Ice Time Woes Can Leave Parents Feeling Hot Under The Collar

I remember my first encounter with this hard truth. It was a tightly-contested game coming down to the wire. All the parents edged closer to the ends of our seats, tensing up on every shot on net. Just one thing was missing. "Uhh, where is our kid?"

Welcome to the wonderful world of travel hockey.

Gone were the days of equal playing time and fun for all. We were here to get the win, and the coach would do whatever it took to put the team in a position to do so. In this case that meant trotting the first line out shift after shift.

It wasn't easy for us to watch our hockey player parked on the end of the bench like an old car sitting on the cinder blocks in the driveway. Every parent wants their child to get as much as time as any other kid, and in the early stages, they should. Making players better is the name of the game, and that is achieved through maximizing ice time. As players age and the emphasis on winning grows, that equal division of the ice time pie begins to fall by the wayside.

CarynHammond says kids generally know why they are getting benched or receiving little ice time in travel hockey. That doesn't mean they have to accept the status quo, but it is their battle to fight, and not yours. 

"Never go to the coach to complain. It won't end well for you or your kid," says the hockey mom from Lake Zurich, Ill.

"If you want everyone to play equally and get a medal just for showing up, don't get involved in competitive sports. Learning to work hard to achieve a goal [lots of ice time] is the best lesson you can teach your kids for the rest of their lives."

That  'next level' communication between coach and player is important. 

"Advocating for yourself is a valuable lesson to learn as a player," saysZielke, who believes understanding the expectations from the beginning is important as well.

 "Not all kids are cut out to be travel or AAA players. Regardless of what we want for them as parents," she adds.  

Syracuse, N.Y., hockey mom Lauren Knapp says sometimes you need to work on changing attitudes.

"Don't get bitter, get better," Knapp says. "Show the coach you care and are willing to do what it takes to get that playing time."

MonicaHudak Headley from Mead, Wash., is on the same page. 

"When my son doesn't think he's getting equal ice time, I have him ask the coach what he wants my son to work on," she says. "This way it's not whining about not getting enough ice time, it's showing the coach you want to do better."

Thinking back to that initial game with our child riding the pine in the waning moments, perhaps it was our ego that was bruised more than our kids' were. They not only rolled with the punches, but punched back - stepping up their game and eventually working to become the players the coach counted on for penalty kills and tight, end-of-game scenarios. It was a valuable life lesson.

At the end of the day, not everyone can be on the ice to close out a game and not every player wants the immense pressure that comes with those situations. Often times, our players have a greater understanding of this than we do as parents. They put the team first and know late in the game, it's just as important to be there to cheer for their teammates. 

The best thing we can do is cheer right along with them.


Christie Casciano Burns' new book, "My Kids Play Hockey: Essential Advice For Every Hockey Parent" is now available on





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