Recently a friend of mine penned some interesting information concerning the state of play at the pay to play level in the United States. While factually accurate in its presentation, it does not fully account for all pay to play issues.
Simply looking at the United States in any pay to play discussion is only telling half or possibly less than half of the real story.
Pay to play hockey exists in Canada as well. The GMHL, CPJHL, CCHL, OJHL, NOJHL, SIJHL, MJHL, AJHL in some cases, and the SJHL in some cases.
It also does not account for the mass expansion of pay to play Academies throughout North America.
While numbers of franchises and players rises and falls each year in the United States, there is also a rise and fall of pay to play teams in Canada that directly impacts the over saturation of pay to play numbers.
Make no mistake. Part of the pay to play vacuum in the player availability market is due to Canadian Junior A, or Tier II teams being able to recruit very talented Americans to their programs because they have a “Tier II” label on them and not the “Tier III” label placed on them in the United States.
Canada desperately needs these good American players not only to boost the level of play and have more scouts attend games, but they can not survive without the American Dollars flowing into their programs.
Every year, between 300 and 400 American players head north to Canada with their money in pay to play leagues. That is 8 teams worth of high quality players heading north.
While Junior A limits the number of import players per team, only American players are allowed to be imports. There are no European players allowed. There is also no limit on the number of expansion teams in Junior A or other pay to play leagues in Canada.
The over saturation of the pay to play market in the United States in the early 2000’s as the “peak” of pay to play junior hockey was the “peak” in the USA, and did not account for the existence of nearly all Canadian Junior A or Tier II being free to play at the time.
It did not account for the contraction of free to play in Canada and the explosion of pay to play in Canada or the numbers of players heading north for those “higher levels” of pay to play opportunity.
Those numbers do not account for a lot of non USA Hockey or non Hockey Canada programs that have existed during those times.
While a dip in “junior pay to play” volume is likely over this time due to the expansion of AAA Midget and the push to keep players in age specific programing under the American Development Model. The argument that there is not a “pay to play” over saturation does not hold water when viewed on a continental level.
The USA is not the epicenter of all things pay to play hockey any longer. North America is the epicenter, and this is where all discussion on pay to play must begin.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser