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DAILY DISH: What's the definition of a successful junior hockey team? Junior Hockey News

Published: Thursday, 2 Aug 2018  
By: Stephen Heisler,

I get asked that question about once a month...and it's a good question.

The first thing we have to look at is the level of play.

Success at the major junior level requires a balancing act between winning enough to keep the fans (money) happy and the ongoing shuffle of prospects at completely different stages of development.

The Tier I clubs of the United States Hockey League also have to keep the money flowing while being able to get the most out of a fairly balanced roster of talent. Coaching is a premium necessity at this level of play.

The Tier II level is all over the board. Some clubs mortgage everything for the all mighty dollar while others do a great job enhancing their prospects' overall value. There are teams in the Canadian Junior Hockey League (ten leagues across Canada) that have been accused of paying players while others are utilizing the pay-to-play model to stay afloat. It is my opinion that the British Columbia Hockey League and North American Hockey League offers the best opportunity at this level of play. The divisions are fairly balanced and only a few teams in each league separate themselves from the others with a far superior financial model.

It's the Tier III or pay-to-play level that concerns me the most. I often wonder if some teams are in it purely for the coaching staff's paychecks. That's the impression I get from many of the programs along the east coast. Some of these operators consider it a slap in the face when a player wants to move up to a higher level of play.  I was against the idea of old Eastern Junior Hockey League competition at the Tier II level with the pay-to-play structure in place. Now I'm not so against it. USA Hockey should let the east coasters go ahead and make the jump to the Tier II level of play... as long as they are forced to send the league champions to a national tournament at the end of the season.

I say let them make the move up.

The gauge of success should be measured by the numbers of players that have moved on to excel at higher levels of play....well that and the ability to stay afloat while maintaining the standards of operation.

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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