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Daily Dish: USA Hockey Needs to Ice Non-Sanctioned Recruiting - Junior Hockey News

Published: Monday, 21 Dec 2020  
By: Stephen Heisler,

There is a dirty little secret being circulated regarding the prospect recruiting practices of many pay-to-play junior hockey teams from both sides of the sanctioned/non-sanctioned border.  Would it really be a big surprise to discover that USA Hockey youth coaches are benefiting financially to refer players to some of these teams?

USA Hockey’s Youth Council needs to put disciplinary sanctions in place against their coaches that participate ANY type of recruiting for teams operating outside the sanctioning body of USA Hockey.  Receiving kickbacks from ANY teams, regardless of the league, should be reason for a long suspension. Will such a penalty deter the occasional youth coach from taking part in the payola scheme? There will always be some that will cross over the line and that’s because that word consequences have yet to really set in. Sometimes it takes a hard stand to right a serious wrong.  

It is also time for to USA Hockey take the gloves off and treat non-sanctioned hockey for what it is, a war. As in any war, it is never good when your own side is working with the enemy. Doing so has always been a good way to lose a head. 

The problem is that USA Hockey’s Youth Council is concerned that the largest non-sanctioned entity will take their currently sanctioned youth program to the other side of the line as well. A threat that reaches to the highest level of USA Hockey’s leadership.

That threat has kept other weaponry from USA Hockey sanctioned league’s arsenal. One weapon is the implementation of a full-year suspension for any non-sanctioned league participant that wishes to return to ANY sanctioned USA Hockey program. That suggestion has been made a number of times but has fallen on deaf ears over and over again. 

Why is that? Exactly what side is USA Hockey on anyway? 

A few years back there was a discussion, in one of the Junior Council meetings here in Orlando, about allowing the Eugene Generals to register and play independently within USA Hockey while participating in several of the non-sanctioned league’s junior events.   

During that same meeting, I got into a heated exchange regarding the issue because USA Hockey allowed the women’s national team to participate in several exhibition games against Florida non-sanctioned junior teams. I asked how the junior council let something like that happen. 

If the leadership of USA Hockey is so infatuated with the success of the non-sanctioned leagues, why are they not adjusting a few of the rules, ever so slightly, to accommodate and bring them back into the family?

What would it take? Remove the import restrictions and roster limitations being imposed by select state affiliates. The stronger non-sanctioned clubs are already exceeding the standards set for the Tier III level of play. Striking much of the nonsense from the junior guidebook would also even the battlefield. 

USA Hockey’s continued position to not do anything has given the enemy a competitive advantage over the leagues remaining under the umbrella of the national governing body. 

All this has led to one thing: major confusion in the marketplace. Maybe that was the idea in the first place. Maybe the coaches are not the only ones in on the payola. 

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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