USA Hockey Winter Meeting – The Development Ladder In USA Hockey Is The Theory Already Proven Not True

There will be a lot of discussion the next few days over what some are calling the “development ladder” in the USA Hockey Tier System of Junior Hockey.  Why these discussions are taking place is rather unclear at this time because the “development ladder” theory has already been disproven.

I hope today that before the Junior Councils and Caucuses meet in Orlando that they all read this.  Yes, I am sure some will not be happy with me for writing it, but, its time people started thinking about the facts and how the facts actually effect real people and not just theories.

Lets review the Tier System.  The Tier System under USA Hockey is NOT a system that says Tier 1 is better hockey than Tier 3 or Tier 2.  It is a system that defines different business models in how each “Tier” funds each of their team and league budgets.  That’s it.

The leagues, and “Tiers” have used the tiers themselves to define the actual level of play.  Under USA Hockey though any statements made in that way are clearly not supported by the official definitions.

Yes, it is safe to assume that all of the best players will gravitate toward the free or nearly free to play teams.  Again more proof that the foundation of tiers rests in financial planning.

The problem with the “Development Ladder” theory is that at the core of the theory there is a fatal flaw.

People can not be forced or coerced to follow what anyone “thinks” may be the right path.  This includes players, teams and leagues alike.

Does anyone believe for one second that AAA players are going to enter Tier III first before moving to Tier II and Tier I?  Its simply not going to happen.  Therefore, the “Development Ladder” fails.

Does anyone believe the USHL draft will consist of NAHL players moving forward?  No.  It will continue to consist of AAA players as a majority.  Does anyone believe the NAHL draft will now be a majority of NA3HL and other Tier III players?  No, it too will be made mostly of AAA players.

What of the player who lives in Boston or NY who wants to stay at home and play Tier III because he can sleep in his own bed every night and live with his family?  Is the “Development Ladder” now going to say he can not and he must move on to a higher level and move from home?  When it may be cheaper for him to pay to play and not pay for billet and not have his parents have to pay to fly across country to see him play?

These are holes in the “Development Ladder” theory that simply can not be filled.  People still have a right to choose.  What one person may think is the “ideal” path, does not make it the ideal path for anyone other than the “ideal” players.

All of this “Development Ladder” talk is simply designed to try and straighten out the absolute mess that USA Hockey created in the first place.  The Tier System doesn’t work.  It was a bad idea in the beginning and its still a bad idea.

Structure should be coming in the tryout system first.  Not in the Tier System.  That is unless they want to go back to Junior A, B and C labels.

USA Hockey created this mess.  They assisted in the proliferation of Tier III hockey and junior hockey in general.  Yes, many Tier III teams fold.  Lets not forget the NAHL and USHL have had a proportionate share of failures as well.  They usually get a pass on those failures though because they are free to play.

All the talk about creating alignments under the Tiers is simply talk, and if agreements are made they will be broken.  Any league or team agreeing to be subservient to another team or league is admitting too or creating a devaluation in their own business.  That is just bad business.

Are we going to force relegation play to teams at higher level tiers that are underperforming?  Are we going to elevate teams that are consistently dominating at their level?  Who makes that decision?  Should the Kenai River Brown Bears be allowed to pluck players from the NJ Hitmen because they are from a “higher level”?  What about the players right to choose?

The “Development Ladder”.  A theory.  A theory that has in dozens of ways been proven to not hold water and is a continued exercise in futility.

Every players path is different.  There is no “perfect path” or “right way” for every person.  Attempting to force people to conform to the “perfect path” will alienate athletes, and eliminate people from the game.

There are Two Tiers of hockey.  Either you pay to play or you don’t.  That’s it.  How much or how little you pay does not matter.  Opportunity is what the player makes of it based on his choices and his goals.  Opportunity is not that which is determined by the ruling class who have nothing at risk in the decision making process.

If you believe the “Development Ladder” theory can work you are probably a Leprechaun that took a ride to work today on his Unicorn and you work at the end of a Rainbow guarding pots of gold.

Then again, we all need on ice insurance coverage don’t we?

Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher

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