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Daily Dish: EJHL Scandal Should be a Crime - Junior Hockey News

Published: Wednesday, 25 Apr 2012
By: Stephen Heisler  |  Web site: JuniorHockey.com

Yesterday's Dish, EJHL on Edge, has caused a bit of stir among players in the northeastern United States and many are saying that the practice of elite level players not having to pay to play hockey is widespread and extends down to the youth ranks all across the United States and Canada. The practice should also be a crime.

"The NCAA does not really want to open this can of worms and USA Hockey is going to do whatever it can to squash any investigation," another Tier III league's commissioner said on Tuesday. "But if you push the issue, a lot of hockey players are going to suffer from the fallout."

That statement forced me to consider the alternative, that players would feel it is ok to circumvent the system. Personally, I feel that it is important that everyone follows the same set of rules. Operators have the opportunity to select the level of play that makes the most sense for them financially. Each level of play sets the criteria for that operation and when everybody plays by those rules, the entire level of play wins.

The issue with the Eastern Junior Hockey League has to be the worst kept secret in all of hockey. Why the practice has been allowed to continue is way beyond reason. The NCAA also has to look at every player that moved from the United States Hockey League to the EJHL during the season and I can only believe that few paid the EJHL team even a dime.

The NCAA will also quickly discover that four teams account for the lion's share of this type of movement and the problem. It is those same four teams that have dominated EJHL play for years. The other owners in the league have also elected to turn a blind eye to the obvious lack of league parity that is a direct result of the problem.

Do the other owners even care? "This is a subject that quickly gets put to bed whenever it is brought up," said one former EJHL owner. "Those guys get away with it because they are able to overcharge the remaining players in their program," the former owner said. "Most of the guys can't afford to do it, but in reality, doing so is the only way to compete, it is the only way to attract top players, and with that comes the rest of the players."

One former EJHL player, who is now out of college, had this to say. "Hockey did not cost my parents a dime from the time I was a peewee player. Everything was free, but I was not supposed to talk about it. I did not actually buy my first pair of skates until I was getting ready for pro hockey."

In my opinion, the leadership of the EJHL, and every involved coach, needs to resign at once if even a single player loses NCAA eligibility. Subsequently, USA Hockey needs to follow that up with a suspension of their own.

The junior coaches and league officials are not the only guilty party. There are many NCAA Division I coaches that were aware of the practice, yet elected to steer prospects directly into these situations. In reality, it is because of this practice that many prospects choose to play in the EJHL instead of one of the free-to-play leagues in the United States or even Canada.

A current British Columbia Hockey League coach said it best. "We give the kids everything that the USHL guys can give, yet we still lose prospects to the EJHL. Sure geography is part of that, but come on, you are going to tell me that the family is going to shell out that kind of money?" the coach said. "Yea those college coaches are in on it, if we all know about it 3,000 miles away, you can't tell me that those guys did not know what was happening right under their noses."

Who spilled the beans? I have to believe that all of this is a result of the EJHL's plan to start the 16u program. The area affiliates are offended by the move and are aiming to discredit the league. The fear is that the EJHL will simply depart from USA Hockey if their 16u league is denied. Considering that their record of college placements fuels the value of the EJHL brand, tarnishing that value could be the best way of combating the new competition.

The bottom line is simple, teams need to operate within the rules or simply get out of the game. In the end, everybody wins from playing the same game.

What do you think?


posted Apr. 25th, 2012 - 11:02am
Mike Cline says:
You are absolutely correct Stephen. If one player has to pay to play every other player on that team should have to.

posted Apr. 25th, 2012 - 1:18pm
Josh Steel says:
Not until these Tier III leagues institute central accounting and tuition systems, financial roster controls, and some type of player draft and player movement/transaction control systems are you gonna see anything change here. It is far too difficult and expensive to prove who is paying and who isn't. The unilateral negotiations between players and owners invite impropriety. If I wanted to play for the Monarchs, but had to pay my tuition to the league office and go through a draft where I might get taken by the Huskies, the "buddy deals" would go away and as an added plus, parity would be improved. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
When the hockey powers do identify this crap, they should strip the owners of their franchise, ban the coach for 15yrs, freeze the player's eligibility for four years and file a report with the clearinghouse. It is wrong.
That being said, I do feel these tier III leagues (not teams) should have scholarship programs. These tier III programs are the "hockey is for everyone" alternative (wedged between extremely expensive AAA and free to play Tier II)for some kids. If the scholarship are handled by the league they benefit the players, not some select team or owner with deep pockets and big egos.

posted Apr. 25th, 2012 - 2:43pm
Steven Marks says:
There is no motivation for any team to change the system. The Springfields or Philly's are making more money not having to scholy anyone, so they are not complaining. The other teams that scholarship players are hurting financially but are content with their position.

I think everyone is surprised this may be an NCAA violation.

posted Apr. 25th, 2012 - 2:58pm
Dustin Scafe says:
It's been happening in hockey a lonnnnnnng time. It's unfair, but so is the fact that some WHL players couldn't even make a Jr. B team if money had to do with it.

posted Apr. 25th, 2012 - 3:53pm
Josh Steel says:
Sorry for the re-post. Steven- the little guys are not content with their position, they just feel powerless to do anything about. If tuition came from the player through the league office and on to the team, every team would have 175000 reasons to comply with a little central authority.
If it is a pay to play league, and a player isn't paying, he is being paid to play = NCAA ineligible. I've always wondered why teams don't use this hammer to collect from deadbeats.

posted May. 20th, 2012 - 10:51am
Kim cline says:
My sons spirit has been completely broken by the sport of hockey. And now mine heart is broken to witness this. We have spent $200,000 plus in this sport only to see points being stolen, ice time being stolen. We could have used that money to save for his college education. We were completely naive about the secret underbelly of this dark world. We knew he was a gifted athlete and thought this would carry him through to where ever he aspired. NOT TRUE. He feels bad because of the money we wasted. In a state championship game at the AAA tier I level, he and his line sat thru the third period on the bench, then the first over time in the bench, then the second over time in the bench and yes the THIRD over time on the bench. The first two lines were so tired they couldn't even stand up. This very well rested third line could have come out and put the game away easily. Why didn't they you ask? The "pay more than the fee" underbelly and the fact that the owners kid wanted to score the game winning goal so that it could make headlines. This third line was dripping with talent. So very sad. When the opponent (who played all three lines) finally win the game. I cheered for them. Ever since then my son has been black balled from hockey. This is a nasty sport. For all you parents out there, let this be a warning to you. Either be ready to make some back room deals or get out before you spend your retirement money.

posted May. 20th, 2012 - 11:03am
Stephen Heisler says:
Don't give up on the game, just fight the system. There are a great number of programs that do things the right way.

If your son is a AAA player, but you are tired of dealing with all the BS, find a decent AA team that costs less money and he will be appreciated. All the advantages of AAA go out the window when you can get the same evaluation, from top level coaches and programs, elsewhere.

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