USA Hockey’s Rostering Rules Set Teams Up To Fail

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Roughly four years ago, I made a rule change proposal to stream line, and make the roster rules under USA Hockey more efficient and effective.  That proposal clearly fell upon deaf ears.

Four years later, there have been no changes to the schedule in which all USA Hockey Junior Teams rosters are created.

Four years later, coupled with the loss of the USPHL, the country’s largest junior hockey organization.  USA Hockey teams find themselves scrambling for survival at the Tier III level.

Never before have we seen such struggles to survive from the NA3HL.  The EHL has had some struggles as well, but have also shown they have a very strong brand and those struggles do not come close to those of the 3HL.  The RMJHL, is what it is and should not be considered junior hockey in any event.

The question is why?  Why are teams folding and struggling to build rosters at a historically high level?

There is a perfect storm for the answer and it begins and ends with USA Hockey roster rules and recent decisions made by USAH and its member leagues.

The USHL does not cut down to roster limits until October.  The NAHL does not cut down to roster limits until the third week of September.

The NA3HL, EHL and RMJHL on the other hand, have to set their rosters in the beginning of September.

The flow in which rosters are established creates a negative flow of players.  Yet, these are the rules under USA Hockey.  Keep in mind though that the Junior Council, and its member leagues are in charge of establishing these rules.

Yes, the leagues who are complaining about not having the players they want or need in the case of Tier III, created the rules.

I proposed four years ago that the USHL cut down first, the NAHL cut down two weeks after they received those USHL cuts, and then Tier III would set their rosters last.  Again, that realistic, positive flow of roster building fell upon deaf ears.

It is that one change that could have saved several Tier III teams from folding.  That one change that would keep players who think they are playing in the NAHL from gaining that false sense of security, when they are cut in October after the USHL makes their cuts.

Now, when you throw in the creation of the NCDC and the USPHL leaving USA Hockey, you have a perfect storm.

USA Hockey’s Junior Council, lead by the USHL and NAHL, voted against giving the NCDC Tier II status.  The NCDC and USPHL left USA Hockey because of it.  Now, the USHL, NAHL, NA3HL, EHL and RMJHL have absolutely zero say on when the NCDC and USPHL teams will make their cuts.

They have next to zero information on what is happening in the NCDC and USPHL because those leagues are no longer subjected to USA Hockey rules.

The junior council failed to see that the past would likely repeat itself when pushing the NCDC and USPHL out of USA Hockey.

It was only a few years ago when the WSHL left USA Hockey.  At the time, I believe the WSHL was at 12 teams, or around that number.  Now the WSHL is thriving at 25 teams and leaving USA Hockey allowed them to more than double in size.  Not only doubling in size but dramatically improving the on ice product in the process.

If the leagues, and members of USA Hockey’s Junior Council could not see that the NCDC and USPHL leaving could be catastrophic, then someone needs to get their eyes checked.

When you put these roster rules in place with a natural negative flow to them, and you lose the largest junior hockey organization in the country.  You set teams up for failure.

Once again, I would renew my proposal to stream line the roster rule procedures.  Create a natural positive flow down.

If that means that the NAHL and Tier III are forced to start their seasons later in the fall, then so be it.  While that would change the NAHL showcase in Blaine, it wouldn’t change so much that most would notice.  It may actually make it better, if that’s possible.

There are reasons to not start Tier III in September that most people don’t think about.  Like trying to sell tickets when High School football is at top of mind awareness. is not likely to be successful.  Why would anyone think that its smart to start playing before the NHL begins playing?

USA Hockey should continue to lobby the NCDC and USPHL in the hope they will consider coming back.  Clearly, the NCDC and USPHL leaving USA Hockey has not had the catastrophic effect that some people thought it may have.  If anything, it has arguably made them stronger.  If those lobby efforts are not successful, you may find that you are not a strong as you think you are, and things will be worse next year.

Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher