I get March Madness every spring and don't even like basketball. Why not let the bodies hit the floor and do the same thing for junior hockey here in the United States?
Do the North American Hockey League and United States Hockey League have anything to worry about? Like college basketball, upsets can and do happen. That only adds the desired drama to the equation.
Scheduling? Generally speaking, the Tier III seasons end much sooner than the NAHL and USHL. Schedules can be adjusted to fit the championship window. Tier III should be starting after the NAHL and USHL anyway.
Jealousy? The pay-to-play leagues decided to eliminate the Tier III Championship. They all have the perception that their league is at an entirely different level than the rest of Tier III. Many even feel that the leagues are playing at a higher level than the NAHL.
I believe that the NAHL would support the concept of the single National Championship if the USHL participated. So why not?
Never being one to back down from a challenge, I can't believe that the USHL has the excuse to veto such a proposal. Why would they? Let's put the cards on the table and discuss how this can work.
With just two sanctioned Tier III leagues remaining, send both champions to the National Championship event.
USA HOCKEY JUNIOR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
NAHL #3 vs USHL #2
EHL vs NAHL #1
NAHL #2 vs USHL #3
NA3HL vs USHL #1
Loser Bracket Game 1
Loser Bracket Game 2
7th Place Game
5th Place Game
3rd Place Game
By all means, don't put this event at one of the mega-rink complexes. Play the games one at a time so the die-hard fans get the opportunity to watch ALL the drama unfold. A larger venue could accommodate this nicely.
Again, what is the hold up? This concept would be extremely easy to put into play and would be the pinnacle event of the junior hockey season. The finals would be circled on every junior hockey fan's calendar and would be the must attend event of the year.
What market gets to host it? This is where the Junior Council gets to do what it has always done best. Accept the host bids and select the city/arena that makes the most sense. These guys can certainly get that one right. By all means, the Junior Council needs to be able to maximize the cash value of such an event by selling it to the highest bidder that makes financial sense. A market like Las Vegas would make an absolute killing off of an event like this. Doing this in conjunction with the NCAA Frozen Four (same market, before or after NCAA event) could also be a recruiting bonanza as well.
One other thing, make participation a condition of USA Hockey sanctioning. Who knows, maybe that non-sanctioned crew might come crawling back to the table.
We are all tired of having to hear one league or the other say they are the best, why not settle such issues where they should be settled...on the ice.
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