$ Save Money Playing Hockey $

$-Are you a hockey fan who wants to start playing? A parent who wishes to get their kids involved?  Maybe, you already play and are looking for ways to save money. Well, I hope hockey is on your mind but the sport is far from cheap. It can and will put a hole in your wallet, if you let it.
 I have played both competitively ,and for fun, now for over 20 years. I consider myself fortunate enough to have parents who sacrificed so much so I can learn to skate and play. I took it for granted a lot of times, now that I look back on it. I am here to help you save money playing the game. A discussion of budgeting your playing time. You do not need to be rich and wealthy to play the game. 
Remember it starts with a ball and a stick. If you are a beginner, start with that and go outside and work on some stick handling and shooting. Get some neighbors involved too. Later on you can invest into roller blades or even better, ice skates. There are many ways for you to play the game, train for it and not spend a fortune. 

So, let me assist you.

$. Equipment

Start off with the basics. Ice-Skates and a hockey stick or two are a must. You will need a helmet and possibly a pair of mitts to hop into a local rinks "puck & shoot" or "open hockey" from there. If you are just learning to skate then invest into some hockey pants, shin-pads and elbow pads. Either way, once you start really playing you will need those. Plus a hockey bag, shoulder-pads and misc. things you may need or want can all add on pretty fast.
It can easily rack up to over $1,200 for the average player over 12 years old. 
The main rule of thumb is not to be immediately attracted to the latest or “greatest” models on the shelves.  The top models on ice-skates can be nearly $900. The “best” sticks on the market are $300.  And apparently now that I looked into it, the best helmet can be worth upwards of $300. 
In the end of it all, especially if you are not an elite hockey player or thriving to be one, then all you need to really focus on comfort and protection. The more expensive your skates are, will not make you faster. At least not fast enough to make a $900 purchase reasonable. Practice, work hard, focus and you will be a better hockey player in no time. 
First, look over the mid-price range of equipment and do the research. With skates you can easily find a great pair between $250-500 today. With a stick you can easily find one for $120. For many of you, I suggest even looking at wooden sticks.
Especially if your are a youth player or beginner. A really good wood stick is about $50 and it is a really good stick. My favorite helmet is about $130.
I know how the top of the line models feel and look. Trust me, I know that a $300 hockey stick just feels great in your hands but I also know how hard it is to keep up with it every time it decides to be a twig and snap.. At the mid-range of prices, you will find a good value of durability, a comfort level that was the best a year or two ago and all the protection you will need. My skates today are the MLX brand. They were hand-made boots, designed by a speed-skater and passionate skating coach and were among the best ranked. When Easton bought them out to develop their next line of skates called the Mako’s, I bought what was left in the MLX department. The once $800 skates were now $500. My credit card at the time was offering me $100 if I spent $500 and so I bought them for exactly $400 (obviously, paid it off right away. Do not be in debt!).
Elbow pads can be bought for extremely cheap prices if you look at older brands/models. I actually prefer the older models because of the size and range of motion they allow.
 I recommend shoulder pads anytime you are playing actual hockey, but if you are not in a contact league or game then you can very well go with these, Sherwood PMP, which are $45. Teammate of mine has these and he loves them.  
When I bought my shin-pads and shoulder pads last year I did a lot of research. I wanted to invest a good amount of money into the equipment if I was assured of its quality. I looked into the Easton Mako for its innovative designs, and they came in three different models for my age group. Mako, M5, M3.  Reading the specs of each model, I realized the only difference between their top shoulder pad model ($140.00) and the M5 model ($90) was the fabric used to wrap it around my ribs. A small piece of fabric was the big change, that is all. I could not believe it. The weight was slightly different, but at less than a pound I am not sure if I really can tell that difference. It definately did not give me a reason to spend $50 on the better product, and I assure you this is how most of them are. Why do you need the most recently released skates or sticks? Why not go with last year's best model or the year before that? They come at half the value and if they were good enough back then, they are good enough now.  
With these easy tips, you went from spending $1,200 (could be way more if you go after the best models of each equipment, I chose the best ratings) to $850. 
For even more savings, check out Hockey Monkey. I say this simply because they have a summer sale. Remember it is the off-season and it is a great time to buy. Will not last for long! 
For many of you, this is all easy. Why did you read this? Well if you already knew this, then its good to read stuff like this again to be reassured. I played for 20 years and never once had complaints with my equipment. And I never was given the best ones either. I got what I could afford, that simple. And it worked fine for me. 
The advice here doubles for those under the age of 18. The younger you are, the more likely you are to grow. No reason to spend a hefty price for the top of the line things, when you will outgrow it in a year or two. I saw way too many of my players have the best skates on their feet, but had to buy new ones after the season because of their growth spurt. And just to make sure you understand this, the $800 skates can easily break too. I have seen them do so within the year no problem. 
Finally, take care of every piece of equipment you have. Let it air out after every skating session, clean it often, wipe down your blades after every skate and put them away nicely. The equipment will last longer and it will make you a better player. 

For other tips on equipment check out My Suit For Battle. Goalies, check out our article for Goalie Equipment.

$$. Practice

Want to invest more time into your development? Ice-time is expensive as it takes a lot of power and money to keep it from melting.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to afford hockey camps, skating coaches,  being part of the best hockey clubs for development or live in Canada. Heck, I can barely afford to play now at once a week with a full time salary. 
Even though the lack of money is a good reason, does not mean it’s okay to use it as an excuse.
Want to be a better skater? Go to public sessions and skate. At a season pass, its less than $10.00 for 2-3 hours. Want to score more goals? Why cant you practice outside? Grab a few boxes, a stick and a ball. I use to stack boxes and cans outside and have target practice. Grab inline blades if you have, go for a skate to get in hockey shape. And if you have a frozen pond or open rink to your disposal, please do not be inside playing NHL on X-Box. That thing is Mother Nature's gift, use it. 
Want to get in better shape? No need to have a gym membership or some weights.  4 Places To Work Out For Free.
If you want to put your child into a hockey program, feel free to talk to the coaches about payment plans. There is not much you can do with the final costs but you can work out methods of payment to help you. Adult league player wanting to play more games? Your league may have a discount for you. They should.
Furthermore, your league may call you when other teams or divisions need a player and they will have it for cheap or for free. If you are a goalie, good for you!.
Play for free in adult leagues or pick up games. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. 

$$$. Miscellaneous

Outside of the protective and hockey specific equipment, there are things you may not be accounting for when it comes to the total price. Bags, tape, sharpening, clothing, etc. 

Skate-sharpening is necessary to keep your blades effective. In New York, we have several different places that can cost you between $10-15. Believe it, the $15 ice sharpening is the worst of them all. You can usually get by without one for about 5-6 sessions but I need it after a while. My old skating teacher and a coach said that after 3 skate sessions you should get one. And if you need it, just get it and do not prolong it. You can naturally prolong a skate sharpening by taking proper care of your blades, wiping them down with a rag after skating and using a skate stone but after 5 or 6, just do it. For beginners, this could be a whole month or two. 

Hockey-Tape use has increased with the use of composite sticks, as you did not necessarily need it for wood sticks. They usually run for $3 and should not be any higher than that. On your stick you will need hockey tape. But for your shin-pads or whatever else you may want it for, you can use electric tape. A new thing I am seeing is The Hockey Players Club which has monthly plans for hockey tape. $12/month with free shipping is their best offer but there are better options. I like to change my tape on the stick every game, and I am fine with letting others use mine if they need, so 5 rolls for a month is more than enough. I started to use old-laces to tie around my shin pads to add for tightness. 
Howie's hockey wax is the best wax I have found. I have seen a lot of different waxes out there but most are terrible for their actual use. If you want to try out the wax on your stick, feel free to use a hot candle wax at home and rub it into your stick tape. 

Things like socks, mouth-pieces, jerseys and accessories are most likely to be double the price in the retail store. Look online for prices first as they cut out the middle man. 

$$$$. Conclusion

    Research the equipment you are buying. Do not immediately look for the most expensive brands. Look for deals.
    Do not ask retailers for their best or most popular models. They will likely steer you towards the highest price. Ask them first for last year’s best sellers.

    Lightest equipment for beginners or adult league players should not be the biggest concern. Look for protection and comfort.

    Look into the COLT! Hockey Stick, it’s apparently unbreakable. Never used. Would love to do a review on it.

    Use THE Google. It is your friend.
    Just remember. At the very least all you need is a ball and a stick. 

    If you have any other tips or tricks to help people save cash, then feel free to start a discussion below or tweet at me @LisicaMark.
    Check out my equipment here: http://4thlinehockey.com/blogs/blog/40065793-my-suit-for-battle
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