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Published: Friday, 15 Sep 2017  
By: Stephen Heisler,

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.

The other 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.

Championship events 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 Championship.

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.

2018 HHG Tuition Free Showcase May 25th-27th 2018 Rochester, New York (powered by The 2018 HHG Tuition Free Showcase North America's 1st Tuition Free Showcase for Elite Level Hockey Players!  In accordance with NCAA guidelines, the HHG Showcase is open to any and all entrants, limited only by specified number, age grade level and/or gender of its participants. Please be advised the HHG Showcase is fast paced, physically challenging and demanding. If you are a top level player, or someone who believes they can compete at a Tier 2 (Junior A Canada) or higher level of hockey, then the HHG Showcase is for you!  Deadline for application submission is March 3, 2018.


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.

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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