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?