Before last summer's USA Hockey Meetings in Colorado Springs, I wrote an article in response to the proposal being put before the Junior Council in regards to billeting. (http://www.americanjuniorhockey.com/news/news_detail.php?news_id=73341)
We came across a situation today that may have completely changed my position on the subject. I have agreed not to disclose the team and league at this time, but I am going to give you details of the situation.
There is an organization, that is charging players the full billet fee, only to house them in a team leased group of homes. One of these homes should be condemned as uninhabitable. If and when this story becomes public, we will run a set of pictures of the home. Just the fact that this team owner would place players into such living conditions is just this side of criminal.
USA Hockey is right; it is time to shut down the unsupervised hockey houses. Teams can hire an extra young coach to act as the authority figure in these situations, but the fact is simple, there are team owners that could not care less.
We received a call today from a concerned parent, about the living conditions of the home, that the team owner placed his son into. The house was already full of players, filthy, and completely run-down. According to the parent, the house featured the customary barf bucket just outside the front door. Nice touch.
On Saturday, before suffering a devastating loss at the hands of one of the top teams in the league, there were a number of players getting sick before the late afternoon game. The illness may have been caused by a Friday night gathering that included heavy drinking at the house.
Billeting is a traditional aspect of junior hockey, as is the hockey house. Leagues need to set minimum standards of living to ensure that these players are getting the most out of this developmental experience.
I am not all-in for the regulations as USA Hockey proposed, but I do believe that the leagues should be ultimately responsible for making sure that every player is being housed in a situation that provides a good base for their development.
In regards to the situation with the team in question, we are going to let the league handle it. If players are still living in the bad house next week, then we will fully disclose the name of the team and league and share the pictures.
What do you think?