The impact of paying an increased fee for youth hockey

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Youth hockey is a big staple in the northland! There are seven facilities housing 24 outdoor hockey rinks around Duluth, and volunteers maintain all of them.

Bob Nygaard, executive director of the Duluth Amateur Hockey Association, talks about the maintenance that is done to get those rinks ready for and doing the season.

“We estimate that our volunteers spend about 30,000 to 35,000 hours a year to maintain those rinks starting from scratch, keep them flooded, and maintain the warming shacks through about a four and a half month period of time.”

For the first time in its program history, Duluth Amateur Hockey Association is being asked by the city to pay for utility for the upcoming season.

“Well, I am going to look at this association-wide, and obviously we are not thrilled with the prospect for the first time in our history, having to pay utilities at our seven outdoor rinks. That includes 28 hockey and pleasure rinks and seven facilities. But, you know, we are going to keep doing what we always do, and that is to provide Duluth with a great outdoor activity and a place to experience it. We will just have to find a way to manage our budgets a little more creatively and get through the year.”

Portman and Congdon Park hockey parents are going to be paying an increase of $50 for their players for 2022-2023. Portman parent and former board member explain where the fees will go towards.

“The fees to pay water to flood the rinks, which is really considered when most of the associations have two, three, four, or five sizable rinks that they are flooding every night. Then it is also the heat to keep the warming shack open. And again, I think the connotation is not just for hockey players; it is for, you know, there are hundreds of people out of these rinks, and that is what keeps this so special. So it is maintaining that, keeping it warm, keeping it lit, and keeping it flooded for everybody.”

Hockey is an expensive sport, and with this new increase at the two out of seven rinks, families say, it is a big weight to carry.

“I think some of the families who are really experiencing the burden right now are going to make some difficult calls. That is hard when you have to look in the eyes of your child and say, “you can’t play the sport.” That is where we are trying to say, how can we right this ship so it does not have to be this way but be how can we work with community partners to fundraise and make this accessible? You know, how do we keep all the rinks open and hockey accessible for everybody that wants to play.”

The outdoors hockey season is set to begin in October and go through March!