Before we get into the meat and potatoes of today's Daily Dish let me say this; the concept that follows is not about raiding teams from existing leagues, it is simply an idea that has a bit of traction with operators across the continent.
Let's understand something else, there seems to be a serious disconnect between what is good for the business interest of any one particular team and what is good for the overall development of talent for the country.
Both USA Hockey and Hockey Canada appear to be hell-bent on getting into the business end of individual team operations. It's a place that any other business would have a serious problem attempting to put up with. Could you imagine Walmart or Canadian Tire being told by the government exactly where they can put a store, how many customers they can have, and limit the supply and origin of the product on the shelves? Both national governing bodies have taken power and control to completely new levels.
Is it time for a junior hockey revolution?
I'm proposing a single body entity modeled after the European soccer system of promotion and relegation.
How could it work? The key word is simplicity.
First of all, take away the leagues. Along with that goes the franchise fees and buy-ins. Teams will have an opportunity to buy into an equity partnership that is responsible for the operation of the entity.
Adopt the National Hockey League's rule book for the actual game.
The entity should declare a monthly rate that escalates with the level of play. Top division monthly rates should be in the $100,000 a month range. Second Division is $50,000, third is $25,000 and fourth is $15,000.
The entity must approve the annual operating budget for each team. Teams must pay a deposit that is equal to the annual budget each season. That deposit will be returned to the team on a monthly basis, less the entity operation fee.
The entity should place more emphasis on a balanced division schedule and end the season with two types of championships.
Players born in the current final year or later are eligible to play, regardless of citizenship. Teams should be dropped to the lowest division and fined if any player is declared ineligible by the National Collegiate Athletic Association as a result of a team related violation.
The entity should standardize all player agreements. For pay-to-play teams, the agreement must detail exactly what is included for the fee being charged. For free-to-play teams, the agreement must detail exactly what the team is going to pay for. Players can request free agency at any time if they can prove that the team failed to maintain their end of the agreement.
Pay-to-play prospects should be declared free agents after the final game of the season. Pay-to-play teams could sell or transfer the rights of a player to the highest free-to-play bidder during designated in-season transfer periods. Players on free-to-play teams are the property of the team for as long as the player remains on the 20 man protected list.
Teams at all levels are only allowed to tender enough players to replace aged out, transferred, or released players.
The top divisions should stretch coast to coast across both countries. Limit the division to fifteen teams.
The second division should be broken down to two equally divided regions with up to fifteen teams in each. The champions of each division meet in a home and home, four game series. In the event that aggregate scoring fails to break a tied series, the two teams will play extra periods in the fourth game until a score breaks the deadlock.
The third and fourth divisions should break down to four regions and again be equally divided. In these divisions, the play-off structure goes two rounds.
Like college sports, teams are permitted to enter into competition, with teams outside of their division, but those games do not count in the division standings. This could be regional play against geographical rivals and is scheduled entirely at the discretion of the teams. All game expenses are the responsibility of the host teams. The entity will schedule the referees for the extra games and the costs will come out of the deposit.
LOWER DIVISION PLAYOFFS
The champion of the second and third division has the opportunity to move up a division. A promotion can be refused and the opportunity moves to the next team down the list. The last place team in each division (or declared worst last place team in second and third division) is automatically relegated to the lower division.
All teams are automatically entered into Cup competition that goes on mid-week during the season. The pairings are strictly geographical. Each round is played with a single game home and home series over a two week period. Like the play-offs, if aggregate scoring does not break a deadlock, the two teams will play extra periods until a score breaks the deadlock. The Final Four of this competition should take place three weeks after the close of the regular season and after the division champions are crowned. The Final Four should be the pinnacle event of the season.
Expansion is wide open. Any group can enter a team at the lowest level and compete. Have a place to play that meets the minimum standards (locker rooms, showers, scoreboard...) and put up the deposit. Failure to ice a team will result in the loss of the deposit.
Is this idea just a pipe-dream? I don't think so. Now tell me WHY this is not what is best for the game?