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Daily Dish: Tier III Super League? - Junior Hockey News

Published: Tuesday, 6 Nov 2012
By: Stephen Heisler  |  Web site: JuniorHockey.com

What do the teams from the EJ-South and Great Lakes division of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League have in common? Both are non-voting step-children of other leagues. Now both groups may have something else in common; each other.

North American Hockey League commissioner Mark Frankenfeld extended an invitation to all the EJ-South teams to join his NA3HL. That proposal is being countered with another that would put the southern and Great Lakes together into a single league.

Frankenfeld has spread his invitations around. The issue is the various price quotes. Individual teams are being told the price is $75,000 with the EJ-South teams have been told $25,000 for each team.  That's just to get started. What he does not talk about is all the extras, those are the numbers that seem to break organizations.

Here is a proposal that simply makes more sense.

The American Hockey Association

Let's start over here. The EJ-South is already a recognized league within USA Hockey's Junior Council and can easily re-brand itself as the American Hockey Association.

Instead of paying $25,000 to Frankenfeld, the Eastern Junior Hockey League, or even the Minnesota Junior Hockey League, simply pay the agreed upon monthly fee to the AHA for full membership. Teams in good standing with the league can vote, those who are not, cannot. Simple enough.

The AHA should invite everyone to join. Have 5-6 teams in any reasonable geographical area? Welcome to the group.

The AHA should stay out of the business matters of member clubs. We are talking about pay-to-play hockey here, not the National Hockey League. In most cases, the customer is the player. The AHA player agreement should also be very simple.

If a player wants to pay by the month, than his agreement is month-to-month. If teams want to lock in a player for the entire season, and the player agrees to that, so be it. If that same team fails to collect all the money while allowing the player to continue playing, that's on the team, not the player.

Every player needs to be a free-agent at the end of the season. Player retention should be based on providing a great customer experience and not anything else.

Now back to the league formation. The group needs eliminate power struggles and operate democratically. It's not about control; it should be about creating a competitive environment that accelerates development.  The power comes with the numbers. Power is also shifted from administrators, like Frankenfeld, to those with real skin in the game, the team operators.

New (and pre-existing) teams should be encouraged to join at all times. The simplicity of operation will make the group attractive to others. If an operator has the financial strength to personally guarantee (with a letter of credit or cash deposit that can be returned as the season progresses) that the team will play all its games and meet its financial obligations, than by all means welcome that team with open arms.

We already know that USA Hockey is going to limit the number of teams in any certain geographical area, so over-expansion is unlikely. If a situation develops and the group has too many teams in a single division, I like the idea of splitting that division into "A' and "B" sets. Doing so gives more teams the opportunity for success during the season.

Now for the real meat and potatoes, I'd encourage current EJ-South clubs to discontinue their Empire Hockey League operations and switch to teams at both the 18u and 16u levels of midget.  Yes, there will be some resistance from existing area youth programs but ultimately it can be done. Operators doing things the right way will find that filling these youth roster spots will not be difficult when players are being moved onto higher levels of play or college hockey.

Clubs from the other divisions should also be encouraged to follow the south's lead and do the same thing.

The costs of operation at the youth level should be at, or just a step above the junior programs, especially if the teams are travelling together like the EJ-South and Empire teams are often doing now.

Frankenfeld's North American Prospects Hockey League is a pretty lure, but profitability is heavily dependent on a huge player contribution. The AHA can counter that with a tighter geographical schedule, lower costs, and success at the State, Region, and National levels.

The idea of the AHA will meet a ton of resistance, especially from Frankenfeld, the EJHL, MnJHL, and others. In today's environment, I'm not sure if USA Hockey has a choice but to accept the concept if presented, especially when they know that there are now other choices.

Now is the time to make the smart choice.

JuniorHockey.com is the premier website dedicated to delivering the latest news and developing stories from junior hockey across North America, as well as providing online tools for junior hockey players and prospects. With over 225,000 views each month Juniorhockey.com is the internet's leading source of junior hockey news and information. 

Stephen Heisler resides in Puerto Penasco, Mexico with his wife, Maria, and their two children, Sonia and Tomas. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHeisler for up to minute updates from the world of junior hockey.


posted Nov. 6th, 2012 - 7:17am
Christian Poulsen says:
Well, have to say that while i'm much more informed about the business of Junior Hockey than i was before i found JH.com, i think its too complex for me to post further pros and cons...but i can rocker (change the C/L of the profile) of a pair of blades...so gotta go do that for a customer now

posted Nov. 6th, 2012 - 7:47am
John Trenchard says:
Between Stephen Hesler, Randy Russon and Alex Muscat this site BLOWS AWAY any other site for Junior Hockey covrege. I love the different views and the info espesially from Russon and Heisler you just cant find 2 such diverse writes anywhere who work for tahe same site. Heisler tackles the tough issues and Russon has inside and insight that is 2nd to NOBODY!

posted Nov. 6th, 2012 - 7:58am
Michael Bourne says:
Agree with John ^ Keep up the good work boys!

posted Nov. 6th, 2012 - 8:31am
Stephen Heisler says:
Thanks for the flowers boys...now where is my jar of vinegar?

posted Nov. 6th, 2012 - 8:56am
Adam Janik says:
This sounds like a good idea if only because there are to many junior leagues in this country. Super as in big, yes. Super as in elite? No. The level of play in the ejhl-south is getting better every year and they have done well in a short period of time but the level of play from top to bottom in both of those leagues wont create an "elite" league. The creation of this league, in my opinion, would have no impact on the USHL, NAHL, EJHL, or the AJHL as the level of play would still be below all of the top 4 leagues.

posted Nov. 6th, 2012 - 9:52am
Stephen Heisler says:
The USHL is at the top. Next is the NAHL and onto the top pay-to-play leagues of the Atlantic and EJ.

There is a strong possibility that the EJ, Atlantic, and a NAHL division is going to try and get a proposal through that would allow the pay-to-play model at the Tier II level of play.

If that happens, you will see both the EJ and AJ step up. That could be a two-edged sword.

Also look for a proposal that limits movement of protected players to from Tier II to Tier III.

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