Dish of the day: hockey development needs a plumber
In the past, we’ve talked about some of the issues with paying teams and even the oversight of sanctioning bodies. Well, today we are going to jump one game level and talk about another issue that is obstructing the development uplift process.
I think it’s ironic to hear team owners complaining about the paperwork and hassle of calling down low-level prospects during the season and then hearing the same guys not wanting to send another one. player to the next level.
This is yet another situation where junior hockey has allowed portfolios to retard natural development. Here is an example of what it really should be.
One of the European advisers sends a young Swiss player to a club with only one team in a lower level league. The player arrives a week before the start of the season, speaks minimal English, but in practice proves to be a very skilled player.
In the first game, the youngster hits the switches and lights the lamp six times while getting four more points with assists. Everyone in the building can see that this player does not belong to the league.
The coach knows a coach from the NAHL and within days the young talent is on the training ice with his new team. The international prospect continues to light the torch, but at a slower pace, accumulating 30 points over the next ten games.
Like the coach before him, the NAHL bench boss has a decent relationship with a USHL coach and before you know it the player manages to rack up over a hundred USHL points to close out the season. Ultimately, the Hope is picked in the first round of the NHL Draft and lives the American Dream.
This is how it should work … but it doesn’t because there are huge obstructions in the system. Most of these clogs are caused by ego and greed. Coaches and team owners are too busy making and grabbing the money to move a player up the developmental ladder. The situation has become so ridiculous that good hockey players wonder if the system really works.
How can we fix it? In junior hockey, we all have to step in and force a functioning player acquisition system.
The problem will always be a question of money. Low level paying clubs are funded by the players. When a team loses players who have not paid in full, there is a drop in operational revenue. So I can understand why the teams hesitate. Higher level teams should be able to push up lower level players at all times. The higher level team should be able to keep this player for up to five games during assignments (and cover all transportation costs). At the time the player is signed up for a sixth game, the higher level club must negotiate with the lower level club to clear the player’s balance from the player’s fees.
There are a number of homeowners who would jump off a bridge before agreeing to such a policy. Besides the actual player fees, these operators feel that the top tier club should pay a development bonus for these prospects.
Eliminating projects is another way for leagues to force operators to stick to their end of the bargain. In this scenario, players will be heading to the better operators, forcing other operators to step up their drop game to a lower level of play. The draft simply pushes players to other options if they are not happy with the team that selected them.
There’s a good reason we don’t see any open drafts from the Canadian leagues other than the age-specific drafts at the Major Junior level.
Ultimately, a shift in ideology would be in the best interest of creating a true development system where players can easily be identified and moved up (or down) the ladder.
It’s just my opinion, what’s yours?
* Disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. The opinions expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Stephen Heisler, and not necessarily those of JuniorHockey.com. JuniorHockey.com does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other information provided in the article, or of any other member of this site.