Tag Archives: Tier I

And so it begins. . . .

Here I am, on August 30, sitting in a hotel room just outside Chicago for our first tournament of the year.  One game in the books and it was a thriller.  Another one today and then two more tomorrow.  Then off to Canada next weekend, followed up by a trip to Detroit the weekend after that.

BANG!

Was that just the starters gun I heard?  Off and running on another season of hockey. . . . .

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

The chill of the rink, the quiet before the teams come on the ice, the nervous anticipation of the first drop of the puck on a new season – wondering what will happen, how will the team play, will it be an up and down game or will it be a “grind it out” type of game?  All these things going through your mind and then you realize what must be going through the players’ minds – “let’s get it on”.

It is thrilling to see the anticipation in their eyes, the realization of another season beginning, the coming together of players to form a true “team”.  What a great time of year this is.

It may be 85 degrees outside, but inside that rink you’d swear it was 25 degrees with 2 feet of snow on the ground outside – the dead of winter – fully engulfed in the glory of another hockey season.

Enjoy it everyone!  Cherish this time – they grow up so fast and before you know it – it is a series of fond memories you’ll look back on and smile.

Let’s play hockey!

See you at the rink.

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

Jumping

As in jumping teams prior to signing a roster or in some cases after a roster has been signed.  This is one of the biggest opportunities within youth hockey today in my opinion.  We have too many instances where a verbal commitment is made and then a change of heart comes along and the jumping begins.  This is something that absolutely needs to be addressed – whether that be locally within districts, state wide via MAHA or across the country through USA Hockey.

 

There are two sides to this of course – the coaches side and the players side.  Each side contributes to perpetuating the actions on the other side.  When a coach decides to bring in another “better” player after selections are made and cuts a player who was already offered a spot on the team, a ripple effect takes place as that player now begins looking for another place to play.  The opposite is true as well, when a player makes the choice to go to another team it sends the ripple effect the other way.

 

The problem I see here is that someone is initiating this sequence of events –whether it be a coach who is looking to fill out a roster or increase the skill level within his team or a player who is becomes dissatisfied with his team selection over the summer – maybe during pre season skates or maybe through conversations with other players.  Regardless of where it starts, it needs to stop.

 

I responded to a message on the mlive forums regarding this topic – my response is below:

 

All things being equal off the ice, the only reason for a coach to go back on a commitment to a kid is because he is focused on wins and losses.  That is not what youth hockey or youth sports is all about.  You held your tryouts, you selected your team – if you knew you had some “projects” on the team then step up to the challenge and teach them.

As a kid, there are many reasons to switch teams some of which don’t have anything to do with wins and losses – more friends on the other team etc.  However, it is still not acceptable once you have made a commitment to a team.

 

There should be a personal commitment, supported by integrity that would prevent this from happening.  But reality has proven otherwise.  We need to ask ourselves what values we are instilling in these young athletes when we condone and perpetuate this type of behavior.  What type of adult are we creating when honor and integrity are not priorities?

 

We have all seen the examples of this type of selfish approach in professional sports.  The athlete who holds out for more money, when millions of dollars are already on the table in compensation for playing a game they supposedly love to play.  The dissatisfied player who doesn’t play to his abilities or refuses to play because he is unhappy with management, the coaching staff, the team etc.  Browse any forum on these topics and you’ll see the negative comments associated with this behavior.  If that is the case, why do we condone this type of behavior from a child and why do we set this example for these children as a coach?

 

The answer is to lead by example through our actions and words to teach these athletes the importance of honoring your commitment.

 

See you at the rink.

 

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

Hockey in the Michigan Economy

8.5% unemployment rates.

 

Michigan near the top of the list consistently for home foreclosures.

 

Glut of homes for sale on the market.

 

Families split up to take jobs out of state.

 

10 out of 12 industries in Michigan posting negative employment growth.

 

There is no doubt that the economy in Michigan is one of, if not the worst in the nation.  Manufacturing jobs are disappearing, the big 3 are all suffering, and many are forced to leave the state to find work.  It’s a tough situation out there and the impact is being felt across the board, but how is this impacting youth hockey in Michigan?

 

I dare say it is having a profound impact in many different ways.  There is no doubt that the number of youth hockey players in Michigan has declined.  You can take a look at the Mlive hockey forums and see many teams posting messages about openings on their teams – looking to fill out their rosters.  I have to imagine that some of this is because of the decline in the number of players.  I’m sure there are other reasons, but much of this can be traced back directly to the declining numbers due to the economy and the mass exodus of people from Michigan in search of jobs.

 

We have also seen more chatter this year than in years past regarding the amount of travel.  I posted previously about travel, but the reality is that many people in Michigan simply can not afford to travel as much as they used to.  I’m sure some families have decided to cut hockey from their list of activities simply based on the cost of travel alone.  It’s a shame, but I believe it is a harsh reality in our great state at the moment.

 

I know there are some associations out there that have scholarship type programs available for families with children that want to play hockey but can not afford it.  My fear is that these programs will begin to dry up as participation and sponsorship decreases leaving kids without the experience of playing this great game.

 

The positives (if they can be found) are that there is some areas of growth in Michigan and there are particular metropolitan areas that are showing better growth than others:

 

Grand Rapids is at 7% unemployment

Kalamazoo is at 6.9% unemployment

Extreme Southwestern Michigan is at 6.4% unemployment

Ann Arbor is at 6.3% unemployment

 

We are also seeing some growth in Professional and Business services, Information, as well as Education and Health services across these same metropolitan areas.  This is good news that hopefully will continue and ultimately stabilize the economy to the point where it can begin positively impacting things like youth hockey.

 

Let’s all continue to do our best to keep this great sport flourishing in Michigan!

 

See you at the rink

 

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

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