Hockey Canada is in trouble. Not simply because of the complete mishandling of sexual assault allegations and the coverup of payments made. Hockey Canada is in trouble for not listening to it members, and allowing some local governing bodies to posses too much decision making power.
TJHN has learned through multiple very well placed sources that as many as forty more teams in leagues across Canada, are talking about or have decided to leave Hockey Canada in the coming months.
Forty is the starting number, and it could easily grow quite larger. Let that sink in for a minute.
For many years, Hockey Canada has not listened to or acted upon the needs and desires of many of its member teams. USA Hockey did the same thing for many years, and as of the 2023 – 2024 season, now only has three junior leagues under its umbrella.
This posture, when taken in the United States about a dozen years ago, was directly responsible for the creation of the USPHL and all of its member teams an leagues becoming the largest hockey organization in the United States. In hidsight, many in USA Hockey regret their treatment of the USPHL, and now see it as USA Hockey’s greatest threat. The USPHL is USA Hockey’s own creation, all because they refused to listen and refused to change.
Hockey Canada, by, through, or in conjuntion with its local governing bodies has refused to address concerns, needs, and wants of its members in many instances. Its multiple layers of bureaucracy on local, provincical and national levels are not only antiquated, but allow for misuse of power, and too much influence from volunteers with self serving interests.
It was, and still is the same way in USA Hockey. And now, USA Hockey has a fraction of junior hockey membership that it once had, while that membership keeps being reduced with more non USA Hockey expansion. Reduction by way of fewer annual new member registrations, it still a reduction.
Many have been upset by TJHN coverage of the BCHL saying that we are picking on them for leaving Hockey Canada. That could not be further from the truth. The BCHL is simply not honest in what they say, regarding NCAA commitments, the quality of European and Asian prospects, and their stated goals for developing British Columbia players. The BCHL leaving Hockey Canada may be the best business decision they have ever made, but thats not what they said publicly.
These teams across Canada are tired of paying fees to the local Hockey Canada office, Provincial offices and National officies. They are tired of being told they cannot expand. They are being told they cannot become Junior A. They are being told they cannot recruit the way they want to recruit, and they cannot or must do things as other people who are not effected tell them to do.
Top down governance, never works for long without some monumental revolts against the ruling party. Justin Trudeau is finding this out as well.
One such major Hockey Canada mistake was to call leagues outside of their control, “outlaw”. This was a blunder of monumental proportion. How can people call other people who start a business “outlaw” and not get sued to a point they cannot operate? This never happened in the United States when leagues began leaving USA Hockey because the lawsuits that would have come would have broken USA Hockey. Calling your neighbor an “outlaw” is slanderous and actionable.
That said, some leagues have been less than genuine in their stated reasons for not wanting to be a part of Hockey Canada. Some teams and leagues whine and complain about things that have zero impact on their operations or the on ice product.
Some people are complaing about players having to wear full face protection. As if that is a reason for their lack of NCAA commitments, and a reason for leaving Hockey Canada. Why when the NCAA requires full face protection is this an issue? Others are now compaining about neck guards? While others complain they cant get European players when the BCHL just proved to them that no such European invasion is even possible?
Lets get down to the base reason why teams and leagues discuss leaving Hockey Canada. Money and with that, prestige.
So why not just say you want to leave because Hockey Canada does not allow your business to thrive? Just say that and no one can question you. Really, who cares about any governing body? If everyone leaves who will they govern? Why not say you no longer want to pay for cards, and dues? Why not just say, you no longer want to be forced to buy players rights from other teams and leagues? Why not just say you no longer want to pay IIHF or other transfer fees?
Those arent politically correct reasons, but who cares about political correctness when it comes to your business survival? And in the end, junior hockey is a very big business, and every team is fighting for survival.
Junior A leagues in Canada used to dominate the NCAA player pool, and therefore generated huge revenues in ticket sales, sponsorships, and tryout camp fees. The costs of playing hockey in Canada have risen just as fast as they have in the United States.
The United States, as far as NCAA development goes, has surpassed Canada. This has happened for many reasons, not the least of all is the difference in the development thinking process between Canada and the United States. More and more, American coaches are getting NCAA jobs, and those coaches played in the United States junior leagues more often than not. So thats where they recruit from, and that hiring trend is not going to stop.
Canadians, largely due to tradition, are always in a hurry to get to the NHL. If they are not drafted in the CHL thousands of players quit playing. They become so focussed on Major Junior that they do not pay enough attention to their grades in high school. Many cannot be admitted into an NCAA program.
The United States players, are told from the beginning that playing NCAA or any high level hockey takes time. There is no need to rush. But if you dont have the grades, you arent going to play NCAA hockey anyway. These are just facts, and that is the American tradition.
The differences between the two countries and the way they think is pretty dramatic.
Hockey Canada will survive any mass exodus. If it comes to it, there will also be just a few Hockey Canada junior leagues. Maybe they will adopt the USA Hockey Tier System. That Tier System being a business model first and a playing level second.
The key difference in ther Tier System used in the United States being that no Tier II teams charge players tuition, and this difference brings the best Tier II or Junior A players to the United States. When top players at the Tier II level are looking at their options of where to play, they are looking at the United States first and Canada second, simply because it is free to play at Tier II in the United States.
Teams and leagues looking to leave Hockey Canada, may or may not end up doing so. One league in particular held a vote just a week or so ago, and decided to not join another league outside of Hockey Canada, but may yet leave on their own.
Be careful what you wish for. It takes incredibly strong recruiters in the United States to keep things going in teams that have left USA Hockey. These are really the best recruiters in the world. In the pay to play world, Canada is not going to catch the USPHL or EHL. In the free to play world, they will never catch the USHL, and have a long way to go before catching the NAHL while still competing against the fast rising talent level in the NCDC.
Maybe, as a Canadian friend and I discussed, Canada just has too many teams? Maybe, the pay to play Junior A model is simply a failure? Maybe if the Canadian leagues focussed on developing Canadian College Hockey, more players would go to school and get great degrees?
In the end, the players most effected by these moves are lottery ticket odds against to ever get to the NHL. So, if its all about the kids, maybe its time for everyone involved to actually make it about the kids, and lead by telling the truth. Maybe its time for league leaders who are considering this option to just tell everyone why they are considering it.
TJHN will update this story as more information becomes available.