August 2020 Newsletter
Due to the COVID-19 effect, some Junior ‘A’ programs in Western Canada are passing their financial stress onto the players (AKA their parents). Until some teams can get 50 % fan capacity, or somewhere close to that, they are charging players for billets, ice time and other expenses.
The BCHL and AJHL are two leagues that have begun taking this approach. Some teams in these leagues are asking players for around $1,500 (give or a take $500) per month until the regular season begins with 50 per cent fan capacity.
At this time, it seems unlikely SJHL teams will take this approach (or at least charge fees this high). The SJHL is comprised of all community-owned teams except for Notre Dame in Wilcox. Therefore, it is easier for a community of taxpayers to take a financial loss for its local hockey team than a business owner. Moreover, communities in Saskatchewan have forgiven ice time and other fees in the past in order to ease some financial stress.
In the MJHL, meanwhile, at least three teams have gone the pay-to-play route. Two of the three, however, were already pay-to-play in 2019-20.
Pay-to-play junior hockey is nothing new in Canada and the United States. There are several organizations across North America that charged fees prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most Western Canada Junior ‘A’ programs were not pay-to-play in 2019-20. The BCHL did have at least two teams that charged upwards of $2,500, Manitoba had two teams that charged upwards of $3,500 and there were minor fees ($1,500 or less) scattered across the four leagues.
It is a different story in Eastern Canada. It is a common practice in Ontario Junior ‘A’ for there to be a price tag attached to signing with a team. Many teams charge in the $5,000 range with some going as high as $10,000 per season.
Going back to Western Canada, Junior A teams’ budgets vary greatly from over $1 million to $500K per season. The high-end budgets tend to come out of BC with the low-end budgets coming out of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Varying league fees, ice prices and other expenses shift budgets in one direction or another.
These numbers can seem staggering for a Junior ‘A’ hockey team, but when you take into account some teams are spending $85,000 on billet fees alone, the money adds up quickly.
The moral of the story is pay-to-play in Junior ‘A’ is only going to increase in the coming months and years. It is likely most teams will look to pass the billet fee onto their players while others will add extra “development fees” on top of that.