How did the purest
sport on earth get so complicated and dirty? The simple answer is pure greed.
We are hearing
about a big USA Hockey meeting, set for October in Detroit, that includes the
United States Hockey League, North American Hockey League, and get ready…the
United States Premier Hockey League.
The agenda is
simple, to give the USPHL Tier II sanctioning for their tuition-free division.
You know what,
maybe it’s also the perfect opportunity to take USA Hockey out of the
regulation business entirely. I’m not talking about rules of the game, they
have their hands full with that already, I’m referring to this entire Tier
standards thing that nobody appears to care about anyway.
What about just
letting the leagues deal with their own standards, protected lists, and expansion
(or contraction). If a player wants to leave a team in one league for a team in
another, he should be able to. Like any business, the best way to retain
customers, or even employees, is to deliver on the promise of value and
development. If leagues are left to their own peril, groups like the USPHL will
continue to over-expand. Let them go ahead and weaken their own on-ice product.
USA Hockey should
mandate one very important playing rule. A team is a minimum of fifteen skaters
and two goalies. Failure to ice a proper team in two consecutive games has to
result in immediate suspension of operations. That suspension should last for
the remainder of the current season and the next.
requirement that USA Hockey should absolutely mandate is to force every
sanctioned league to one of two true National Championships. The “A” level is
for tuition-free leagues and those that feel they can compete at that level. “B”
is everybody else.
don’t have to be elaborate round-robin tournaments; just send the league champions
and let the bodies hit the floor. If the NCDC is all that and a bag of chips,
prove it on the ice against NAHL, USHL, and even Canadian Junior Hockey League
competition. A four to eight team single elimination event that determines
first through fourth or eighth place. Schedule this event in the same city and
time as the Frozen Four every year to maximize exposure.
The “B” side should
have to do the same thing. Enough with the “my league is better than your
league” playground baloney, let’s just play hockey. Maybe this event should be
in the same city, and also coincide, with the NCAA Division III National
USA Hockey sanctioned
leagues should also be wide-open with teams freely able to move between leagues
at their own discretion. If five NA3HL teams want to move to the USPHL during
the off-season free movement period (maybe month of May?), let them. Adios
amigo, we wish you well. Let’s put an end to the noncompeting clause that
handcuffs an operator’s freedom. If another league wants that club, so be it,
let them go.
There’s likely a
really good reason a team would not want to remain in a league. Team retention
should be the same as player or customer retention; provide great customer
service with value and the customer will return.
Again, the USPHL might not exist if teams were free to move, forcing operators in their tuition-free division to the unthinkable...covering the team budget out of their own pocket.
Yes, these are
common sense solutions that over-simplify the situation. Maybe that’s exactly
what we need to get past all the garbage.
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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 Hockey Group. Stephen and his family spend most of their time in Florida.
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