Tier III Junior Hockey And Negative Recruiting


When you work with teams in the USHL on behalf of or with a player, you hear about how good their program is.  If you mention another team in the league, they will say they are good too, but this is why we think we are better.

When you work with Tier II teams in the United States or Canada, you get much of the same sentiment.  Of course teams want the player they want, and they want the best team possible, nothing wrong with that at all.  Teams at the Tier II level respect each others position much like the USHL respects each team in the league.

In Tier III, that type of professional respect or professional courtesy is becoming harder to find every season.  Tier III teams seem to be willing to stoop to just about anything to get the player they want, and to generate the tuition they need.

Dont get me wrong, there are some very good Tier III operators.  Some very professional people involved, and some people with the right intentions working for these teams.  The key word is “some”.

As an Adviser, I see and hear it all.  Negative recruiting takes place all the time.  “Dont go there, that team is awful”, “They don’t do anything for the players”, “Our league is better”, “The Coach there sucks”, “That league sucks” and it goes on and on.

Last night I got a call from a client.  Based on opportunity they had decided to leave the East Coast for a team in the Mid West.  An East Coast Coach was told about the decision.  The East Coast Coach then contacted one of his friends in the Mid West.  This person Coaches in the same league that the player has decided to move to.  The Mid West Coach, at the request of the East Coast Coach urged the player to not come to the Mid West and play in the same league he coached in.

I got wind of what happened when the parent called me.  They were upset that anyone would attempt to interfere with their decision, and they were more upset that a Coach in the same the league that the player was signing in would attempt to keep the player out of the league.  It doesnt make sense for a Coach to talk badly about the league he is coaching in.

I called the coach and spoke to him.

The reason the action was taken was because the Coach on the East Coast is a friend of his and he is having a hard time filling his roster.  Without a full roster he can not meet his tuition budget.

The Coach who made the call apologized, and said the only reason he did it was because his friend asked him to and that he did not even know the player.  He didn’t even know the player!  You dont know the player yet you would try to tell him where to play?

Unfortunately I hear this all the time.  Nearly every day I hear a negative recruiting tactic from one team or another.  It is troubling to watch and hear but the practice seems to grow every year.

Is it really so hard to say “I am glad to hear you have an offer, but I think this is why our offer is better for you”?  Coaches and teams at the Tier III level need to learn how to sell their programs on their own merits.

Your fan support does not get players on to college.  Your record of championships and wins does not move players on to college.  Your facility does not move players on to college.  None of these things move players on to Tier II either.  Yet, these are the things many teams use to try to convince people to come play for them.

Your reputation of developing players that are FREE to move up to Tier II.  Your reputation of placing players in school.  Your reputation of providing opportunity.  Your reputation of working hard for the players.  These are the things that make a program.  The programs that do these things for the players never have to recruit negatively.

One last thing to look for parents and players; all of those college commitments.  I recently went through a lot of Tier III teams college commitment lists and found more than a few problems.  Just because a player is listed on the alumni page or is listed as going to a school, does not mean they are playing hockey at that school.  Sorry to say I found a lot of teams inflating their numbers with academic scholarships for players that have never touched the ice after junior.

Make your decisions wisely players and parents.  Be very careful who you believe.  Listen to what they say, and if it is negative about competition, chances are you may be placing yourself in a negative environment from the start.

Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher