In light of what has become an annual set of questions from consumers and operators, TJHN offers the following Tier III Rule Change Proposals for USA Hockey, and the readers consideration. This will be a multi part series written in the hope to provide a catalyst for discussion promoting change in how Tier III Junior Hockey moves forward.
It has become apparent to many involved in Junior Hockey that expansion at the Tier III level has become something that is not sustainable without new control measures.
As long as leagues exist, there will always be potential new owners who are willing to write the check for an expansion team fee. While the leagues themselves internally approve new teams to come in, USA Hockey and more specifically the Junior Council have the final say on who is approved.
USA Hockey has essentially had its hands tied. Leagues make the approvals, and then the council battles it out behind closed doors. It really is all about controlling market share in specific regions.
In order to eliminate the messy and argumentative process involving these expansion teams, a simple yet absolutely firm structure can be put in place. Structure and systems provide for accountability. Every coach in hockey talks about accountability, structure and systems. So, lets hold the leagues and owners to the same premise.
We would propose that any league wanting to expand anywhere is free to do so under these terms;
Now that the USA Hockey protected lists appear to be updated daily with players, there are easy measures that can be put in place.
Any new expansion team who has their application in by the November deadline will receive conditional approval.
With National Competitions ending in April, any expansion team would be required to list on the public USA Hockey protected list, Five Players signed by June 1st.
By July 1st, every expansion team would need to publicly list ten players signed.
By August 1st, every expansion team would need to publicly list 15 players signed.
By September 1st, every expansion team would need to list a minimum of 18 players signed and no more than three of those players could be goaltenders.
If at any time any expansion team did not meet these simple recruiting benchmarks they would automatically be decertified by USA Hockey for that season. They could then reapply for the following year.
These are simple rules to go by. The system would automatically lock teams out of adding players if any one of these dates were not met. This requires teams to do their jobs in not only proving they have the ability to recruit, but to keep record keeping in order in a timely manner.
These same benchmarks should or could easily be applied to existing teams. There may be some areas to modify these for returning teams with exceptions for players registered to attend USHL, NAHL or Canadian Junior A camps by listing which camps these players may be attending.
There are good operators and bad operators in every league. The good ones usually have no problem recruiting. New teams who do not hire properly will not be able to meet these benchmarks and therefore this would also be somewhat of a quality control measure parents and players can use when looking at teams as options.
In the end, something must be done to stabilize Tier III. Leagues wont do it on their own because each league plays by its own rules. But if every league and team were held to the same simple standards, leagues would no longer have to worry about pulling or rescuing a franchise that cant get the job done.
Next on our proposals will be promoting player development to higher levels of play.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher