People that allow the fox to guard the chicken house should never be surprised to discover a few missing cluckers.
That's essentially how I feel about the USA Hockey's refund policy. What I have to say next may cause some laughter, but under the current system, is entirely possible.
An operator has two tier III teams within his club and heavily recruits prospects from across the entire country. The lure of his top level team entices sixty players to shell out the entire $10,000 fee upfront. This does not include the additional cost for equipment deposits and the monthly billeting expenses.
All sixty players are rotated between the two teams over the first few months of the season. Lines are changed daily while additional prospects continue to be added to the mix as they are released from the free-to-play leagues.
Just after the first weekend of November, twenty of the players are called into the office after practice and are told to turn in their equipment in exchange for a check that amounts to 30% of their total fee for the season. Hearts are broken among the handshakes and good-byes.
The next day, ten more players are added to the group at 75% of the $10,000 rate.
Is this really possible? Certainly. The following is taken directly from the USA Hockey's Annual Guide
E. Player Rights, Rules and Responsibilities
(5) Adjustment of Financial Obligations Upon Departure
(a) Written Notice
The party initiating the separation between the team and the player, whether that be the team by trade, drop, etc. or the player by quit, departure, etc., shall give notice to the other, in writing of their decision. The date of the notice shall be considered to be the date of the action, unless delivery has been unreasonably delayed,(beyond three days), by the conduct of the forwarding party. In the event of such unreasonable delay, the date of receipt, minus three days, shall be considered the effective date of the notice.
(d) Adjustment of Tuition
Any player who fails to satisfy his reasonable financial obligations to their billet family or the team on whose protected list he currently appears, may be suspended until such time as those financial obligations shall have been fully paid and mutual releases executed. Any player who is being transferred to another USA Hockey member team, dropped by a USA Hockey member team, or leaves a USA Hockey member team, without tampering involved, shall be entitled to a refund applying the following refund schedule of any tuition monies paid in advance for any portion of the season which remains after his departure. The general rule to be applied to determine the reasonable amount of the tuition refund due the player or, in the alternative, the amount of tuition yet due the team shall be as follows:
1. Player Action (without tampering)
a. From Date of Signing to October 31
From the tuition for the full season, an amount up to 50% thereof shall be refunded (deducting for recruitment and related expenses).
b. From November 1 to December 31
From the tuition for the full season, an amount up to 30% thereof shall be refunded.
c. From January 1 to End of Team's League Season
From the tuition for the full season, there shall be no refund due. A player cannot be traded or dropped if the calculation results in a tuition payment due from the player plus any additional obligations owed to the team and/or his billet family.
3. Team Action
If the separation between the player and the team is initiated by the team's action (e.g. trades, drops, etc.) without tampering being involved, the player shall be entitled to the entire calculated refund or reduction in tuition due (the amount calculated under 1. above), less any obligations owed to the team and/or his billet family upon the execution of a mutual release with the team to memorialize the settlement.
The rules are written entirely on behalf of the owners and why not, they are the ones making the rules. In my opinion, teams should do a better job during the recruiting process and be forced to be loyal to the paying customers for the duration of the agreement. If a team changes it's mind about the player, give him ALL the money back.
Teams should be forced to live up to THEIR end of the deal and that is to develop the prospects they recruited and took money from.
In reality, I'd like to see roster sizes reduced to twenty players and fees raised to cover the difference. Ask any teacher, less students equals an enhanced learning environment. Nobody really wants to skate on the fourth line. If paying 25-35% more makes that does not happen, I think most parents will be happy to pay it.
This type of system would also make two-team programs more profitable. I also have to think that any programs that takes this concept to market will have a much easier time of filling the roster.