The Problems Facing Tier 3 – Part Two Of Four – Lack Of Talent Depth

While many would argue that the lack of talent depth at Tier 3 is because of the “Over saturation” that was discussed in last weeks article, that is only part of the story.

“Bodies” are the life blood of Tier 3. Or, the cash flow that keeps a Tier 3 team alive. “Bodies” are exactly what many coaches are calling players now when out on the recruiting trail.

Tier 3 junior hockey was developed to be a place where older players who no longer could play on Tier 1 or Tier 2 rosters went to play, and for players who were not ready for the higher levels of junior hockey.

Tier 3 was never developed to be a place where any player who wanted to be able to say they played junior hockey could do so. But, that is what it has become in nearly half of all Tier 3.

With “Over Saturation” and the vacuum that it creates, Tier 3 teams are left to sign “bodies” to fill rosters and make budgets. This means signing players to contracts who are playing AA, A, and house level hockey.

While there are some legitimately talented players at the AA level, there are not enough to stop the vacuum in Tier 3. So teams look at lower levels.

This is where dishonesty comes into play.

Telling a player he has an opportunity to play junior hockey, talking about development and moving on to higher levels to players who are not capable of doing this, is simply dishonest. It is the primary reason why so many Tier 3 teams now have the reputation of being dishonest.

Parents who do not have the experience of politics at the AAA level, often “buy” the Tier 3 dream and allow their child to become a “body” and they pay a steep financial price for it.

Because every parent, regardless of the sport, hopes their child has a deeper level of talent, and they are willing to do anything to help them succeed. The emotional pull of this convinces parents to purchase something that they otherwise would not purchase.

This dream is made more convincing when their child plays in a “Junior Main Camp” and competes well with everyone else. Not thinking that they are simply competing against a lot of other lower level players buying the dream and not competing against elite junior level prospects.

Fast forward six months after the lower level player signs his Tier 3 contract and 90% of the time he is not playing much, or on a team that is so bad it doesn’t resemble junior hockey. Leaving the player and parents feeling like they have been taken.

Another side of player depth of talent issues comes when Tier 3 teams not only are forced to recruit and sign lower level players, but when those players are 17 and 16 years old.

Tier 3 was never designed to replace AAA U-18 and U-16 hockey in the development ladder. But now, because players and parents are desperate to say they are “playing junior” those physically immature players are populating Tier 3 rosters.

Sure AAA hockey is usually more expensive. But if you want results getting to Tier II and Tier I, you get what you pay for. AAA hockey out produces all Tier 3 in moving players to Tier II and Tier I. And that’s just a fact.

Another fact is that AAA hockey only rosters 20 players per team. Tier 3 rosters 25 at least. Take five players off that Tier 3 roster and then tell me what the player fees will be. Take those players out of the stands every night and let them play at a level that they should be.

You cant drive a Porsche if you only want to pay for a Volkswagen.

Right about now, some parents are reading this and saying they shouldn’t be forced to pay that much for AAA. Yes. I would agree, but it is simply how it works. So you either buy it, or you don’t. But don’t expect that by paying less you will get you the results you want.

Don’t think that you are going to be the one who breaks how the system works. AAA has always been, and will always be the primary scouting and recruiting ground for Tier II, Tier I and Major Junior. That’s just how it is.

The thought that “import” players, particularly players from Europe would fill the void was laughable.

European Junior Hockey in almost all cases is Free To Play, or next to nothing to play. Top players are not leaving to play in North American pay to play leagues. If they do go to North America, they are lower level players who are paying, or mid level players who wont pay. Or they are top players going to the top leagues.

There is plenty of scouting in Europe and they don’t need to go play Tier 3 in the USA to get seen by anyone.

People who preach, “add more imports” simply don’t know anything about European hockey, and likely have never stepped foot in Europe.

Now, Europe is actually taking players from the USA and Canada. Smart players are now coming to Europe to play junior hockey for free. Its a great life experience, and a great hockey experience.

If you get cut from a AAA team, and yet you are a first line player on your Tier III team in the middle of nowhere, what does that tell you about your team and the league?

If you’re paying for development, then what good does sitting in the stands do? I love it when I hear “practice player” at Tier 3. That’s just hilarious. Sorry parents, a practice player is a player who is in way above his head and needs to find an appropriate level of play.

There are solutions to this problem as well. As with Over Saturation, those solutions will be presented in week four.

Next week we will address the third problem.