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Daily Dish: Pay-to-Play Players' Market? Junior Hockey News

Published: Monday, 19 Apr 2021  
By: Stephen Heisler,

We are getting calls every day now. Players are being more selective than ever, and with so many different opportunities to choose from, it's no wonder that coaches are concerned. And they should be.

With the battle raging on between sanctioned and non-sanctioned hockey,  it's the consumer that will likely come out on top. Both continue to add new teams, spreading the decreasing talent levels to the extremes.  In any battle for consumer dollars, the entity that invests in providing an upscale experience will generally come out on top.

As a result, pay to play teams have responded by raising the bar when it comes to coaches, amenities and developmental experiences. We are seeing a number of high level coaches making moves to this level of play.

COVID gave substandard operations, that were able to ice teams, a big financial boost. But in the end, we will certainly see a reduced number of teams. That's going to happen when the number of player slots exceed the number of available quality players. Like a housing market crash, prices will once again start falling to a point where many operators will not be able to sustain their operation.

The key to success is the delivery of the experience. Operators need to make sure that every promise is upheld and to not try and cut corners on player amenities. Stop taking about exposure and start delivering it.

Often times we hear that certain teams don't want their player signings and information blasted here on Why not? Because other coaches will go after those players. Let's make this point perfectly clear, if little Tommy is swayed to go to another team, after committing and paying for the team that announced him, does the team really want that player anyway?

It's also the time of year when former players can make or break an organization. Teams that get the reputation of not working with higher level teams for call-ups are going to suffer during the next recruiting season. All it takes is one refusal to letting a play go to a higher level team and a coach's reputation can be torched.

Teams need to realize that these players are customers, not property. If they are able to play their way up and off the roster, by all means let him go. There will be ten other players wanting to fill that hole when word gets out that the team actually advances players midseason and does not just talk about it.

Liars beware.

Kids are not stupid. At an event in St Louis over the weekend, one coach was bragging about his ability to move players from his pay-to-play team directly to a team in the United States Hockey League. There is a much better chance of winning the PowerBall and MegaMillions in the same week than there is of that coach telling the truth.

The sad part is that some parents and players will actually believe such tall tales.

Bad-mouthing other programs is another tempting trick that many coaches fall back on. That's a dangerous road to go down because folks talk. Not to mention that doing so is just a cowardly way to recruit players.

Prospects that hear such baloney should consider the statement as the red flag and simply end the conversation. If the coach will bad-mouth other teams, what's he going to say about the prospect when the college coaches call?

As always, players and parents are welcome to contact me directly at any time. We can help separate to the real developmental opportunities from the pipe dreams.

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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