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Published: Friday, 3 Aug 2018  
By: Stephen Heisler,

#1 reason why friends don't let friends play in the USPHL

This article first appeared last summer and I wanted to remind everybody about the zoo that is the United States Premier Hockey League. Don't be another dummy monkey.

That offensive opinion is simple; Pay2Play leagues operating under the authority of Hockey Canada and USA Hockey are a much better option than unsanctioned leagues. Leagues like the Greater Metro Junior Hockey League and Western States Hockey Leagues have proven themselves to be completely ineffective at managing the game fairly. That's an opinion, and I'm sticking to it.

Now that the United States Premier Hockey League has pulled their program out from under USA Hockey’s umbrella, we are seeing an entirely different animal sneaking out of the cage. We are also planning to kiss almost all the USPHL advertisers good-bye as well.

Let me explain.

Imagine you have been going to a certain health club for years. It works for you, the leaders are great and the community is comfortable. Then your club brand has been gobbled up by a larger entity. That works out for a year or so before something really strange happens; a club owner from Boston has just appointed himself as the big monkey in charge.

Now that monkey has completely changed the brand. It’s all become about money, and that means your money flowing to the big monkey and his close group of friends.

Somewhere along the line, the other affiliate clubs have decided to follow the big monkey’s lead because, that’s what monkeys are all about…monkeys see and monkeys do.

Greed makes monkeys out of hockey people too. Welcome to the zoo that’s known as the USPHL.

When the Hampton Roads Whalers operator Patrick Cavanagh took a hard look at the ugly banana USPHL big monkey Richard Gallant was trying to push down his throat, he simply said no. That’s when Gallant said the Whalers will be playing in his league, or not at all.

We obtained the letter Cavanagh sent to his club’s parents. I think you will be able to sense his frustration with the situation.

Dear Whaler Players and Families,

I hope all have had a nice start to summer. As the Whalers prepare for the upcoming season, many of you have heard of our legal issue with the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) and our unconfirmed status for the 17-18 season and beyond. 

For the sake of full disclosure that you all deserve, during last season the USPHL’s President, Richard Gallant, formally announced a new division segment within the USPHL, and named NCDC. 

The concept for the NCDC is not overly different than the older EJHL or the Premier Division as you knew it over the past few years. The level of play always has been good and will continue to consist of good players, coaches and programs.

However, the difference in the NCDC is that all the other USPHL teams, which include us, are forced to pay and subsidize the NCDC players in the USPHL. The “tuition free” model that you are supporting is designed to bolster the NCDC’s ability to attract players that would normally become NAHL players.

If you have been watching, you have noticed the rapid expansion throughout the USPHL which seemed to be excessive and without the normal merit or due diligence process one would expect for successful league management and oversight.

The USPHL applied for USAH’s Tier II status for the upcoming season and was rejected for not meeting the requirements that exist for Tier II hockey under the guidelines, rulebook, and operating standards set forth by USAH.

The result of this decision led to the USPHL making the decision to leave USAH and go independent which in turn forces each and every member to also leave USAH.

As the leader of Whaler Nation, I cannot come to you in good conscience with the model presented; I find it disrespectful to simply invoice you over $500 more per player to subsidize another player who qualifies for acceptance to an NCDC team.  I feel that any owner who wishes to offer “tuition free” hockey must also be responsible for funding it as the NAHL and USHL organizations do, that is what makes Tier I and Tier II programs what they are. 

Additionally, I am a USAH member, always have been, as have my teams, not only at Junior but youth, Adult hockey and tournaments.

Over the past six months, I have refused to accept this option in the USPHL. I feel it is important for you to know that I do not object to NCDC’s player development structure or “tuition free” Hockey, but rather that you are subsidizing it. 

I have spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs, only to spend endless hours discussing this situation with USAH directors and hockey leaders around the country. We’ve arrived at a point where the original agreement to join the USPHL in 2014 seems to currently have enough legal teeth to deter USAH and neighboring leagues to allow us the ability to move in fear of intimidating legal threats of lawsuits.

The Hampton Roads Whalers have been threatened for months with the full intent for the USPHL President to make an example of us and execute a two year dark time in which we would be unable to offer you the training and programming you have come to expect and enjoy with us.  I am sorry to report that USAH is intimidated to such an extent that they are willing to allow the full slate of USPHL teams to leave USAH and its governance and also not provide the Whaler’s players and families the support required to allow us to stay within the USAH umbrella that I have supported all my life.

At the end of the day, my choice wasn’t a choice at all; it consisted of taking the USPHL to court for preventing the Whalers from simply leaving the USPHL and legally fielding our non-profit hockey teams in another league and breaking the USPHL agreements for others who also wish to leave this dictatorial structure OR to inform our members that I must charge all of you more to pay for your son’s peers to play hockey.

While I feel favorably that I could legally break this anti-competitive agreement that was written to suppress its members, We as Whalers, and our divisional peers in the Southern Conference, would lose as it would eliminate us from play for the 17-18 season to make the point.

I strongly considered making the sacrifice as I know it serves the greater good, but my deciding reasoning was that I would compromise too many people who I have committed to and feel obligated to, the Whaler Nation Players and Families who have been beyond extraordinary over our years together.

If you disagree with the increased fees that I am forced to impose upon you, feel free to email/write the USAH President, Jim Smith, Chairmen of the Board, Ron Degregorio, Chairmen of the Board, Dave Ogrean and Vice President Junior Council, John Vanbiesbrouck.

It is USAH’s governing body, our former governing body, that have allowed these injustices occur to you and the rest of the USPHL organizations that truly have no choice if they wish to remain junior hockey operators that service its communities within the United States. 

Yours in Hockey,

Patrick Cavanagh, Hampton Roads Whalers

Sorry Cav, we had to do it because it’s downright embarrassing that you had to. Somebody tell us just why all of USA Hockey has abandoned the USPHL operators that wanted no part of leaving the national governing body of the sport in the United States.

Do you want to know what I think is why? Once again, that dirty little issue boils down to money.

It's my opinion that USA Hockey is worried that Gallant will entice his troop into taking their youth programs out of USA Hockey as well; something that we are now hearing is a foregone conclusion anyway.

Will such a move destroy USA Hockey? Maybe not, but I don’t see it ever being the same. 

All that because an entire troop of monkeys are dancing to Gallant’s music box.

Monkeys see, monkeys do.

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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