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2017 Free To Play Expansion Explosion Will Change Everything In Junior Hockey

Yesterday, the USPHL announced it will be adding an eleven team Free to Play division within its development structure.

Just a few weeks prior, the new Central League was announced as the AAU – UHU entry into the Free to Play market.  This announcement included naming the six founding member organizations.  Announcements concerning potential new additions have yet to be made.

This gives the United States, a minimum of seventeen new Free to Play options for players.  Seventeen new Free to Play teams is a tremendous number, and it will change everything in junior hockey throughout North America next year.

This represents nearly a fifty percent increase in Free to Play opportunity in the United States, for players and parents overnight.

While some are speculating this will hasten the demise of Tier III pay to play hockey in the United States, I would disagree.

The puzzle of how pay to play hockey survives does not begin in the United States with Tier III hockey, but it begins in Canada with their pay to play Tier II hockey.

Roughly six hundred American born athletes head to Canada every year to play junior hockey.  More than half of those players are “paying to play” in Canada.

With a minimum of three hundred and ninety new Free to Play roster spots opening in the United States, there will be no reason for players to pay to play in Canada next year.

With three hundred and ninety new Free to Play roster spots open in the United States, the NAHL and USHL will no longer have eminent domain over the free to play market.

Free to play teams in the United States will no longer be able to sit back and wait for players to simply come to them.  Teams will once again have to go to work.

Teams in Canada will now have to try to convince players that it is smarter to pay to play in a town of two thousand people in Ontario than it is to play in Boston, New York, Texas, Colorado, or anywhere else in the United States.

Pay five to eight thousand dollars to play, or pay nothing?  I think we all know who wins that discussion when the parents are the ones making the decisions.

And what about the Canadian players themselves?  More Free to Play options in the United States for those that don’t make the USHL and NAHL.  In the CHL you will have expanded Canadian player opportunity due to Canadian players not being considered import players under AAU – UHU.

This is a great time to be a young hockey player.  Its also a great time to be a parent looking at Free to Play opportunity.

Players and parents its now your time to prepare.  Its your time to prepare to make smart decisions.  Opportunity like this only comes once in a lifetime.  Never before has so much opportunity come at once.  What will you do with it?

Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser

[email protected]

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