There’s no hiding the fact that hockey is a pricey venture. The skates, the sticks, the ice time — it can add up to tens of thousands of dollars for families of hockey-playing children over the course of several seasons. To people who have grown up with the game, these costs are simply the price tag for a lifetime of memories, experiences, and valuable lessons. But when we talk about growing the youth game, and when we discuss getting kids out on the ice for the first time, we need to understand that not everyone sees this high cost of entry as merely a speed bump. Many see it as a stop sign.
There are several initiatives underway to quell the financial hurt of youth hockey. USA Hockey waives their registration fee for children under the age of six. Many local entry-level or learn-to-skate programs have only nominal fees, and do not require full equipment to participate. But what about the eight-year-old who can skate well and wants to start playing games? Or the ten-year-old who watches the riveting Olympic tournament and then asks her parents if she can play? Often the parents look at each other, visualize the price tag on their child’s latest venture, and crush the dream before it even begins.
Enter Restore Hockey. Restore Hockey is a Massachusetts-based company started by Michael Spengler and his wife, Carolyn. The youngest of six, Michael began his career as a toddler in the Billerica (MA) youth hockey pipeline, rounding out his competitive playing days at Bentley College in 2000. Like many people who grow up entrenched in hockey, he graduated, got a job, and started a family, but kept one eye on the sport that gave him so much growing up.
“I had some friends and family members who wanted to start playing. I had made a lot of contacts throughout my hockey career, and was able to help my friends and family members get equipment using those connections,” says Spengler. He began thinking about the game, about his childhood, and how he might be able to help others experience the joys of youth hockey without the tremendous financial burden. “I started to see how hockey had become a sport of privilege, not the working-class sport it once was.”
After brainstorming with his wife how he might be able to help people gain access to the sport that gave him so much, he discussed his ideas with a group of parents from the Eastern Massachusetts Senators youth hockey organization. His idea, to collect used equipment, sanitize it, and inject it back into local youth programs, was met with resounding enthusiasm. Taking the momentum gained from that meeting, he dipped another toe into the pool by placing a used equipment drop box at the Micro Ice Training Center in North Andover, MA. Within two weeks, he had collected over 200 pieces of equipment. Restore Hockey had arrived.
A husband and wife venture to that point, Michael realized the need to grow the company in order to reach more hockey families. Relying on the hockey network he had built over the years, Michael tabbed Pond Hockey Classic director Scott Crowder to join the company in the summer of 2010 as Restore’s Executive Director.
With Crowder on board, the Restore team set out to spread the company’s mission of collecting used equipment and getting it back into the hands of those who could use it. This mission took a giant leap forward this past month when it was announced that Restore was partnering with Hockey East to stage a number of used equipment drives at the sites of Hockey East games. In addition, December 18th will be Restore Hockey Night at the TD Garden during the Boston Bruins-Washington Capitals game, with equipment drop-offs outside the Garden and all of the 50/50 proceeds going to the company. And there will be equipment drives at both the New England Pond Hockey Classic in Meredith, NH, and the Lake Champlain Pond Hockey Classic in Colchester, VT, later this winter. All of the equipment drives will be located outside of the arenas, meaning you do not need a ticket to come by, meet the Restore team, and donate your equipment.
What are they looking to collect? Just about anything, really. Skates, protective equipment, broken one-piece sticks — if it has to do with hockey, they’ll find a way to get it into the hands of people who can use it. Think about what the game of hockey has given you: the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met, the championships and the tournaments you’ve won. Then think about the unused gear in your garage or attic. By donating it to Restore, you’re giving kids in your area the opportunity to experience those same things. As a bonus, owing to Restore’s 501c3 non-profit status, all equipment donations are tax deductible.
For now, Restore is operating primarily in New England. As you might imagine, the business of collecting equipment, sanitizing it, and redistributing it is not something easily done by way of UPS. But while the operation is local, the need is global, and Restore Hockey understands this.
So how can you help?
You can start by donating your equipment, either by attending one of the equipment drives or by e-mailing Restore at firstname.lastname@example.org. The equipment drives will fill most of the need, but Michael and the Restore team are working to build a network of drop-off locations and are always willing to arrange individual pick-ups.
Like most fledgling non-profits, Restore also accepts monetary donations. To make a tax-deductible donation directly to the company using Paypal, visit their donation page here.
Third, think about those around you who might benefit from this. Have you ever heard someone say that they’d love to get their son or daughter into hockey, but were afraid of the cost? Do you know someone who is currently playing that could use an equipment upgrade to safer, newer equipment, or to equipment that fits better? Reach out and let them know about Restore. “One of our biggest challenges is getting the equipment back into the hands of people who need it,” says Spengler. Some of this is logistical, but it’s also a factor of getting the Restore model in the minds of the people who can benefit from it.
To that end, the last thing you can do is help spread the word. Share this page. Join Restore’s Facebook network and share it with your network. Let others know about the equipment drives and the company in general. Restore’s partnerships with Hockey East, the Boston Bruins, and the Pond Hockey Classics have the potential to reach over 100,000 people in the next several months. But that’s only a fraction of the hockey populace.
The long-term goal of Restore is currently open-ended. The success of the equipment drives this year will help define the company’s path moving forward, and the hope is that regional drop-offs will help the company grow in areas beyond New England. “Our goal is to get into the communities and make a difference,” says Spengler. Inner-city hockey programs, youth organizations, community partnerships — it’s all on the table for Restore moving forward.
The game of hockey has the unique ability to teach life lessons, provide valuable experiences, and shape young minds. Many people take that access for granted, but there are thousands of children who will never step foot on the ice due to the cost. Restore Hockey is hoping to change that, and the lives of those children, one piece of equipment at a time.
Here is a list of all the events where Restore will be collecting equipment. Remember, all donations are tax deductible (you will receive a receipt on-site) and you do not need a ticket to the games to drop off your used gear.