Many people, including myself, from time to time have proposed the elimination of import player restrictions.
Some people would like to make the argument that allowing more import players would raise the level of play. That theory is simply not supported by any facts.
The top players in nearly every junior league in North America are either American or Canadian born players. Those are the facts.
The elimination of import player limits can only benefit one level of junior hockey. That is the pay to play level. Even then, the majority of top players in pay to play leagues are still North American born players.
The vast majority of people calling for the removal of import player limits have never even been to Europe and know nothing about international players or the leagues they play in.
I actually work in Europe. I have an office in Europe and spend 30% of the year in Europe. I would think that gives me a more than basic education on what the European player wants, and the level of play.
To be sure, the high level players want to come to North America. The want to play in the USHL, Major Junior, and the NAHL. Some want to play NCAA but not as many as some people would like to assume.
Good players do NOT want to come to North America and PAY TO PLAY. They don’t have to pay to play at home, so why would they want to come across the globe to spend money they don’t need to spend?
The import players that are in North America are not paying to play. Even in pay to play leagues the vast majority are not paying to play, most are only paying for billet.
Allowing more import players in to North America, would certainly help with filling rosters, but it would not help pay to play teams on a financial level. Financial help is what these teams need along with more players to fill rosters.
I personally have presented educational seminars to more than 400 players in Europe in the last few months. Players representing the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Germany, and Poland.
These players represent some of the best hockey development markets in Europe. They also represent countries with an average family income that equals 25 to 30 thousand dollars a year in United States dollars.
If there is a family of 4, only bringing in 25 to 30 thousand a year, how likely do you think they are to spend 10 thousand on one family member to play hockey in the United States?
The top European players typically do not come from wealthy families. The European players who are coming to North America to play pay to play hockey are NOT top level players. They are often the fringe European player who happens to come from one of the few wealthy families.
I am all for eliminating import restrictions in Free To Play hockey. If that were to happen, the United States would become the hockey capitol of the world. But it wont happen because the IIHF, and all of the member countries will never allow it to happen.
If USA Hockey eliminated import restrictions on their own, other European countries would essentially close their boarders and not let players leave. There is already trouble with IIHF member countries who do not get their transfer fee’s from AAU leagues and independent teams and leagues.
Instead of talking about adding more import players, lets talk about fixing the problem. That is eliminating about 30% of all pay to play teams and the problem is gone.
But hey, what do I know, we only had 38 European players drafted in free to play leagues this year, and I just happen to be riding a train between European countries while I write this.
Joseph Kolodziej – Family Adviser