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Daily Dish: Pay-to-Play Mafia is Hindering Development Junior Hockey News

Published: Wednesday, 29 May 2019  
By: Stephen Heisler,

The pinnacle of junior hockey success should be climbing out of the structure and into the collegiate and professional game. Part of that climb should be the ability to freely move up to a higher level without the burden of a legal or financial hardship.

Unfortunately, a number of pay-to-play operations do not share that opinion. A few have threatened families with the loss of collegiate opportunities and the details of complex agreements. Let's face it; nobody wants to go to court and battle out the fine print details of a contract.

Even worse, we are hearing from parents that had accepted the "free-ride" from certain teams last year and were threatened with financial suspension if the player moved up to the next level of play this season. Those same players are getting the same deal again.

It's beyond time to end this baloney and move to a league standardized player agreement that outlines movement from one tier to the next and the refund of fees when player is released.

Will there be a backlash for such a hard line? Certainly. So be it, if they are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem.

For the programs operating outside the sanctioning bodies of USA Hockey or Hockey Canada, I think it's very important to let players know that the option of moving up after October 1st is no longer possible for those hoping to go to any of Hockey Canada's leagues. It's my understanding that the same restriction is going to apply for the North American Hockey League as well.

Let this be a warning to all, and I don't care what team is doing it, I am going to be outing any organization that continues to attempt to restrict movement to higher levels of play. That is defined as pay-to-play to free-to-play or tier II (NAHL) to tier I (USHL). The same goes for teams that try to recruit players on the power of a supposed relationship with the USHL, NAHL, and Canadian leagues. 

We are all supposed to be working together in an effort to enhance the developmental experience, not black mailing and threatening parents and players from trying to move up.

This problem is yet another great reason that a family advisor, with a strong connection to the level of play, can be worth five-times the fee when it comes to working with the right organizations. If your family could benefit from this type of guidance, please feel free to contact me directly. 

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 Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

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