Like everything else in the imperfect world, the game continues to evolve, and my personal vision for the game is going to evolve as well. I can only imagine that it does for most of you too. To keep everything in real-time perspective, the following is my manifesto.
I want to present here the most ambitious concepts for the next generation of hockey’s junior level of play.
The aim is to ultimately give each prospect the opportunity to release his potential, regardless of his financial situation. We can achieve that by handing each prospect back the ability to shape their own talents and opportunities.
We want to help challenge club operators to build better programs and developmental opportunities.
We want to set players free from one-sided agreements so that they have greater power over their own path to college or professional levels of play. That is what I have always believed.
But there is something else too. I value those aspects of junior hockey which are bigger than individuals, teams, and leagues. That is why time is spent working with new owners and coaches in a hope that they are buying into our vision for the game.
That vision is rooted in the instincts of the game’s best people whose beliefs are mocked by others. It is rooted, in other words, in common sense.
It shouldn't be necessary to make an appeal to common sense. Yet the common-sense wisdom to want to develop players’ core character, as well as on-ice ability, is under greater threat as never before.
Many operators, coaches, and administrators could not care less about individual core values and see players as simply dollar signs and fuel to feed egos.
The meddling and interfering between leagues is eroding that game while weakening the same institutions that developed 1000’s of players over the years.
I trust the that families are always going to try and make the best decisions for their players. I trust their common sense. Now it's time for even more common sense.
My objective is to give families even more choices. Competition will lead to programs of the sort players and families want - teams with high standards, which have their own traditions, a distinct ethos, and which players wear their game sweaters with pride.
Coaches and their staff cannot command respect in their own programs if they are treated as mere paid staff, on the receiving end of instructions, from overbearing owners or from leagues. And coaches are leaving the profession in droves because of all the constant interference from other coaches, advisors, leagues, and entities.
That is why it's time for common sense.
Almost every league has some excellent teams. The problem arises when those same clubs are forced to the ice against mediocre ones. The problem has been the inability for mediocre teams to pull themselves up from the bottom of the barrel. Let’s face it, there’s been little motivation for them to do so. The other issue is fact that league operators appear to turn a blind eye to otherwise glaring issues.
The people who are most likely to realize that a team has problems are not officials in a distant bureaucracy, but the parents of players on the team.
Our junior programs used to be the among of the best in the world. Many clubs still have a formidable reputation, but they are under threat from constant interference and uncertainty over their future.
I want our best programs to be free to shape their own elevated standards and player development. Better clubs should be able to compete with the world's best for players and ultimately getting those players to college or professional hockey.
To achieve that goal, clubs need to have the ability to play against others trying to maintain those same higher standards.
Now here is where things can be complicated.
It’s fairly well known that I also act as a paid consultant for leagues, teams, coaches, and families. In that capacity, I have been able to leverage a lifetime spent building that network into a comfortable living. We've been able to help carve out opportunities for players within that network.
My plan also includes an attempt to help reshape the landscape into a stronger developmental system. I foresee a future that does not include so many adult aged prospects having to participate at the pay-to-play levels of competition.
Here in the United States, USA Hockey has all but completely lost it’s hold on the junior level of play. The result has been over expansion and the eventual erosion from the 18u levels of youth hockey. USA Hockey should reshape the youth level by eliminating that 18u level entirely.
In any market, what happens when the inventory exceeds demand? The bottom of the market falls out. Right now, the going rate for any skater going to a pay-to-play team for the remainder of the season is $2,500. That’s not something operators want to hear, I get that, but it’s the reality of the current market. 20 years ago, that was the rate for an entire season. Look for tuition rates across the spectrum of pay-to-play to continue to nose dive as more free-to-play opportunities pop-up.
News of an imminent market correction might be kryptonite to the ears of Richard Gallant and the United States Premier Hockey League. Wait until he hears about the number of teams already planning to jump off the wagon.
We are in for a whirlwind of changes to the level of play and it’s important for all of you to know exactly where I stand.
Always assume it’s going to be beside the players and with others of high character and decency.
There you have it, My Manifesto.