Let us all face the ugly truth about 2020; we cannot wait for it to end. There is one thing that we CAN do to make the lost year memorable and that is to take back control of the game.
Today, the players (and their parents) are the paying members that fund both USA Hockey and Hockey Canada. But it is the collectors of those fees that are in control of the game and it’s beyond high time that reign of terror, limited opportunity, and monopolies come to a screeching end.
Officials from provincial and state affiliates have become hockey’s version of career politicians with minimal personal investment in the game outside of their individual power grabs. Yes, hockey is in desperate need of a meltdown of the rinks and to be built back with a clear developmental vision.
At the youth levels, it’s become very clear that affiliates are more interested in limiting opportunities and options than they are about actual development. That is going to happen when certain associations are favored because the building is directly connected to the fee collectors that are also controlling the influence. The monopolies have reduced competition, raised fees, and the rules differ from state to state and province to province, making the concept of a fair and balanced national championship all but impossible.
The state, district, and national camp selection process is also a political cesspool of cronyism, personal agendas, and vendettas.
The junior level of play is fragmented while becoming an international disgrace with the non-sanctioned group doing pretty much whatever they want. The United States Premier Hockey League needs to be brought back under the authority of USA Hockey. Same goes for the Greater Metro Hockey League and Canada.
The threat that players from named non-sanctioned leagues may face a hard twelve-month suspension from sanctioned hockey (from the date of the last non-sanctioned game played) should do the trick.
“USPHL operators think that going back to USA Hockey will negatively impact the ability to run our businesses,” one team owner said last week. Yes, being part of sanctioned hockey means the end of predatory player contracts and being forced to comply with the Player Rights and Responsibilities. But that’s not the biggest issue; the real problem is the import restrictions and trying to work with the affiliates.
The idea of import restrictions was to make sure there were plenty of opportunities for United States and Canada’s players. I agree with that for leagues at the higher and free-to-play levels. For participation level leagues (pay-to-play) where the player is really a consumer/customer, how can the practice continue? On a continent where liberal politics tend to openly invite the world into our countries, how does hockey justify limiting player opportunities based on their citizenship or legal immigration status? Imagine if the local grocery store attempted to take that same approach, would doing so even be legal?
At the adult level, there are protectionist rules within USA Hockey in place to limit the number of young (18-21) adult players on a roster. Again, more participation roadblocks designed to reduce the number of options for players at this age.
Who gave us all this nonsense anyway? The easy answer is all of us for allowing the collectors of fees to speak on our behalf. It’s time for us to speak for ourselves. Players, parents, referees, coaches, volunteers, and supporters of the amateur game should all be able to join the governing body of the game and have an equal voice.
I’m in for $100 a year if it means full access and no more “executive sessions” at national meetings. Let’s force these folks to remember WHO they are working for. No more secrets, full disclosure, and open livestreamed meetings. It’s OUR game, not theirs. Our fees pay for their existence. If they don’t like it, tell them to go get a real job like the rest of us.
Hockey Canada and USA Hockey have grown fat, old, and complacent in their ways. It’s time for a fresh start, it’s time for the reset.