In what many are calling a stunning turn of events, the NCDC and USPHL will not be returning to USA Hockey.
It was only a few weeks ago that the NCDC was a virtual lock to return to USA Hockey for 2018 and beyond. Most in the hockey business saw this as a very good thing for USA Hockey. Most, but not all.
It looks as though the offered terms for the NCDC returning were changed at the last minute.
Originally the deal had the NCDC returning to USAH with Tier II sanctioning, while the USPHL would remain independent of USA Hockey.
At the final meeting, USAH changed the terms of the agreement to an “all or nothing” approach. Meaning that if the USPHL did not return, the NCDC would not be able to return under Tier II status.
Because those changes in terms were made, the NCDC is not returning to USA Hockey.
Assuming that all of our sources are accurate in this portrayal of events, this represents another missed opportunity for USA Hockey.
The “all or nothing” approach has netted zero returning players to the USA Hockey family. It has netted zero control over NCDC or USPHL expansion.
In a time when there are only two solutions to save Tier III hockey in North America, USA Hockey decided to cling to a mindset that has already been proven to be ineffective.
There are two ways to save Tier III or pay to play junior hockey. Only two, and I will happily debate anyone who disagrees.
First, you can contract and eliminate Tier III teams that can not maintain a level of play consistent with junior hockey, or cant maintain a full roster.
Second, you can allow for unlimited, or a vast expansion of import player numbers at the Tier III level.
That’s it. Those are the only two solutions available. Because USA Hockey and everyone in the business knows that there are not enough junior players to support the existing Tier III franchise numbers. Those are numerical facts right from USAH.
So, instead of taking the approach where getting some teams to return to the fold is better than no teams returning, USAH presses the nuclear button once again.
Now, we all know this is all about protecting NAHL franchise values. We all know this is all about politics.
If it was about hockey, the deal would have been done, and the NAHL would be forced to play NCDC teams at the end of the year. Clearly though its not about hockey, its about money.
So what happens if the NCDC continues to gain traction in the Tier II market? What happens if they start attracting top European players? What happens if they decide to go head to head in the summer recruiting market with the NAHL?
While no one can predict the future, the NCDC has survived year one. Year two should see the league having more success recruiting high end players. More high end players means more scouts and more commitments.
Someone once said you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher