MWJHL Interview With Commissioner Pat Pylypuik

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MWJHL – Interview With Commissioner Pat Pylypuik May 27, 2012 5:06 PM

TJHN was the first to break the news of the formation of the MWJHL on May 17th, 2012. We followed that story with the announcement of the Tennyson Junior Hockey Club on May 24th, the first MWJHL team to go public.

Commissioner Pylypuik has an extensive hockey history, as a player in the WHL and later in the ECHL he was known as a tough, shot blocking defenseman. After completing his playing career Pylypuik went on to serve as General Manager of the ECHL Toledo Storm for seven years, Vice President of the Storm for two years, and President of the ECHL Cincinatti Cyclones.

Over the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend, TJHN submitted some questions to new MWJHL Commissioner Pat Pylypuik. Below are the written questions and answers that were submitted and returned.

As a Tier II league will this be completely free to play? If not, what will the fee’s be, or what can a player expect as an average fee?

Our goal is to be an option for players that are considering playing in a traditional Tier II league. I believe that everyone would want to be in a position not to charge players to play. Unfortunately, we do not believe that the model is sustainable especially under the current economic climate. What we do believe in is providing value in return for those fees. For example, if a team is going to charge $2500.00 per year to play we must deliver at least $5000.00 value in return. Players that ultimately go on to college or pro not only excel on the ice but have typically learned how to be a player during the other 23 hours away from the rink as, well.

From a team ownership, and a league perspective player fees are important as, well. Fees help create an environment conducive to player development. When ownership is uncertain about its future the effects ripple through everyone associated ultimately hurting a player’s development. I know first-hand
what happens when an organization becomes unstable. Coaches, management etc., start looking out for themselves. The players take the hit because their coaches and staff are concentrating on where they are going to earn their next paycheck versus focusing on player development.

Obviously the key to keep our player fees low is for each team and especially the league office to be as fiscally conservative as possible. I believe our fees will vary between $3,500 – $4,900 per year. Players will also understand that this will be a commitment to them as well, and they should not expect that
playing junior hockey is a free ride either. Players that play in our league will either have to go to school or work to help offset these fees. The last thing we want to teach these young men is that go have fun and mom and dad will pay for everything. Instead, by instilling a work ethic and taking responsibility I
don’t believe there is anything wrong enforcing these guys to get out of bed early, work hard at work or in school and with hockey. Players must understand that playing junior hockey is a privilege not an entitlement.

Are teams mandated to travel by bus?

Most likely, yes, although there will be exceptions that our Board of Governors will determine.

Are teams looking at mostly local players to fill rosters?

One of our league principles is that we are about giving players a second chance. Unfortunately, many players are not ready to play junior hockey at 16 or 17 years old and are thus labeled as not a junior prospect. Personally, I like being told about players that have been labeled as not junior hockey material
or, too small, too slow, bad apple etc.. I like to reach out to these 16 or 17 year old kids because this is so devastating to a young person.

Ultimately it is the GM or Coaches decision, and I respect that. Where we as hockey people could use improvement is to educate these kids that being cut from a junior team at 16, 17 or 18 years old is not the end of the world. In fact, a playing career is never over until the player decides. When that time arrives a player will know first.

For us to force our coaches to find local players only, is a disservice to our overall objectives. Priority would probably lean towards a local player if two players were equal. Keep in mind of our regional footprint and also understand that our league will allow up to eight (8) imports, which will elevate our
leagues level of play considerably.

Will camps be held? If so, when can we expect announcements on those camps?

You can expect to start hearing about a steady flow of information starting as soon as this coming Labour Day Weekend. These announcements will include new member teams, management, coaches, job opportunities and tryout schedules along with some high profile former National Hockey League players
that have agreed to serve on our Hockey Player Development Board of Advisors.

Is there a concern about over saturating the junior market?

Over saturation is a legitimate concern but I’ve learned over the years that worrying about other leagues and markets is not very productive. The sports business is very rumor oriented. I’m not going to be naive as to what could or could not happen or will oversaturation cause more junior teams to go dormant etc.. It is most likely that whenever innovation occurs you eventually lose the weak link. What I can confirm is that leagues and markets will disappear but if we execute and stay focused with our objectives the MWJHL will not.

How are owners being financially vetted for security?

Great question. Internally, we have discussed many different vehicles which will be finalized on or about June 2nd. I will tell you that each owner will have paid their dues three months in advance coupled with the league office providing structure, strategy, collaboration, transparency with each owner forced to maintain or exceed our league’s standard of performance. On a less serious note, and based on today’s economic climate, it is always possible that the only
permanent or secure asset in junior hockey might be that a Zamboni will continue to clean the ice for all.

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