You live in a decent area, and are lucky enough to have the favorite grocery store only a few miles from your house. The chain that your store is a part of has five other locations in the region. One day a letter comes in the mail telling you that one of the stores has the exclusive rights to you as a customer. If you wish to continue as their customer, you can only shop at the assigned store. This is not your favorite store and is an hour drive from home. Is this 1980 Moscow? No, try a pay-to-play junior hockey player draft.
We often explain that in Tier I and II junior hockey, the sponsors and fans are the customer. In Tier III, the player is the customer. We don't believe that any entity, other than the IRS, should have the power to dictate where we have to spend our money.
Sure, players have the option of choosing a completely different league. Our problem with this is the fact that most of these players get drafted by a team well outside of their own geographical area.
USA Hockey needs to take action to eliminate the drafting of players at the Tier III level. Customers should have to right to patronize the team of their choice. As a parent, I would want to talk to the coach of the team that's demanding us to fork over $9-12,000+ to develop my son. I am certainly not interested in a program that constantly is in financial trouble, or continues to hound the parents for money, long after the last payment was made.
Eliminating the draft just might be the perfect opportunity to lose a number of traditionally weak operators. Another measure would be to eliminate the restriction of a player's ability to move from one team to another during the off-season. USA Hockey programs lose players to rival leagues every year because of the restrictions.
The argument against releasing prospects always comes back to money. "I have an investment in that prospect's development," the operators often argue. My response is always the same. "Provide an exceptional experience and the customer will want to return."
The draft also prevents teams from signing players to contracts until the draft is over. Meanwhile every other league is signing players to contracts for two to three months prior, forcing teams to start off on the back foot. It's a major, major issue in filling rosters with the higher end talent. That simply gives the advantage to the other guys.
We should all be calling on the junior council to take the draft (and off-season movement restrictions) out of Tier III and force teams to compete for players the old fashioned way, by providing a better product.