Late yesterday the WSHL board of governors voted to go dormant for the 2020-2021 season. I knew it was likely going to happen on Thursday after speaking with Commissioner Ron White, but still I had hopped for the players it may not happen.
While some would say independent or AAU hockey is not good for the game, I would argue that it is essential for the health of the game. I would argue that players and parents deserve to have choice in where they spend their hockey dollars.
The WSHL along with the USPHL at the junior level have offered thousands of players choices over the years. Those choices have resulted in great competition and innovation in many ways.
Recruiting has become more competitive across all hockey because there are so many choices. Operators have had to become better and provide a better experience because there are so many choices. This only benefits the players.
I would even argue that the GMHL is a necessary thing in Canada because it gives people a choice.
Of course there are those brain washed followers who think it has to be USA Hockey or Hockey Canada or it doesn’t exist. The crazed followers who use terms like “outlaw” or “unsanctioned”. When its simply a different way of insuring players and managing programs. But that scares people.
The WSHL was the first league to leave USA Hockey. Many people predicted that it would fail when they made the move. It didn’t fail, it expanded and grew into a high quality league that has begun to produce NCAA Division 1 players and regularly produces Division 3 players.
With the WSHL taking a year off, bad teams, who otherwise couldn’t recruit a full roster will now be able to. Bad teams that shouldn’t survive will now move forward because players will sign someplace.
With the WSHL taking a year off, hundreds of international players will now stay home. Giving scouts less of an opportunity to see the worlds players is never good for the game.
While many may rejoice at the WSHL decision, those same people clearly do not understand the global view of junior hockey and development. Any time a competitor leaves the marketplace, the void is usually filled by someone who makes a mess of things.
For 27 years the WSHL offered options to players from the Western United States, Canada and the world. That’s a lot of history, a lot of players and families lives that have been impacted in a positive way. 27 years is a lot longer than many leagues have made it.
Lets hope, for the sake of people having choice that the WSHL returns in 2021-2022 strong enough to continue where they have left off.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser