After months of speculation, rumors, threats, and backroom arguments, the Western States Hockey League is the first USA Hockey junior league to make the jump to the Amateur Athletic Union.
WSHL Commissioner Ron White was optimistic about the jump." Our league collectively decided that the move to AAU was in the best interest of our business."
A press release is expected to be released shortly.
Is the WSHL the only league to make the jump? For right now, it appears to be, but others have been rumored to be following the WSHL. The Great Lakes Junior Hockey League could be next. A number of owners in that league have indicated the desire to make the jump.
The biggest issue is the insistence of USA Hockey to interfere with the Tier III business model. For years the WSHL and other leagues were able to operate within the established guidelines of USA Hockey. Now that USA Hockey's Youth Council is trying to exercise an element of power, across the entire United States, many leagues like the WSHL are facing new rules that make it difficult to remain a viable entity.
Where will USA Hockey draw the line? The battle rages between the Tier III leagues and Youth Council over the use of players with youth eligibility. Essentially, the youth council would like to strip parents from the right to make their own choice between the two levels of play. Ultimately, as always, it comes down to money. The youth programs see the Tier III leagues as a threat to their own registration numbers and would like to eliminate that competition.
With the ever escalating cost of Midget AAA, some teams have been rumored to cost as much as $25,000, it is no wonder that the youth want to freeze out the juniors. Programs like the El Paso Rhinos only charge players $6,500, and that includes a custom motor coach, professional level training and coaching staff, amazing facilities, and we can't forget hotels and food on the road.
What does it all mean? That remains to be seen, but we have to give the cowboys out west their props for having the guts to pull the trigger.
What do you think?
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