Short of auto racing, Stan Dolan, vice president of the Fresno Junior Hockey Club, says ice hockey might be the most expensive sport a kid can get into.
But after seeing the camaraderie and teamwork his son built when he played, Dolan can’t speak highly enough of the value of the sport.
Not too many options exist for Central Valley parents whose children want to get into the sport. So when Dick’s Sporting Goods awarded the organization a $75,000 grant, Dolan saw the opportunity for getting more kids into the game.
Now, coming off of a previous grant last year from Dick’s, the group is poised to increase access even more.
“Bottom line is this is just incredible, we really hope to open up hockey to folks that may be a little leery about the cost and stuff. Couldn’t come at a better time,” Dolan said. “Last year’s grant was tremendous, but this is just over the top, so cool. We’re hoping for good things.”
Dick’s Money Helping Fresno’s Hockey Youth Travel to Tournaments
Fresno’s hockey club is the only one from Bakersfield to Stockton. They pull heavily from Visalia and Clovis, Dolan said. They get players from Atwater and Los Banos.
They get kids on the ice as young as 4 years old and have competitive programs for kids as young as 7. Right now, the team is co-ed, but Dolan would eventually like to expand to create a girls’ league.
For older players, the draw is traveling. Players can run into opponents from the Czech Republic or Canada.
Being at the southern-most end geographically of their league, the team often travels to Santa Rosa or Lake Tahoe for game.
“The travel expenses can get pretty crazy, especially with the price of gas,” Dolan said.
The cost of traveling is largely fixed. So the price per child decreases as the team grows. About $60,000 will go toward providing scholarships, either full or partial, based on the family’s needs.
“The big chunk of the money will go to the scholarships to either totally wipe out dues for a family or to at least, lower them,” Dolan said. “We’re also looking to do this over a three-year period.”
$20,000 from Dick’s Got 400 Kids on the Ice Last Year
In 2023, the hockey club received $20,000 from Dick’s. The club used the money to buy equipment to help their Try Hockey for Free program.
Throughout his son’s hockey career, Dolan estimates he spent as much as $100,000 supporting his time on the ice.
Players need pads, sticks, helmets, and skates. Some skates can get $700, Dolan said. While there are always deals to be found for equipment, Dolan didn’t want parents having to make such an investment without first seeing if their child enjoys playing.
The club’s Try Hockey for Free program allows kids aged 4 to 16 to play in a four-week session and see if they enjoy the sport.
Dolan says they average 30 kids for each four-week session. He estimates as many as 400 kids participating.
“We are incredibly thankful for Dick’s Sporting Goods and its 75For75 Sports Matter Grant Program as this grant is not just a financial boost, but a significant acknowledgment of this dedication, hard work, and spirit of the club families,” Dolan said.