The Minnesota Junior Hockey League will not likely exist as we know it next season, if it exists at all.
Twelve members of the MNJHL had made an application to join the USPHL as its Mid West division and that application was reviewed at the USA Hockey winter meeting last weekend.
When asked if the MNJHL supported the 12 team move to the USPHL, the Commissioner of the MNJHL told the Tier III junior caucus “No”. When in truth, he did not take a vote of the MNJHL member teams to authorize him taking that position. Had he taken a vote as required, he would have had to answer that the MNJHL supported the move based on a clear majority voting to change leagues.
At the very minimum the MNJHL commissioner should have said he could not answer that question until he took a vote and made an emergency conference call. That didn’t happen.
When USA Hockey asked if the MNJHL had commitments from all teams to play next season, the Commissioner did not answer that completely truthfully either. Though he had letters of intent and deposits, under MNJHL rules, most of those letters were too late in their filing and the franchises had effectively withdrawn. TJHN is in possession of one of those late letters.
The letter itself is non binding and if a team withdraws they only lose their $2000 deposit. If it were completely binding, the teams that went “dormant” in the MNJHL this year would have been forced to play. “Intent” is not contractually binding by definition or practice. Anyone can change their “intent” at any time, and there are instances where other teams that had filed their “letter of intent” have switched leagues, most recently the NA3HL’s Chicago Bulldogs when they were with the MNJHL three seasons ago.
On Monday the 19th the 12 teams discussed what they wanted to do in a conference call and made some decisions they felt were in their best interest.
On Tuesday the 20th, the 12 teams asked for the MNJHL Commissioner to resign. That didn’t happen either.
Even after all the reasons for why he should resign were given, the Commissioner and is two or three supporters, would not back down from their position to try to force these teams to continue to play in the MNJHL against their will.
When not receiving the resignation which could have promoted more discussion about the future, the member teams made their intentions known for the future.
In what is the boldest and wisest move in recent Tier III junior hockey history, the 12 teams informed the MNJHL they will not continue playing in the MNJHL after this season no matter what happens. These 12 teams will appeal the decision and attempt to move to the USPHL or they will form their own league independent of USA Hockey if necessary.
Bold? Yes. Well thought out? Clearly. Smart? It is the smartest decision that any teams could have collectively made in recent memory.
Given the information available, and comments from those involved, the MNJHL has been run like a “dictatorship”. Some teams and owners have been treated as “second class citizens”, and “rules have only been enforced when it suits the few who are in control”.
These 12 teams now, along with 4 others will proceed to complete the appeal process and join the USPHL. If unsuccessful, an new league with at least these 16 teams will be formed encircling the Mid Western United States. This league would envelop Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. It would likely gain entry from other teams dissatisfied with their current leagues as well as new expansion entries creating one of the largest leagues in the United States over night.
Not only would this be a large league, but one built upon established franchises with some very successful operators.
For those of you thinking and following, this could and likely would not only kill off the MNJHL, but would also likely take out the AAU sanctioned MWJHL.
Several of those involved noted that the MNJHL counted on the 12 teams not sticking together. They counted on fracturing the group in order to maintain their control of the league. Clearly that was a miscalculation on their part.
While the teams looking to the USPHL could have been harder on the few wanting to remain as the MNJHL, the 12 offered to take the rest of the teams with them. The olive branch was once again extended but it was not clear if anyone would accept it.
Its pretty clear that things are terribly wrong in the MNJHL. Its even more clear that the majority of teams not only see it, but they are expressing their right to take control of their own destiny. The only question now is will USA Hockey do the right thing and endorse these business people taking control of their own future and making decisions that are better for themselves and the players they work with?
Either way, under USA Hockey and the USPHL or on their own, this is a group with direction and the leadership to make tough decisions that make things better for the players. In the end isn’t that what this is supposed to be about?
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher