The spring and summer of 2016 will perhaps end up being the most confusing summer of many young players lives. The same could have been said about nearly every spring and summer for the last five years or more.
I am focusing this article on Tier II, or Junior A in Canada for a few reasons.
First, if you are not a USHL or Major Junior prospect already drafted or in contact with those teams, you are most likely focused on Tier II opportunities.
Second, if you find yourself in that group of athletes looking at Tier II, you are probably being overloaded with camp invitations, and conflicting information.
Third, if you are being overloaded with camp information and conflicting information, you are being forced into making choices that you may not have enough information to make a good choice with.
Fourth, there are so many differences in Tier II operations, that if you are not acting on the right information, you are more likely to make a decision that may not be right for you.
With those factors in mind, lets examine the real numbers.
There are nearly TWO HUNDRED teams in North America having the Tier II or Junior A designation placed on them from their individual governing bodies.
Take time and digest that two hundred number. Think about all that it implies. Approximately five thousand players at the Tier II or Junior A level in North America alone.
Approximately two hundred main camps. You can double or triple that amount for pre draft and open camps. And many of these camps over lap.
In the United States teams “A through G” have camp the same weekend as teams “H through M”, then teams “N through Z” have their camps clear across the county on the same weekend as teams “A through G” in Canada have their camps. How are you supposed to make quality decisions on which camp or camps to attend?
The answer is actually rather simple. You act on current and accurate information.
When buying a car, you wouldn’t simply listen to the sales person would you? No. You look into things. You check with independent professionals for safety ratings, customer satisfaction reports, and delivery times if it is a special order, among other things that are important to you.
Finding the right team is very similar to finding the right car. No one person has the exact same needs as the other, this is why there are so many manufacturers and so many options on each vehicle. It is no different in hockey. No two players needs are exactly the same. Some like sports cars, some like trucks, some like economy cars.
From free to play, to pay to play, at the Tier II or Junior A level there are many choices. If your decision is going to be based primarily on money, you have already limited your options.
If your decision is going to be based on opportunity, you are going to have many hard choices to make. How you arrive at those choices is going to be based on the information you receive.
The smart player does not make his decisions on what “friends”, “chat rooms”, or “message boards” may say. Unless those people are actually identifiable and working in the industry, the information is almost guaranteed to be inaccurate and/or out dated.
So, where do you get the information you need? There are two ways to get real accurate information.
Spend your time building a network of hockey professionals. Coaches, General Managers, Owners, and players who are already playing NCAA, Major Junior or Professional Hockey. Those connections can ease the political waters you will need to navigate through.
If you don’t have, or cant spend the time developing that network, you need to hire an Adviser. Advisers are not for every player. Advisers are for the player who is serious about his or her hockey career.
How important can a good adviser be? If you have ever watched two very similar players for their career’s, and all things being equal to each other, one player moves on to higher levels of play while another doesn’t, chances are one player had an adviser and the other did not.
The bottom line to all of this is that there are many Tier II or Junior A options. There are many questions to be answered, many tough choices to make. Be careful. Do not buy the first car you see. Do not buy based on a nice paint job without looking under the hood. And before you buy, have a professional mechanic look things over to see if you are getting a good deal.
That mechanic/adviser will most likely save you a whole lot of time and money while making sure you avoid buying a lemmon.