The Argument Being Made For AAU In Junior Hockey

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The argument being made for AAU in Junior Hockey

After USA Hockey held their winter meeting in Orlando a few weeks ago, news began to leak out that many of the expansion or relocation applications had been denied.

The argument being made by league management and team owners accross the country is that the Youth Council and local USA Hockey affiliates have far too much control and input on expansion. Three weeks after the USAH meeting no less than three junior leagues will be voting at their end of season meetings to leave USAH for AAU. The WSHL made the move last year, and without problem has continued to grow and improve the level of play within the league as a whole.

TJHN is not picking sides in this discussion, we are simply pointing out why this move may take place.

More and more, local affiliates are seeking to protect programs they are financialy or paternaly invested in. Right or wrong its happening, and USAH has given these individuals and affiliates the authority to act in this manner. A democracy is never perfect, but in this case, the democracy is not working for most of the people that these policies effect.

More often than not, affiliates are acting without proper votes being taken, and almost always, the local users within the affiliates do not even know there is an issue to be voted on. The people within the affiliates have no say in what these representatives are doing once they are elected.

If Junior Hockey Teams must get affiliate approval, or Junior Council approval, why then dont Midget teams have to seek Junior approval from its owners? This would be a fair system, but the affiliates would never want this system in place because it would require people to work together, compromise and develop plans that would benefit the players first and the people profiting second.

Owners, managers and league leaders are saying the system USAH has in place does not work, and is biased toward one group over the other.

Team owners, and league administrators in several leagues have had enough. If the leagues TJHN has spoken to leave USAH for AAU, AAU will immediately become a major player in the Junior Hockey system. Over night AAU stands to gain close to 100 junior hockey programs. That is roughly 2500 players. No small number for AAU to gain.

To USAH this is a drop in the membership bucket. Would it sting? Of course it woould, no one likes to loose members. But what about the long term effect?

If this happens, those AAU leagues will expand, and they will do it quickly. USAH will see its Midget programs in ruin very quickly with lower cost or free to play junior hockey available. Those same junior programs under AAU will start Midget programs of their own to compete with USAH midget, and create their own development programs.

If USAH thinks this wont happen, they need to open their eyes and rethink their position. Serious players want to play junior at some point. Players also want to stay close to home while playing junior when ever possible. If junior programs pop up under AAU that allow players to stay home and play high level hockey for less money than going away from home, it will not take long for these programs to explode with growth.

Once parents learn that AAU membership costs around one third of what USAH membership costs, and that the insurance coverage is really very good, they will begin to question much more than cost. Parents will question where the money goes, and who is making the decisions. This will be bad news for local affiliates, and for USAH.

Another question to be asked is; since this is so obvious to almost everyone who looks at the issues, why hasnt USAH addressed the issue? Does USAH want out of the Junior Hockey business? Would they prefer to stick with recreational hockey rather than a higher competitive level? Looking from the outside in, it would seem this may actually be the case.

If USAH becomes a body working solely with recreational play from the Midget level on down, their liability decreases, in fighting decreases between the two councils, and they can simply let the issues sort themselves out instead of sorting out the issues for people. The problem with this idea is that USAH does not want to loose the USHL, NCAA or other programs, because to loose those would mean a loss of NHL funding.

Does AAU really want all of these junior programs? It looks like they do. Having already started AAU minor hockey associations in Michigan and Minnesota, it looks as though AAU would like to try to reclaim their standing as the governing body of ice hockey in the USA. Once upon a time AAU held the positon and worked with the IOC.

The lines are being drawn in the sand now. The youth council and local affiliates are forcing junior teams into corners, and they just may not like the outcome of the fight they are picking. Can these issues be resolved? There may still be time. Will people sit together and have rational discussions involving compromise to resolve the issues? possibly, but time is running out.

A best guess would put no less than three more junior leagues in AAU at the end of the current season. Some leagues are already planning votes. One league is considering legal action in the federal court system based upon fair trade restrictions and other issues.

This is a complicated issue with many players and parents that may be effected by the outcome. Both sides have logical arguments to their positions, both sides have much to gain or to loose. The question remains; why have the two sides not been able to come together to work out a system that works for both?

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