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The Canadian media has put great emphasis on professional sport and the importance of winning to the detriment of our young people. I know that my criticism of our “Holy Grail”, hockey, is not going to win me applause but before you penalize me please consider the cost of youth pursuing the path to stardom and wealth.

You are a 14 year old young boy growing up in the country and you put on your T.V. listen to the radio, and read the national news and front and centre is professional sport. Doctors are in short supply, our local hospital emergency rooms cry for medical personal, our industries are in dire need of trained tradespeople.

How do we parents help our children keep sport, education and careers in a proper perspective?

To make it into the big leagues your son will have to leave his family and play with Ottawa 67's , Sault Greyhounds, Plymouth Whalers or any other team that drafts him. Come on folks think about the opportunities, a change of high school, house parents, new friends and a 64 game schedule.

How about the emphasis on the books and learning and a consistent education at one high school and future post secondary education?

The facts are the following, once you play an exhibition game for a Ontario Hockey League team your American National College status is in jeopardy.

The local coaches can trade their players if they think it is for the benefit of the team. The fans are all so happy if the London Knights make it into the final four playoffs.

Do you know the consequences of losing? You have 48 hours to exit your adopted school and family and go home, “so long it’s been good to know you”, the young athlete now turned student has to return to his home school and try to pick up a timetable and prepare for mid-terms and final exams.

The Ontario Hockey League teams pay their athletes the magnificent allowance of $50.00 per week and the house parents receive $60.00 for room and board.

As a counsellor and advocate of youth and their families I get angry when our youngsters are hustled into a pyramid scheme. Hockey is the only professional sport that drafts their players from high schools Sadly,very few athletes make it into the pros and the rest pay the price in lost education and choices of careers.

Some advice for parents, caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, seems to fit. There are 600,000 junior A hockey players in Canada and one per cent are drafted into the pros, no I did not say the National Hockey League. Buying a 649 ticket for the lottery you have a better chance of success than a career in hockey.

What do you do with your “Wayne” that is good but maybe not great ability? Please inform them of the reality that chasing a star has a price.

Education and family are the keys to success. Sport is supposed to be for fun, not for profit. The team management earn six figures and market the hell out of their charges and the franchise owners do it for the love of the game, (ok you know I am being sarcastic).

If there was a genuine concern for the players than teams would be obligated to keep those they sign for the school year and not trade or cut them like playing cards as indentured servants. There should be a teacher assigned to the long bus trips to help students with the classes they miss for out of town games.

The American Universities offer free education, books and room and board for four years valued at $120,000 (US) for a thirty game schedule. You are a student first and a jock second; you keep up your grades or you are out. Parents before you start on the long road please check out your options.

Linden Mac Intyre did us all a service with his Fifth Estate T.V. show “Promises of Glory” when he tracked drafted players in the OHL. The title “Promises” should have us reflect on the price of fleeting glory. It is indeed sad that all of our promising hockey players can’t attain the status of a Gretzky but that is the reality of life, it ain’t no game.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com