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Published: Monday, 10 Oct 2011
By: Stephen Heisler  |  Web site: JuniorHockey.com

There is an alarming trend, at USA Hockey's Tier III level, that may serve up the motivation to retract the over-all number of teams participating at the level of play.

The defending national champion Helena Bighorns opened their American West Hockey League home schedule with a 12-1 win over the Gillette Wild on Saturday night. The Horns outshot the Wild 62-21. That kind of sets the tone for the rest of the Wild season. There is nothing like such a score sheet to motivate a team to improve, or just quit all together.

A few states over, the Seattle Totems pulled out all the stops in a 17-3 romp over the Butte Roughriders on Saturday. Butte had another rough night on Friday, losing just 11-0. There is a bright spot however; Butte already has two wins this season, after going 3-47 in 2010-2011.

The Atlantic Junior Hockey League seems to actually have some degree of parity, with only a single game getting out of hand this season. The AJ's little brother, Metropolitan Junior Hockey League, has seen just a few rough scores. This tells us that Glen Hefferan and his crew are doing something right.

Over in the Eastern Junior Hockey League, the Capital District Selects opened the season with two lopsided losses to the South Shore Kings, 17-1 and 10-2. They have shown a bit more heart (and maybe drank a lot less beer?) since.

The Empire can stand to lose a few teams, and is having one of the most difficult times with games that are not competitive.

The Minnesota Junior Hockey League's Maple Grove Energy have made a number of roster moves to improve the on-ice product, but the team has scored four and giving up twenty-eight in their last two games.

The North American 3 Hockey League's Battle Creek Revolution needs to simply go away. The club was winless last season and has been essentially hopeless this season as well. Aside from losing all of their first ten games, they are scoring just over a goal a game and giving up nine. That is not pretty.

The Great Lakes Hockey League may be the biggest mess. In fifty-one games, twenty-one were won by five goals or more.

What is the solution? Players are naturally going to be attracted to programs with strong traditions and a reputation for doing things the right way.

Retraction is an obvious, but very unpopular solution. Allowing team owners to continue to put a sub-standard product on the ice retards the development of the rest of the league. Money can't be the only factor in selecting a team, and it appears that is the case for a lot of these consistent losers. Retraction of these team's membership is bold , but very effective solution.   

For some of these larger leagues, a system of promotion and relegation, between multiple levels, may be the best answer.  I have to believe that teams would rather see the same five teams, for an entire season, if the games were all more competitive. This system works well for soccer and World Juniors, and could let a lot more teams have some degree of success.

What do you think?






Discuss:

posted Oct. 10th, 2011 - 1:15pm
Bill McCorkle says:
Professional sports use drafts to even the playing field. But we all know that allowing a team to own a players rights doesnít work in Tier III hockey. At the pay to play level; having a team own the rights to a player is ridiculous. You should own what you are willing to pay for; not have a player pay to be owned. There are Tier III teams which have a track record of running a class program. Player cost for junior hockey can range from as little as $3000 to as much as $15,000. And unfortunately, the range is not a function of quality. It is more a function of the programs ability to attain sponsors and the local fan support. Some Tier III programs have a great track record of sending kids to Tier II hockey or even NCAA hockey. This typically is a function of the coaching staffís connectivity with higher level programs. As you indicated players are naturally going to be attracted to such programs. I agree that a 14 to 1 butt-whoopin' is not a pretty sight. But is contraction the answer? Every junior team represents an opportunity for a kid to play the game. I worry about deceitful coaches/team managers. If players are being taken for their money, or made to live in squalor; then contraction is the best solution. But if kids are playing the game and just arenít as talented as their counterparts; Iím not sure that is a big sin.

posted Oct. 10th, 2011 - 2:09pm
JuniorHockey says:
Bill,
Across the country we are hearing about teams with extremely short benches. That is because they have been unable to fill all thier roster spots.

Junior hockey is all about development, and a lot of these programs are simply about the money.

There is an outstanding level of play for the recreational adult hockey player, junior hockey is not it.

posted Oct. 10th, 2011 - 2:56pm
Bill McCorkle says:
Be realistic. Recreational adult hockey is not the answer for 16 and 17 year old kids. Talk about beer drinking. You could not be more wrong. As I said; as long as the kid is not getting shook down for money; what is the harm? It doesn't stop the other kids from developing; in fact it is typically a very good lesson in life. I know from personal experience in high school sports that playing teams that are less fortunate can be a great lifeís lesson. I recall a child of mine playing a high school sport for a coach that took great pride in humiliating every team he played. Playing a predominantly black school and mercy ruling them in as little time as possible was actually a running bet between two of the better programs in the district. My daughter watched those other girls getting their butts beat and still competing taught her more than I could have hoped. She managed to progress to play two NCAA sports and get a quality education. If the kids on the less fortunate teams arenít getting hurt physically or financially; so be it. Only an elitist takes such opportunities away from young athletes. And to argue that such competition will hinder the better players development is an unproven fact.

posted Oct. 10th, 2011 - 4:25pm
JuniorHockey says:
Bill,
You are kidding right?

For the 16-17 year-olds, there is another level of play for the recreational player, house midget hockey.

The stated goal of junior hockey is development. Players not in pursuit of college or pro hockey should bypass the junior level all together.

There is not a single developmental advantage from pumping a team 17-1, or losing a game by the same score. Playing on a team that constantly gets hammered, will actually retard a players' individual development.

Leagues strive for parity. Teams that continue to fail, year after year, should be dropped or be forced to sell.

I have never been one to put sugar on a pile of crap and call it a candy bar, so what I am about to say should not shock anyone. The Indianapolis Inferno need some new blood on top. Estes is a heck of a nice guy, and I like him, but this train wreck has got to change directions. The Battle Creek Revs are also riding that same kind of train.

posted Oct. 10th, 2011 - 5:44pm
Gerry Lullove says:
"Does winning 15-3 make it any better than a 9-1 win"
The Great Lakes league was established to give an opportunity to those players who needed extra time to develop their skill to make a tier I,II or D-3 college program. We know that there will be high & low in every league and we realized that this doesn't help anyone when stronger teams score double digits against a weaker program. The G.L.J.H.L., on Sept. 23 instituted an 8 goal differential policy or pay the league $25.00 per goal over the differential. It seems it has worked because we have only had to collect $50.00 in the last 3 weeks. We have all been there, let's not forget!

posted Oct. 10th, 2011 - 5:55pm
JuniorHockey says:
Gerry,
That is a fantastic move.


posted Oct. 10th, 2011 - 6:09pm
Bill McCorkle says:
I am not kdding. I am dead serious. The attitude expresed in this article is one that will retard the sport. I watched just such an elitist attitude take a 24 team high school league and turn it into a 12 team wrecking ball. You have managed to talk out of both sides of your mouth. Leagues are formed around geographic regions; not necessarily around competitive equality. There will be some lop-sided scores. But contraction will not grow the sport nor junior hockey. And being on either end of a lop-sided score will not retard a players progress. Development comes from practice; games are just the icing on the cake. You can't be serious in wanting to promote junior hockey and take the attitude expressed in this article. Are the kids safe? Are the kids achieving their goals both on and off the ice? If the grades are good and they are having fun and no one feels like theyare being taken to cleaners financially; lop-sided scores happen. I think Gerry is right; quality coaching knows when to call off the dogs. What is worse a team that does win, but is honest; or a team that wins, but makes it money selling tryout spots for $400 and $500 that are not real tryouts. You say it is about the money, but being unethical about the month does not necessarily equate to winning and losing. You have content providers that sell spots on their teams. In my mind, that is worse than losing by double digits.

posted Oct. 10th, 2011 - 8:58pm
Cameron Estes says:
Steve,

You know I read your site and I like most of what you put out there. Just for the record yes we have had 2 really bad seasons the last 2 years, no excuses will be provided because we just didn't get the job done as a program during this time. I will tell you if I was in this for money I would have been out after year 1 so to assume that is everyone motivation is wrong. Yes there are some out there that the only reason they own a team or run a team is the all mighty dollar but not our program.

Now I can understand why someone would say we need new blood but before you make comments like that why don't we look at the facts of this season and leading upto it. 1- To date the Inferno are 1-11 this is more wins then we have had at this point in the last 2 seasons (minor move forward but a move forward none the less), 2- The teams we have lost to have a combined record of 41 - 9, 3- this is the first season we have had a returning head coach who has great experience and is a great teacher, 4- We added a part time goalie coach and a full time assistant coach as well we have a trainer/equipment manager that is at home and on the road with us, 5- We brought on late in the recruiting season (mid May) Mitch Surell to help scout and sign players (Mitch is a former G.M. of the old Chicago Force and former head scout for the University of Central Oklahoma ACHA D-1).

We have made big strides forward to improve the on and off ice product of our program. All of our players who are taking classes must maintain a 3.0 GPA, they must work or go to school, we have a zero tolerance alcohol and tobacco policy as well as random drug testing. In 3 seasons we have moved 30 players to higher levels of junior or good ACHA programs. Our goal has not and will never change we are here to develop young men on and off the ice. We are making headway and the old saying you must crawl before you walk is where we are at. We are starting to crawl and eventually we will walk and then run but none of us are miracle workers and it is tough to recruit kids to a program that has struggled. Keep an eye out for us before you write me off as you will see more strides forward this season.

And if you really want to know MY motivation for everything I do in hockey, read the following link and you will understand why I started this program and what my driving force is, http://www.purdue.edu/uns/x/2007b/071201ShelbyHockey

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* Article disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Stephen Heisler, and not necessarily the views of JuniorHockey.com. JuniorHockey.com does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.





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