There is a revolution taking place in Canada’s Capitol City of Ottawa and the surrounding Ontario region.
The Central Canadian Hockey League, recently added sixteen teams as a Tier II affiliate league, and is now adding Midget, or U-18 hockey to that development ladder.
There will be no more AAA major and minor midget divisions, instead it’ll be a combined U-18 league consisting of 15, 16 and 17 year olds.
The initiative is being pushed by the Ottawa District Minor Hockey Association (ODMHA), in partnership with the CCHL Tier 1, and is on a three-year pilot program. In 2018 the U-18 division will be reviewed and voted on to see if it will continue.
Much like the NAHL has done in the United States, having the NA3HL and NAPHL in its development structure, the CCHL is doing what has proven to be successful.
The NAHL is arguably the fastest growing development structure in the United States. Though not the leader in NCAA D-1 commitments, the NAHL and its structure has proven to move players on to higher levels of hockey.
While no one will say it publicly, the CCHL is essentially adopting a model that is proven to work. The advantage the CCHL has in all of this is a simple one; they are ahead of the curve.
Already producing a large number of NCAA commitments, they are moving at an accelerated rate to have a complete development structure to keep those commitments coming. The end result? More players gaining interest in playing within that structure.
With minor hockey and CCHL working together there are three goals at the heart of the issue that both groups want to get across to the public.
One -To drive costs down by limiting travel and decrease out-of-district costs of tournaments and other various costs that come up during the year.
Two -the 12 teams in the new U-18 league will have an affiliation with the dozen clubs in the CCHL.
If a young player gets drafted by a CCHL team they’ll be part of that club’s system and join the U-18 ranks and develop from there.
The mark of the U-18 program is development, though, and that’s where the third point comes in.
Three -CCHL teams are going to help grow the U-18 division players and will send coaches to help train the youth.
CCHL coaches will now get to work with younger players earlier and, along with the U-18 coaches, create a model with an emphasis on development.
The inspiration for the NAHL is, and was the American Development Model under USA Hockey. An age specific programing model that has been proven to work.
While Canada has been the leader in the player development concept, it would appear that development in the United States, and the success of it, may now be used as a model for those north of the border.