More Changes In Tier III US Based Junior Leagues

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More Changes in Tier III US Based Junior Leagues

All season long, we have been hearing about changes to come at all levels of Junior Hockey. Last season the WSHL left USA Hockey for AAU, and this year there may be another defection coming in the next few weeks.

Sources have also made TJHN aware of some teams looking to change leagues over the next few weeks. Once league is being considered for involuntary decertification, and others are considering decertification on their own.

Speaking with a colleague over the weekend, about AAU vs. USA Hockey, many concerns remain. Although AAU offers an outstanding insurance policy for players, teams and staff, the fact remains, they are not the sanctioning body recognized internationally.

The WSHL, lead by Ron White, did an amazing job this season. Recruiting went well, the level of play was raised, and no real problems have been reported. The transition was made easier through solid leadership. There are other things to consider when looking at this change though.

The WSHL is geographically located in what most would call "non traditional" hockey markets. There isn’t a whole lot of competition to place teams in New Mexico, Arizona and California right now. Local players will stay close to home in the WSHL because its comfortable for them to do so.

An AAU league in the Mid West or Eastern US will have a much harder time.

If leagues leave for AAU, there is nothing to stop USA Hockey sanctioned leagues from placing teams right in the same city. Being realistic, parents and players will choose USAH over AAU if given the choice in the same market in most instances. Why? There are many answers to be found for why.

Most importantly, USAH is the recognized governing body. Every one knows this, and people who have been involved with USAH know what they get and are comfortable with that knowledge and stability. Consumers are willing to pay a little more in most cases in order to receive a service they have been comfortable with over the course of years. Customer loyalty can not be under valued.

Is USAH a large operation with rules, procedures and policies that take time to work through? Sure. Can it be frustrating to try to maneuver within that structure? Absolutely. But in the end, they get it right most times. That is what the consumer knows.

AAU is an alternative, with great people involved, but the familiarity and knowledge of its offering is not on the same level as USAH.

Using a completely hypothetical situation, if two teams are located in Detroit, one AAU and one USAH, the top players are going to try out for the USAH program. The AAU program will get players after the USAH team makes their cuts. Why? Because USAH is still the governing body and everyone knows it. With that position comes the ability to develop national programs, national teams, Olympic teams, and the authority to make the rules of play on the ice.

Competition between traditional business is seen as being good, competition between USAH and AAU could be good as well. Creating options, and discussion might improve the game. Then again, this not a traditional business, and track records of most independent leagues are not successful in general. Although AAU is a governing body for some sports, and they insure nearly every sport, if you are not with the governing body, you are independent.

As of today, there is only one governing body that can provide sanctioning. Sanctioning in the case of hockey flows from the International Ice Hockey Federation, through USA Hockey. USA Hockey is given its authority through an act of congress. Although AAU can independently sanction what ever they want within their own leagues and organization, make no mistake, it is not an internationally recognized sanction.

That said, for those choosing to go AAU, there is an old saying about the grass being greener, before making a decision like this you may want to examine your own yard to see if the grass just might be green enough to live with.

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