHA, at the mite level (age 4-8), offers a full season of hockey for $59 and provides all the players’ equipment for that year free of charge for first-year players.
“They told me we could sign up for $60 and they’d give us everything — the helmets, the skates, the pads, the jerseys — everything,” Lise’ Rediske said. “I thought for $60 it’d be worth seeing if they like it. Now the boys love it.”
At the youngest level, parents can easily spend over $300 to suit up their son or daughter in hockey gear for the first time. Costs increase substantially for junior and adult equipment and registration fees spike significantly after mites.
The CGHA’s current $59 dollar registration fee this year was down from the $175 in years past. At the mite level, spending nearly $500 on equipment and registration without knowing if a child is going to enjoy playing the sport could be a risky proposition for some.
“Those costs would’ve been really prohibitive,” said Chad Rediske, who grew up playing hockey on the east side of St. Paul. “We’re busy people, we’re involved in a lot of things. It would’ve been really easy for us not to try hockey if the boys didn’t push it. But, now that they’ve tried it they like it. I think it’s really good for them to be involved in it.”
The initiative at the mite level was the brainchild of the CGHA’s Chris Rudh, Jeff Corkish, Jeff Schwartz and Mike Post and was aided by volunteer efforts from numerous parents.
Schwartz said the CGHA had 70 to 80 kids dressed in all free equipment this season and another 20 using free helmets, skates or gloves or some sort of combination of equipment.
“I think the word really got out there this year,” Schwartz said. “I’m not sure how many kids would’ve signed up if it was $200 and the parents had to pay for equipment. I think the biggest success story is just seeing the kids out there every Saturday and Sunday.”
Prior to the season, which started in October, the CGHA mite program raised over $11,000 to purchase equipment.
Schwartz said the majority of the money was raised by nearly 100 people selling coupon cards door-to-door in Cottage Grove last fall. More money was accrued by selling used hockey equipment donated by the Minnesota Made AAA hockey program out of Edina.
“It wasn’t just us,” Schwartz said. “There were a lot of people who put in a lot of time. We don’t want a pat on the back for doing this. Without the volunteers this would’ve been nothing.”
The CGHA also hosted a Try Hockey Night at Cottage Grove Ice Arena before the season began. Schwartz said roughly 100 kids attended, tried on equipment and hit the ice for the first time. The CGHA was signing kids up to play on the spot.
“I still don’t know everybody in the program, but most people seem to be really good people,” said Chad Rediske, who became a volunteer coach in the CGHA this winter, after signing up his boys. “There are a lot of committed individuals trying to find a way to make hockey more available to more people. Now I feel committed to helping them make the program even more successful. Not to mention that it gets me off my duff and doing something.”
Currently, the Try Hockey program is only for mites. The registration fee alone to play Squirt hockey ranges from $1,000 to $1,200. The cost increases from $1,100 to $1,400 for PeeWees and $1,200 to $1,800 for Bantams.
“I wasn’t fully aware of the costs, but I am now,” Chad Rediske said. “We’re going to rearrange our budgets for the future seasons, because we believe it’s important for our boys to be involved.”
Schwartz said their goal is to get as many kids playing hockey as possible, without parents having to worry about the associated expenses.
“The whole key is to get them to love it and not worry about the cost the first few years,” Schwartz said. “Obviously, the cost jumps up. But, by then, if your kid loves it you’ll try to find a way to make it work, hopefully.”
Schwartz said hockey is a numbers game. The more players, the better the program is going to be.
“We all want this to grow to a state championship in hockey someday,” he said. “We want to build up this program. Obviously, the greater the numbers the more chance of success. We just want to get kids to play hockey and keep our numbers high.”
Chad Rediske said both his sons want to play hockey again next year. This season Connor, 7, played for the Rangers and Aaron, 5, played for the Junior Flyers.
“We’re looking at skating schools and stuff like that to help them get better,” Chad Rediske said. “I don’t know if they’re going to be NHL players or college players, but I’d sure like it if they could play for a high school program. I think that’s one of the best experiences I could help give them, just by signing them up.”
Chad Rediske said he’s pleased by the life lessons his boys are learning and will learn through sports, like work ethic, communication and competition.
“It gives them an outlet in the winter, so they’re not just playing video games or watching TV,” he said. “They’re thinking about other things, being active and having fun. It’s just been a great experience for the whole family.”
A transplant from Texas, Lise’ Rediske said she is learning why Minnesota is the “state of hockey” by watching her boys enjoy the sport and develop their skills.
“I think seeing them go from barely being able to stand up on skates to where they are now has been really impressive and worth it to me,” she said. “They live in Minnesota, they should know how to skate.”
Youth equipment prices
From the online store www.totalhockey.com
Skates $40 to $150
Sticks - $15 wood, $80 composite
Gloves - $20 to $60
Elbow pads - $10 to $20
Youth helmet - $50
Breezers - $25 to $50
Shin guards - $15 to $30
Shoulder pads - $20 to $35
Bags - $25 to $100
Mouthguards, tape, skate sharpening - $50