Tier I vs. Tier II or Maybe just Travel Hockey

There have been many conversations throughout the mlive forums on the Tier I (AAA) vs. Tier II (A/AA) debate – too many to recount here, but the conversations almost always boil down to a few factors.  Dilution of Tier I, the parents’ desires, exposure, competition to name a few.  A more recent line of conversation has been around the difference in cost with some claiming AAA hockey being as much as $15K per year.

 

The fact of the matter is that the decision to move to a AAA team is a consideration that must first be driven by the desires of the player, followed by the considerations of the parents and family that will surely be impacted from a time and financial point of view.

 

If a player wants to play at the AAA level, possesses the skills to play at the AAA level, has the dedication and makes a AAA team – it is then a matter of the other considerations as to whether AAA makes sense to the rest of the family.

 

It is absolutely a fact that AAA hockey will provide more exposure for the player.  There is no question about that.  And it is not just limited to the MWEHL either – there are other opportunities where a AAA player can gain exposure to college scouts, junior scouts and pro scouts.  Showcase events, prospect tournaments, Invitational tournaments are all opportunities for any AAA player to get exposure to these scouts and that exposure is the first step in opening the door to the next levels of hockey.  Yes, there is the chance of exposure at the Tier II level and even at the high school level, but the chances are much less and the requirements to get a scout to attend a game or tournament at this level is very high – you must be the best of the best at that level to garner the attention of any of these scouts.

 

It is also a fact that the competition, the level of play, is much higher at the Tier I level.  The game takes an additional step up in skill and speed – just as it did when a player moves from house to travel hockey or when a player goes to the next level – age level, geographic to competitive (in LCAHL) for example.  There is still a spread in terms of the skill level of individual players and teams at the Tier I level, but the overall level of play is much faster.

 

There is also much conversation about the dilution of the Tier I level of hockey.  This is an elitist point of view for the most part and those that hold this opinion are in the minority I believe.  The opportunities to play AAA hockey are limited and if the talent level exists in a given area of Michigan, why challenge that.  The MWEHL has very specific rules and a process to follow to allow new teams into that league – that is their assurance that the competitive level of play remains where their board of directors wants it to be.  That’s part of their job in doing what they feel is best for the league.  Other leagues have their own rules and qualifications for new teams to join their league.  The fact is that players change year to year, whether it is moving on from an age standpoint or to all too prevalent jumping from team to team that seems to be pervasive throughout Michigan youth hockey (another topic).  This alone causes the balance of competition to change year to year and from team to team both within leagues and throughout Tier I.

 

The bottom line here is that Tier I opportunities should be available to players that have the desire to play at that level and don’t necessarily want to leave home and billet with another family.  Detroit is not the only place in Michigan where AAA hockey should be located – it may arguably be the best Tier I league in the country (MWEHL) – but it is not the only place that should be available for those that desire to play AAA hockey.  And don’t get me started on the level of play at the Tier II level – if there is any place to focus attention on providing a consistent level of play – that is the place – again a completely different topic.

 

Finally, there the cost question.  Whomever is representing that Tier I hockey runs $15K per year is blowing smoke up the proverbial back side of anyone who reads that post.  The true cost of travel hockey in general is difficult to assess:

 

  • Team cost – just the cost to be on the team
  • Team apparel – jerseys, wind suits, bags etc.
  • Equipment costs – skates, sticks, pads (don’t you just love those $200 sticks)

These are the costs that everyone can easily point to as the “cost” of playing travel hockey, but what about the other intangibles such as:

 

  • Dress clothes – some coaches require shirt and tie, khakis etc. on game days
  • Health club membership – gotta keep in shape, right?
  • Summer hockey camps
  • Drop in hockey – $7 to $10 minimum per visit
  • Gas – a major concern these days that’s received a bunch of airplay on the mlive forums for sure.
  • Hotels
  • Meals on the road
  • Airplane travel – in some cases anyway – but not for every team.
  • Vehicle maintenance – if you weren’t driving them that far, the maintenance costs would be reduced.
  • Tournament Souvenirs – gotta have that sweatshirt to commemorate the event.
  • Video games – Anyone with siblings of a hockey player can attest to the need to keep the other kids entertained – I don’t want to even think about the number of quarters I’ve put into those machines.  I’ve got the thousands of bouncy balls to prove it.

And these are just a sampling of the peripheral costs associated with travel hockey.  We are all familiar with these costs, but we don’t necessarily count them as a part of the cost of playing travel hockey.  And these costs are surely not limited to Tier I hockey – this is a fact of life for anyone playing travel hockey.  There are certainly variations in the costs depending upon the level of travel hockey, but the costs are still there and they are real.  So is $15K accurate for Tier I hockey?  Maybe, but it certainly is not limited to just Tier I hockey by any means.  Hockey is a financial commitment like no other – it is time commitment like no other – and anyone entering into this has to understand that.

 

So Tier I vs. Tier II?  It comes down to a family choice.  There is no other way – no one else that can make that choice for the player or the player’s family, and it’s a choice to be thought through carefully.  Not just Tier I vs. Tier II – but travel hockey in general – A great sport for sure – the best in my opinion – and one that will last a lifetime.

 

See you at the rink.

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Filed under AAA hockey, Tier II - A & AA Hockey, Travel Hockey

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