After a weekend of experiencing the rancho lifestyle of the Rio Sonora and meeting an entire town of inlaws, I am excited to get back to all of you. Family, that is what we are and what this game has truly always been, an amazing, and sometimes even dysfunctional, family.
The Stanley Cup maybe the pinnacle of the sport but youth and junior hockey is certainly the heart. As in any family, there are going to be a few conflicts, but those that have a neutral view of the big picture will always come up with workable solutions. The very simple questions that should be asked when trying to come up with a solution is this, what is going to be best for the kids.
Hockey Canada, USA Hockey, AAU or independent. It really does not matter. All that we ask is that each program fully disclose the expectations and cost to participate for each player. We ask that teams treat every player the same in order to protect NCAA eligibility. We also ask that programs deliver on every promise. Folks, that is all it is going to take to stay off the hit list of the Daily Dish.
Programs that allow greed to overtake what is right will always get my full attention. Teams that promise the moon but deliver a rock will also see a strong reaction from us. Like a big family in small town, when one operator is doing things the wrong way, they should expect a negative reaction from the rest.
It does not take a ton of money to deliver an exceptional developmental experience. Some teams are amongst the richest in the game, they ride along in new buses, stay at the best hotels, and are given every advantage money can buy. That is great for the teams that can do that but it does not mean that the amenities and money is going to buy a successful team. The New York Yankees are proof of that problem. We could also mention a few junior teams as well, but for some reason, I am not in that kind of mood today.
A team that skates in a crappy rink, has to lug their gear in and out every day, and travels in a pair of 15 passenger vans may be able to provide a superior experience than another with a seven figure budget. Like the little communities of the Rio Sonora, there are programs that thrive with much less. When players are embraced by the community, have bought into the entire program, and are able to grow by exceeding expectations, great things can happen.
The bottom line is simple, Like a pair of jeans, a spouse, or a hockey team, the best fit varies upon personal preference, chemistry, and attitude. Prospects need to look at the entire picture and not base a team selection purely on amenities, they need to find a program that will provide the experience that gets them to where they want to be in the game.
Stephen Heisler resides in Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico with his wife, Maria, and their two children, Sonia and Tomas. Friend him on Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/#!/stephen.heisler for more information and pictures from Mexico.