The United States and Canada thrive on diversity. Our countries were founded on the core belief that diversity will fuel the growth of thought, innovation, and choice.
If Henry Ford had never had any competition from the Dodge brothers, or General Motors, what would the auto industry look like today? Burger King or McDonalds. T-Mobile, Verizon, ATT, and all the others. What would our world economy look like without choice?
Never before in the history of commerce has one business called its competition, “outlaw”. Outlaw being defined as;
“a person who has broken the law and who is hiding or running away to avoid punishment”
For years, “outlaw” has been a phrase used in Canada to describe independent, and now AAU sanctioned hockey. “Outlaw” has not been so readily used in the United States because people know it will get them sued and they will likely incur significant financial losses for using it publicly, but it is used in back rooms and in private conversations.
Every day I read emails, and statements on Twitter and Facebook saying “outlaw” hockey this or “outlaw” hockey that. Statements from people I like, know and do business with.
Why? Why would anyone feel the need to describe a perfectly legal business as “outlaw”? Why would anyone, or a group of anyone’s describe a persons right to choose as “outlaw”? Why, when diversity is the foundation of our economy and our very culture, would anyone want to see that diversity and a right to choose be eliminated?
There is only one answer. FEAR.
People fear the unknown. They fear change. More than anything though, in business, we all fear the potential that our competition, will actually present a more reasonable or better alternative for the consumer. We all fear that our money, control, authority, or singular voice will be eliminated.
While some may take my writing as an affront today, it is truly not intended to be. It is only intended to provoke thought and discussion. Discussion that in my opinion is long over due.
Imagine if Henry Ford would have been the only automaker. We certainly wouldn’t have a company like Tesla Motors today. Imagine if IBM were the only company building computers. There would be no Dell, and no Apple. Imagine if there had been no WHA, and the Edmonton Oilers would not have become part of the NHL. How different would history be?
If you ask the CEO of any major company they will tell you that competition, and diversity in the marketplace is good for business. It fosters new ideas, innovations, and technological advances.
The idea that the same set of core truths is not applicable to hockey is laughable. Bauer and CCM prove these truths to be just that, true.
Hockey Canada and USA Hockey are afraid. They are afraid of AAU Hockey and independent hockey. Why?
Why, when every successful society and economy is based upon diversity and choice, would Hockey Canada and USA Hockey be afraid of competition? Where does this fear come from?
The fear comes from one very easy to identify place.
There is a base fear of losing control of what is essentially a monopoly, and a fear of losing the money that comes with running that monopoly.
But are USA Hockey and Hockey Canada really in control? Is AAU hockey and other independent hockey really considered “outlaw” by everyone else?
The answer is a resounding NO.
The National Hockey League, is, in the end who all of us look to as the standard bearer for what is and is not acceptable. Whether they get is right all the time is another story, but they lead the way.
So, if the NHL drafts a player from Michigan High School Hockey, we simply accept that it is alright. Yet, Michigan High School hockey is not under USA Hockey sanctioning.
When the NHL drafts and signs players from the three Canadian Major Junior leagues, it is simply accepted as the norm. Yet, none of these Major Junior leagues are members of Hockey Canada or USA Hockey, they are merely partners.
When the NHL drafts and signs players from NCAA Hockey it is again accepted as normal. Yet NCAA Hockey is not under USA Hockey.
When Hockey Canada and USA Hockey promote their players to develop it is simply as it should be. When these players leave the confines of Hockey Canada and USA Hockey to join Major Junior teams and NCAA programs, they are celebrated as success stories.
The system works according to all of the press releases we receive at TJHN. The system works when Hockey Canada and USA Hockey programs promote their players to Major Junior Hockey and NCAA Hockey that are both not sanctioned programs.
But the system does not work when the player choses to leave on his own for another non sanctioned program like AAU or independent hockey?
Under the hypocritical rules of Hockey Canada, because all three Major Junior Leagues are not sanctioned, they are only partners, no players should be allowed to move down from the CHL to any Tier II or Junior A or Junior B teams after September 30th of the playing season. Why? Because they have a written rule that says if you play in a non sanctioned program after September 30th, you have to sit out the rest of the year in Hockey Canada and apply for reinstatement!
How shocking that players and their choices are vilified publicly and privately? The organizations they join are called “outlaw”? Are the players in those leagues then “outlaws”? Are they somehow given amnesty when and if they return to what USA Hockey and Hockey Canada consider to be non “outlaw” programs? Do they get a certificate declaring them rehabilitated?
The hypocrisy exhibited by some people in positions of power as it relates to this issue is astonishing. Its embarrassing really.
In our sport, one that is a leader when preaching about issues such as cultural diversity, acceptance of LGBT persons, and the development of disabled persons; how do we not accept other peoples right to choose?
AAU, and Independent hockey has some very good operators, just like USA Hockey and Hockey Canada. They also have some terrible operators, just like USA Hockey and Hockey Canada.
A sanction from one governing body or another is no warranty on the quality of the program. It is no statement on whether the product is good, or if the product has been inspected for safety.
If any sanction was a warranty or statement of quality, none of the USA Hockey or Hockey Canada programs would have any problems or would ever go out of business.
So what is my point with all of this?
Those of you that keep on talking about, complaining about, and worrying about what AAU and Independent hockey does are exposing your fear. You are shouting to the world that you do not completely embrace the policies of diversity and choice that you publicly proclaim. You announce to the world that you are a hypocrite.
Many of you are now asking or thinking I wrote this today in support of AAU or Independent hockey. Some of my friends at USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are now thinking I am jumping ship and will not support their initiates. Neither of these thoughts would be correct.
Hypocrisy, when discovered in any form, in any organization, always ends up pushing people away from their initiatives.
I wrote this today because I support Hockey. Regardless of the label placed upon it. Whether it be in an NHL arena or in your driveway. Its a game, and we all have a right to chose when, where and with whom we want to play. Isn’t that the message all people and organizations in hockey should be delivering? Or, would the thought that “hockey is hockey” be considered “outlaw”?
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher