Canada Junior Hockey – The Bigger Problem Is Not Import Players It Is Ticket Sales And Billeting

Apologies for calling the Canadian Prime Minister a Premier yesterday. Too used to reading too many news reports around the world with different titles for heads of state. Thanks to the reader who pointed it out.

The Canadian Junior Hockey League, along with the CHL and all the other Junior B and Junior C leagues are facing a much bigger problem than a lack of American players this season.

The bigger problem is a ban on groups of more than 50 people gathering together anywhere. This ban is not expected to go away any time soon. Another problem with the ban on groups is the devaluation of sponsorships that could be sold.

Junior hockey in Canada needs ticket sales to survive. In those leagues that charge players tuition, the ticket sales are usually the break even or profit margin of the team. Ticket sales and sponsorship sales are absolutely critical for every team in Canada.

Until the limit of 50 people is removed, season ticket sales are likely to be zero, and sponsorships in arena’s without fans are worthless.

When you look at the shutdown effect on business profits around the world, those sponsorship dollars will be a lot fewer than in years past as well.

Many leagues are now discussing a “delayed” start to the season in the hope that the delay will provide time to remove these restrictions or time enough for a vaccine to be distributed.

The delayed start plan being discussed includes start dates in November, December or January.

Included in these delayed start plans are new rules for full face shields across Canada junior hockey, and in those shields, and additional layer of protection in the mouth and nose area for players.

Also included in these delayed start plans is the removal of billeting player programs with local family’s. Players from outside of the local community would billet with players making the team from within the community only.

Some leagues have discussed or already approved a no billeting procedure.

This actually makes sense. Families are likely not comfortable with someone from another community coming into their home this year with a possible infection. Leagues also cant afford to test every player coming into a community.

So it is a much easier solution to use more local players than it is to try to arrange for billeting in this pandemic or after the pandemic subsides.

As the world prepares for a “second wave” that many are predicting, its much easier to manage the situation with local people than it is with non locals.

As a side note to this local player and billeting, issue its important to note that more than 3000 people have been turned away from the Canadian border already for “non essential” travel. This includes people who own property in Canada, and not just tourists.

It’s not just crossing international borders that is an issue. Crossing provincial borders has also been suspended during this pandemic. Posing another layer of problems for players moving between leagues and provinces.

Yes, I know. No one wants to read these things, and no one in Canada will say these things publicly. No one wants to be the one who says this is how it is. They wall want to wait until the government allows them to point the finger at the government for their failure to take action independently.

It really is a simple solution. All Canada needs to do is say that for this year or until a vaccine is found, we are going to keep within our own borders and refocus our energy on development of home grown players.

There really is nothing wrong with that thought process. In fact, Canadian players and parents would likely applaud that idea.

These are unusual times and there will be many more unusual things that happen. Coronavirus or COVID-19 will make a return, its how we prepare for it and anticipate it now that will determine if another shut down is necessary. That is what everyone wants to avoid at all costs.

If the NHL doesn’t know what they are doing yet, and they have no answer to bringing players back from other countries, how can anyone in junior hockey claim its business as usual? The simple answer is they cant.

The simpler answer is that by being proactive they can answer the most important people who are asking questions. The players and parents who are the life blood of hockey.

Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser