Everything has a cost. Whether it’s hockey sticks, basketball shoes, soccer balls or other equipment, athletic departments dole out millions of dollars a year to make sure their student athletes have everything they need to be competitive and successful.
Last year, the University’s Athletic Department spent $23.7 million, according to Director of Athletics Bob Moosbrugger, which was the least among MAC schools. Some sports possess higher initial starting costs than others; ice hockey requires the most while basketball requires the least.
One way universities help afford these costs are through sponsorships. The Falcon hockey team is sponsored by Warrior, while the basketball teams don the Nike swoosh on their apparel and gear.
“We don't really have to pay for anything,” sophomore hockey player Brandon Kruse said.
Kruse attributes the start of his passion for hockey to his father, Eric, who played at Michigan State University. Brandon’s dad had a special connection with a Bauer representative, making Bauer equipment the easy choice for his son growing up.
In a sport like hockey, where different brands have different flexes, lies, grips and weights for sticks, most athletes find one they prefer and stick with it.
Hockey sticks were always made of wood until the transition to aluminum sticks began in the early 1990s.
According to an article from The Star, “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky, began the evolution from wood to aluminum.
“Lured by a six-figure endorsement contract, Gretzky signs on to use an HXP 5100 aluminum shafted stick made by Easton … which sees him earn a reported $2 million over seven years. Within a year some 80 NHLers are using a metal-shafted model.”
This is when the game really began to become pricey. It is reported that Gretzky is guessed to have used around 700 sticks per season. Going through 700 wooden sticks a season, at $20 a stick is $14,000, but going through 700 aluminum sticks, at $50 a shaft is more than doubling the price to $35,000 for one player.
Now, players use graphite sticks. They are lighter and flex better than the old sticks in every way except one: cost. Now, top-line graphite sticks all go in the range of $270.
In 2009, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told the Boston Globe, he spent over $400,000 a season on sticks for his team. That is the NHL: employing more physically developed men while the cost of sticks add up.
“It’s kind of cringeworthy hearing that price,” Kruse said.
Warrior, the Falcons’ hockey sponsor, has three top-line sticks; all sell for about $270 before tax.
So, how many sticks do Bowling Green’s skaters go through a year?
“Personally not that many,” Kruse said. “Sometimes in a week I'll break three, and then I'll go two months, so maybe five a year for me. Haus (senior defenseman Alec Rauhauser) and them go through at least 10 a year.”
The Falcons roster 28 skaters, who on average go through seven sticks a season, meaning Warrior supplies the team upwards of 200 sticks a year, adding up to $54,000 worth of merchandise.
While sticks add up to be the most costly part of a hockey players equipment, this is not accounting for the other required gear. Warrior makes many types of equipment but not skates, meaning the University has to look for a different avenue for skates. The players choose Bauer and True skates. Top-line Bauer skates cost $900 a year or $25,200 to outfit a team for a season.
While prices for fitting youth hockey players are not nearly this costly, the individual price is still one major deterrent for many children to try the game.
“It's for sure up there as one of the most expensive,” Kruse said. “It really sucks for kids growing up because a lot of them don’t get the chance to play.”
According to Jason Knavel, Assistant AD for Athletic Communications, the approximate equipment costs for men's basketball over the course of a year is $45,000. For hockey, it is $175,000. Across the University’s 18 sports equipment costs $1.1 million.
Not all sports require such a high starting fee like ice hockey does. Sports such as soccer and basketball are easier for young children to try out because they do not have the same cost requirements.
“My dad introduced me to basketball,” junior guard Dylan Frye said. “Right when I was born my dad put the basketball in my hand.”
Basketball requires far less equipment than sports such as hockey and football, with the the main necessities being a ball and shoes.
“My first pair of basketball shoes were the Dwayne Wade Converse ones. I wore those till my foot broke through the bottom,” Frye said.
Nike, unlike Warrior, is the top distributor for its specific market. This makes Bowling Green stick out to prospective athletes.
This does not mean basketball players do not get their own fair share of goods.
“I love Nike gear. It's all I wear actually. If it’s not Nike, you most likely won’t see me wearing it. My dad only bought me Nike growing up so it kind of stuck with me. … My favorite brand has always been Nike shoes. They are the most comfortable and have the best look” Frye said.
Frye and his teammates receive about six pairs of basketball shoes and two pairs of trainers each season.
With shoes being the main way players can express themselves on the court, it is no surprise players change their shoes up often, but how often?
“I know a lot of people in college who change shoes very often,” Frye said. “One of my good friends wears a different pair every game. It's more for a style.”
Both Kruse and Frye have their own gameday looks. Kruse rocks a full visor, also known as a “bubble” or “fish-bowl,” on the ice while Frye wears a shooting sleeve and compression leggings.
On the ice, on the court, in the classroom and everywhere in between, University athletes are geared to play.