Over the last three weeks we have looked at the three biggest problems facing Tier 3. Over Saturation, Lack of Players and Talent Depth, and Financial problems.
There are some easy solutions to all of these problems, and these solutions all work together. Using them would stabilize the Tier 3 in two years, possibly three years maximum.
Stabilizing in my opinion means making Tier 3 what it once was, and that was really good competitive hockey. Not simply a place where anyone who can play, can find a spot on a junior team. A place where dreams are being sold to so many players that have no business buying them.
Over Saturation. The solution is simple. Restraint on expansion. Just stop expansion for 24 months. Give the player market time to settle. Allow existing franchises to become stronger or fold, adding additional stability to the market.
Just because there is an arena that is sitting empty doesn’t mean that a Tier 3 team belongs in it. There is a reason it is sitting empty, so let it sit, and have some self control. This will benefit all of the current Tier 3 owners and will stabilize franchise values.
Along with stopping expansion, leagues need to eliminate teams who can not compete and do not meet standards for development. Those standards would include minimum numbers or averages for NCAA and ACHA placement every year. This would eliminate at least a few teams from each league.
If the NA3HL eliminated 6 teams, the EHL 1, EHLP1, and USPHL 3. Tier 3 would stabilize in one year. More than 200 players would be forced to play at an appropriate skill and age level, while creating greater roster competition, and a higher level of on ice competition for scouts.
This is simply a matter of killing off the weakest teams who can not compete at Tier 3 anyway. They serve no purpose and make each league look bad while hurting players development and not enhancing it.
Lack of Players and Talent Depth. Once expansion is under control, and teams are eliminated that can not meet quality control standards, younger and less experienced players will not be finding their ways onto Tier 3 rosters.
This will immediately result in more competitive games, and force players to go to AAA hockey who should be there anyway. This will keep AA players where they belong as well.
The league that is bold enough to first make a rule that no 16 or 17 yr old players will be allowed to play Tier 3 will be the strongest competitive league in North American Tier 3. These players belong in Midget Hockey not Tier 3.
It will take some very big balls for a league to gradually eliminate 16 and 17 year old players. But the one league that steps up to do this will instantly get support from U18 teams when their players are aging out by way of those players being sent to the strongest Tier 3 league.
NCAA D-3 scouts will love it because they wont waste time watching players they wont get for at least 3 or 4 years. Every showcase at Tier 3 NCAA scouts are complaining about the number of players too young for Tier 3. If you are trying to move players to NCAA, give the NCAA teams what they want.
Financial pressure. The leagues that institute these changes will in 12 to 24 months eliminate the financial pressures they currently have due to the player market. Free rides will no longer be available because there will be depth and limited roster spots.
This makes all players on rosters paying customers. This makes the best programs stronger, and weaker programs grow strong because the have a strong model to follow.
Todays Tier 3 is simply survival for the bottom third of the teams in every league. Survival mode creates animosity between leagues, between coaches, and between players. It creates an environment where desperate people take desperate measures, and its not healthy for development.
Teams and leagues talk about leadership with these young players all the time. Every day coaches talk about leading, and setting examples. When will someone step up and provide leadership in Tier 3?
Its a simple solution and I challenge anyone to poke holes and point to how it can’t work. The only thing that can make it not work is a lack of leadership and continued greed in the form of franchise fees.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher