Any family in Canada and many across the United States will tell you how important hockey is to their culture. Boys and girls pick up sticks and start learning as soon as they can skate. By the time they reach the level of Bantam hockey, competition is getting pretty fierce.
This passion for ice, sticks and pucks become especially deep-rooted wherever neighborhoods flood backyards to make ice rinks. Ages are broken down by names like Peewee, Mite and Squirt. Do not be fooled: whatever their age, some kids are making-up for being small by acting tough and slapping some wicked shots.
Thirteen and fourteen year-olds fall into the Bantam category. This is the last stop before Midget or high School, after which comes Junior and or College hockey.
Bantam Hockey simply means these are the best players in their age group, and at this level can still include both boys and girls (though usually boys).
Many other levels start in September, finishing in the spring and in some areas year round. Bantam Hockey players may continue right into late spring and summer with training camps led sometimes by professional players, coaches and older players.
They continue strength training and are encouraged to establish healthy routines. These are the players who, having gotten this far, often have the goal of becoming professionals themselves one day.
Parents become chauffers and calendars tend to get taken over with the games and practices of ardent players. They fund raise regularly. Often, teams are required to travel across the province or state at this point, meaning entire weekends are frequently taken up with driving, watching games, hauling equipment, tending to injuries and feed hungry players.
Not only time but a considerable percentage of income is diverted to their cause. Many volunteer considerable time as coaches and referees at this level as the involvement of volunteers keeps costs down after paying for ice time, equipment and insurance.