Tier III Player Poaching Between USA Hockey And AAU Teams?


Recently we have heard a lot of Tier III Coaches from AAU sanctioned teams complaining that other teams in competing USA Hockey leagues are “poaching” their players.

Just so everyone understands, there is no reciprocating agreement in place between USA Hockey and AAU that prevents any player from switching teams or leagues that may be governed by the opposing sanctioning body.  The idea that any coach would complain about players switching their allegiance from year to year is ridiculous.

Tier III hockey is a customer service oriented business model.  Provide a great service and experience to your customer and they are more likely to return to you than not.  Fail to deliver on your promises and you are more likely to see the customer leave for what they think will be a better experience.

Some teams are complaining that Coaches who have left AAU programs for USA Hockey programs are taking their best players with them.  So, what is the problem?

Players follow Coaches they like and want to play for.  It happens at every junior hockey level and it continues on into professional hockey as well.  This has been going on for decades.  Relationships are developed between people first and organizations second.  If you have players leaving to follow a Coach to a new destination, you probably should have made a better effort to keep the Coach that left.

The better Coaches are often the better recruiters.  Recruiting at the Tier III level is critical for every team to be able to fill their roster to meet their budgetary demands.

Addressing the elephant in the room that is AAU sanctioned leagues competing with USA Hockey sanctioned leagues;

Although some AAU teams are developing some good players, USA Hockey leagues move more players to higher levels.  Players have always, and will always want to play where there is a highly percentage of players moving up.

If Tier III is about development and moving players up, then why is anyone complaining?  Coaches and organizations should be happy if a player moves on to an opportunity that has a higher likelyhood of having the player move on.  If Coaches are out working properly they wont have a problem replacing any players that leave.

Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher