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Daily Dish: Tier to Tier Two-Step Junior Hockey News

Published: Friday, 21 Dec 2018  
By: Stephen Heisler,

Today we are going to talk about clubs that are essentially holding players back from higher level opportunities.

I think it's ironic to hear team owners complain about the red-tape and hassle of calling up a Tier III player during the season then hear the same guys not want to send another player up to the United States Hockey League. 

This is yet another situation where USA Hockey has allowed the wallets to retard natural development. Here's an example of how it really should be.

One of the European advisers sends a young Swiss player to a club with a single team in a tier III league. The player arrives a week before the start of the season, speaks minimal English, but proves in practice to obviously be a very skillful player.

During the first game, the Swiss kid hits the switches and lights the lamp six times while getting another four points with assists. Everybody in the building can see that this player does not belong in the league.

The tier III coach knows a guy that knows a NAHL coach and within days, the young talent is on practice ice with his new team. The Swiss kid continues to light the lamp, but at a slower rate, and amasses 30 points over the next ten games.

Like the tier III coach before him, the NAHL bench boss has a decent relationship with a USHL coach and before you know it, the player manages to accumulate in excess of a hundred USHL points to close the season. Ultimately, the phenom gets picked in the first round of the NHL draft and lives the American dream.

That's the way it should work...but it does not because there are tremendous clogs in the system. Most of those clogs are caused by ego and greed. Coaches and team owners get too caught up in winning and the money grab to allow a player to bolt up the developmental ladder. The situation has become so ridicules that there are good hockey people questioning if the system is functional at all.

How can we fix it? USA Hockey needs to step in and create a player acquisition system that is functional.

-       Higher level teams can call up lower level players at any time (players enrolled at traditional schools are moved at semester breaks only). The lower level team must allow players to move up for trial assignments. At the time the player is rostered for a sixth game, the higher level club must pay the lower level club $1,000. The player must return to the lower level team in the event he is dropped from the higher level team's active roster during the current season unless. The lower level team also has the right to waive the standard fee at any time.

There are a number of NAHL owners that would jump off a bridge before agreeing to such a policy.

In the end, a change of policy would be in the best interest of creating a true developmental system within the level of play. But that's just my opinion, what's yours?

Author: Stephen Heisler from
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with the Heisler Group. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

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