The NA3HL is in trouble. While no one in the NA3HL or the NAHL league offices wants to admit it, the NA3HL is in a lot of trouble.
NA3HL Owners and Coaches know it, and they are talking about it off the record.
The 2016-2017 season saw the league play with 48 teams. The current season now has 44 teams. While losing 4 teams is an obvious sign of weakness, it really is only an outward symptom of many other problems.
The NA3HL is so desperate to not lose more teams, they are trying to force the Nashville Jr. Predators to not fold in order to keep from completely having to restructure the current schedule. New Ownership was approached about recruiting new players to try to save a season after not playing games for a month.
Yes. A team that can not compete, who has broken USA Hockey rules by using a 15 year old player, is being seen as vital to continuing forward. Not playing games for the entire month of November, the NA3HL would allow a completely substandard product on the ice in order to not reschedule games.
The NA3HL is also allowing five other substandard teams to continue playing when they should not be playing at all.
These decisions are being made consciously. These decisions are the equivalent of a parent consciously choosing to allow their children to beat up a neighbor who is physically incapable of defending themselves.
Instead of saying “we screwed up and over expanded in an over saturated market”, they are going to continue with a business model that has been proven to not work. Instead of contracting and eliminating teams that have no business being labeled as junior hockey, they are consciously allowing the bad decisions to continue.
The number of teams folding, and the failure to be competitive of a number of other teams was not only predictable, but was avoidable. Teams folding and multiple other teams not being competitive are symptoms of much deeper problems.
Those problems rest in several facts that the NA3HL simply does not want to take ownership of.
They wont take ownership of it, and the few really good teams and good operators in the league are all having to suffer because of it. Good teams having to be seen in the same light as teams that should not be operating is not adding value to those franchises, it is devaluing the product.
The NA3HL is not the NAHL development league it has claimed to be for years, and now players know it.
The NA3HL is not as good as other Tier III leagues in placing players in NCAA D-3 programs, and players know it.
The NA3HL and NAHL were so worried about what the USPHL and NCDC were doing, that they forgot to develop a plan to compete against them when recruiting.
Now that these things are known, and these symptoms are going to become more pronounced in the future, how does the NA3HL recover?
The simple answer is that they do not recover without completely changing their business and operating models.
But how does the NA3HL change their business and operating models when the foundation on which the league is built has been proven to be nearly non-existent?
If it is not the “pipeline” or “development” league for the masses looking to play in the NAHL, what is it?
If it is not the best Tier III league in the country for competition, what is it?
If it is not the leader in NCAA D-III placements, what is it?
These are core questions that NA3HL and NAHL owners need to seriously ask themselves when looking in the mirror.
If the NA3HL continues to expand and force substandard products on the ice, are those the hallmarks of development? Or, are they the hallmarks of greed?
In 2010 the Central States Hockey League stood at 13 teams. The CSHL was morphed into the NA3HL and more than tripled in size over six years. Doe’s any rational thinking human being believe that kind of growth can be sustained without a sacrifice to quality?
If you don’t believe that quality can be maintained with that kind of unfettered growth, the only way to fix the problem is to eliminate the weak links and stop growing. If you don’t have the strength of conviction to carry out those two items, the problems will only become worse.
Anyone remember Total Hockey, MC Sports or Sports Authority stores? Yes? They thought they could expand where expansion wasn’t needed too. Where are those stores now?
Then again what would simple supply vs demand economics have to do with any rational business thought? (insert hefty dose of sarcasm)
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher