New Mexico Renegades Ripoff?
As promised, this is the un-edited email from the parent:
It was suggested that I contact you reference a fee dispute I have with the New Mexico Renegades of the WSHL. My 18 year old son wanted to play for the Renegades for the 2013-2014 season. NMR charged my credit card $3500 for a fee deposit and $1400 to cover a $650 equipment fee and a $750 fee for the Las Vegas Showcase.
My son reported on Sept 1, but due to several reasons, most notably unacceptable billet accommodations, on Sept 3, he informed the NMR coaching staff he was leaving the team. I in-turn notified NMR management by e-mail of his decision. During subsequent phone calls with both NMR coach Steve Harrison and team owner Joe "MAC" MacConnell I discussed the billet conditions. Nicholas was billeted at the NM Renegades' Billet Coordinator's home. In the home which is approximately 1400 sq. feet, there were 6 people in addition to 4 billeted hockey players. The 4 hockey players were in one room with 2 bunk beds. I asked NMR management to move my son to the Valencia Flyers where he would not be required to billet or travel several hours a day to attend team practice.
Seven weeks later (Oct.19) I was informed by Mr. MacConnell that he could not arrange a move to the Flyers and NMR was keeping all of the $3500 deposit. I have not heard from NMR management since then. On Oct 23, the Flyers informed my son he was released to sign with the team. The cost to sign with Flyers would be $6500 plus a $500 equipment deposit. By that time my son decided to not to play junior hockey. NMR has not returned either the $650 equipment or $750 showcase fee. I should note that no equipment was issued and Nick did not attend any on ice practice with the team, he did attend 1 dryland practice at a local park.
On Oct. 24 I submitted my dispute to WSHL Commissioner Ron White. After 6 weeks (12/9) and several prompts, Mr. White responded; it is his opinion that the Renegades keeping the $3500 is not something the league will deal with absent a rule violation. He said that he is looking into the Showcase Fee. He did say that the Equipment Fee should be returned but that hasn't happened yet. I am still waiting for Mr. White's "final" decision although the way it has been going I don't feel a response is forthcoming without several more prompts. I understand Nick left the team (2 days after reporting and 7 weeks before NMR's first scheduled game) but, $4900 for 2 days and one dryland practice is unreasonable.
Thank you for your time and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
After receiving this email, I fired off one of my own to the Renegades, Western States Hockey League, and AAU.
I now know that the New Mexico Renegades refunded all collected deposits for equipment and the Shootout fee. That's a nice gesture, but not enough.
This player was with the team for two days and placed into a substandard housing situation that was well outside what was promised by the team. This was SEVEN weeks before the first game and consisted of one off-ice conditioning session.
"We went by the NMR billet agreement that suggested each player have a room with at least a double bed and a place to study," Herder said on Saturday. "At the time Nick reported he was taking two college courses." The housing arrangement promised at the time of payment (also published on the team website) was not to the standards set by the organization and advertised. We are talking about a pre-collegiate student athlete that needed to be taken care of appropriately; it is my opinion that the organization pulled a classic bait and switch with housing. If this family had been told that their son would be placed into a single bedroom, with two bunk beds and three other players, they would have elected to find another team.
Also of note, the players' rights and responsibilities document was not included with the team agreement and was not signed by the parents before funds were collected. Had that been the case, I'm confident that the team would not have been able to convince the family to pay before getting an idea of what the situation in New Mexico was like.
Player agreements need to be standardized and teams need to be held to their end of the agreement. Since the league does not have the legal authority to force the team to refund Herder's $3,500, I've suggested that the family contact their local law enforcement authorities and seek a legal remedy in civil court if a criminal charge can not be brought forward. The player received NOTHING of value from the investment. I'm thinking the entire agreement gets tossed because it does not require that the team actually deliver anything. The document is entirely one-sided.
I am also very certain that future players will think twice about committing to the Renegades organization in the future... that's if there is a Renegades organization in the future. I'm thinking that this article kind of seals the coffin for this particular ownership group.
"This story does outrage me," said Ogden Mustangs Head Coach Jake Laime. "It is another example of a lack in professionalism and makes our jobs as coaches and recruiters that much more difficult."
Northern States Hockey League Commissioner Wayne Sheehan said it best. "These players are our customers and deserve value in the service provided...a service they pay for us to deliver."
"If an athlete has been wronged, he needs to take the team to court," said AAU hockey national director Keith Noll. "If a judge rules in favor of the player, we can take measures to support the decision."
The family needs to act quickly or kiss that money goodbye.
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Now semiretired, he splits time with family in Texas and at their beach property in Mexico.
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