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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Joke That is Tier III

A lot of folks have been asking what happened to Tier III A at nationals. Well, it's the same mess it's always been. The main thing is there's been a moratorium on awarding the status until July 1. This has apparently been done to give leagues more time to get their affairs in order. Excuse me, but if they aren't in order now, they don't get the level. Leagues have had plenty of time on this, and if their affairs weren't cleaned up by now, what makes you think a couple of weeks will magically transform them into something that deserves a promotion?

This development has also led leagues to consider dumping teams they feel may not be up to T3A status, because if one team doesn't get it, the entire league doesn't get it. Gee, talk about camaraderie. "Sorry Frank, we're not sure you're going to make it, and we don't like you anyway" *boot*... Way to support your members, Mr. Commish.

Most of you know by now that I come from a university environment. There is a Sword of Damocles that hangs over every institution of higher learning called "accreditation," which I've discussed in the past. It you aren't accredited, you might as well not exist (unlike hockey, where if you aren't certified, you run and join the WHA). Accreditation and USA Hockey Certification exist for the same purpose - to ensure quality. Unfortunately, the hockey folks don't appear to have the slightest clue as to what they are doing. Universities must show evidence of continual improvement in their operations - the bar is raised ever higher each year. In hockey, teams/leagues only need to show improvement when they are bucking for a promotion. Boy, if that ain't incentive. University accreditations have several key steps, including a detailed self-assessment and a site visit where members of peer institutions visit to review the recertification application. For T3A, it seems that hockey referees signed statements that a team's facility met all the requirements. No offense to the refs, but if this isn't a scenario ripe for abuse I don't know what is. In accreditation if it's not documented, it doesn't exist. If there's not going to be a real site visit, teams should at the very least provide pictures of their seating with exact capacity counts, as well as pictures of locker facilities accompanied by floor plans with exact physical dimensions and stall counts. This sort of thing is not unprecedented in sports, as minor league baseball went through the same thing during their PDC of the early 1990s. A funny thing happened to, minor league baseball organizations got a whole lot better as a result.

I'm going to pull a number out of my ass and estimate that if ALL the certification criteria were enforced for T3A, half the Junior B teams applying would not get it. As it stands, my guess is that everyone with the exception of the four-team AWHL is probably going to get conditional T3A status, which with Pandora's Box open will become permanent in a couple years. And nothing will have been improved.

My suggestion is that the Council should stop slapping each other's backs and TABLE T3A for another year. Let the EJ and AJ keep their provisional status, but develop a REAL CERTIFICATION PROCESS that incorporates on-site peer assessment and strict enforcement of standards. If no one moves up this season, then no one will have have a leg-up on one another.

Dan Esdale is now in charge of the Junior Council. Before that he ran the EJHL. Dan, you need to ask yourself, when you were lobbying for the creation of T3A, did you envision a day when due to the nature of hockey politics every league received a social promotion to the new level, whether they deserved it or not? The bridge is out. Be a leader and pull the brake before this runaway train runs off the end in to the abyss.

Continuous improvement and accountability - I can't stress it enough. If you don't have these, you should question your reason to exist as a team or league.

In other news...

Decent article on the state of the BCHL: Cross-border hockey in BCHL’s near future...

The coming Tornado news I mentioned yesterday has been delayed. It is official, but I'm stuck waiting for the announcement. Late today would be the earliest, but tomorrow morning is more likely.

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Comments on "The Joke That is Tier III"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:59 AM, June 19, 2007) : 

Amen on all counts....just saying you are jr A doesn't make it so.....why not slow down and if need be...make a sep mid west/western league of A Tier III.....


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:13 AM, June 19, 2007) : 

Mark, could not have said it better.

Bottom line, there are 2 Tiers, Major Jr. A and Jr. A, then your B, C, etc. Not this donkey show of Tier III, next thing you know there will be Tier 4, 5 for for the babies who want the name.

To be quite honest, it is the programs and organizations that will send their players, not "Status Quo" of the "A".

It is no wonder Team are finally smartening up and leaving USA Hockey and going to non-sanctioned leagues. Gorwing both on the east and west coast and now in Canada as well.

Bid deal if not with USA Hockey, no difference, same insurance, just not teams (like on the east coast in Southern PA) that hols 4-5 try outs and already have their teams picked, nothing but a money maker.

What they should do is hold teams accontable!!!! You want to be Jr. A, then you need to place "X" amount of players to DIV. I & III and CIS and CIAU Schools, if not go back to B or C.

You have to love the cry babies and USA Hockey worshipers that chirp on that Communist Forum they have because of this post. Well guess Mark, glad to see some people in the US are reading your post regarding the donkey show USA Hockey has created and the new excuses or avenues they will try and take to correct this mess.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:02 AM, June 19, 2007) : 

Thanks for chiming in, Jimi Simmons.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:11 AM, June 19, 2007) : 

Here’s the problem. Every single Jr B team represented themselves as Tier 3 Jr A this summer at every camp and showcase they recruited at. I witnessed it first hand. It was like all these guys got filled with courage all of a sudden, They started talking to kids that they never would of came within 10 feet of in the past. Now what? They represented themselves as USA HOCKEY TIER 3 JR A, and made everyone including themselves look ridiculous. The truth is that the leagues that pushed for tier 3 jr A actually pushed themselves out by setting the bar above what their teams can actually meet. What’s the difference in Jr B/C or Tier 3? The players still will be paying to play, buying their own sticks and skates and carrying their bag to the rink. Stop the garbage now while you can Esdale. I feel that they want this status in order to elevate the amount of compensation they think they deserve when they lose a player to a higher level. I can’t figure out any other reason for this. I cant wait to see the lids fly off when they are told they have to trash all their letterhead that I am seeing floating around with Tier 3 Jr A on it!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:13 AM, June 19, 2007) : 

This is a mess, Marc couldn't be more on the point. 50% (if not more) of the junior hockey in the US is and always has been a fly by night operation. No orginization, accountability, or push for continued improvement. Next we'll have Junior AA, then Junior AAA... yet on the ice and behind the scenes it will be no better than than Junior B in 2001.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:02 AM, June 19, 2007) : 

Arguably, the concept for Tier III Junior A started a few years back when the EJHL was trying to find some common ground with the NAHL. Ultimately, in my opinion, the EJHL wanted to get into a national championship situation with all the Tier II Junior A teams. They would all be A, but Tier II would have the recruiting advantage of free hockey.

The reason, which many Midwesterners either ignore or are ignorant of, is that East Coast hockey is expensive.

People don't stumble into a Learn to Play Program at age six and get hooked. They pay $500 - $1000 for their 4- or 5-year-old to Learn to Play.

As an East Coast player develops, his/her parents shell out more and more money. There are very good players on the East Coast, most of whom possess the resources or desire to pay these pay-to-play fees in exchange for a solid hockey environment like the EJHL. There is nothing wrong with that provided it's their choice to do so. Remember, prep schools are still prevelant out here. An EJ tuition is FAR cheaper than a prep school tuition.

Does everyone know that ice costs anywhere from $320 - $500 per hour on the East Coast? Try running those numbers and see how far $6500 gets you.

Would a kid from small town Minnesota or Wisconsin pay that? Nope - at least not many could pay that.

However, many East Coast kids would actually prefer to stay on the East Coast and get seen by NCAA D-I and D-III coaches. THey want to go to university on the East Coast.

EJ should have abandoned its Tier III effort when it became evident that the NAHL wouldn't go along (anyone remember how bad the NAHL pounded the EJ a few years back when they had joint Showcases?) and USAH wouldn't force the issue.

It's now become a bastardized effort from the original intent.

Advancement and placement are what a player should look at. If a player is willing to play in the AJ or EJ for $8k, then who is to say that's wrong? The people will eventually figure out who is moving kids up and who isn't.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:40 PM, June 19, 2007) : 

The way I have always viewed this situation is that the problem is that we try to categorize these leagues based on two different, and yet very intertwined criteria; talent and money.

In my opinion these two criteria go hand in hand, and as a result, I don't think you can talk about one without the other.

In previous years, the strongest talent in the country would go out west to play, because the Western teams had the most financial stability, and thus were able to provide the most for their players. (If I'm good enough, why would I pay to play in the East when I could play out west) As more and more players adopted this philosophy, it became a very common practice that the best players would go out west (financially better decision), and as a result, the leagues in the West were superior because they were stocked with some of the nation's best talent.

With this being said, it would stand to reason that the only way the east coast Jr teams could combat this situation (especially considering that they are starting behind the 8 ball because the USHL and NAHL are already established as the leagues to be in) would be to provide the same, or better opportunities to their players then what the kids would get by going out West.

The problem with this is that I think it is very safe to say that you will never be able to run an east coast Jr franchise that enjoys the same financial stability that the Jr franchises have out west. For starters, as was previously posted, operating costs on the east coast average higher then they do out west.

Secondly, the abundance of prep school options on the east coast have created a "players" market in the respect that the east coast is currently saturated with more teams then it has players (with talent) to fill.

Thirdly the simple geography of the east coast significantly hinders an east coast Jr team's ability to draw the fan base and ticket revenue, that would allow it to provide the same opportunities that are provided by its western counterparts. Depending on what east coast team we are talking about it may be just as easy for a hockey fan to drive to any number of NHL, AHL, EJHL, NCAA D1 or D3 games, as it would be to drive to go and watch a Jr. A game. Think about people living in parts of NY, where they can decide between going to watch the Rangers, Devils, Islanders, or going to CT to watch any number of NCAA games before they settle on going to watch watered down Jr. A hockey.

The point that I am making is that with all of these different options right in peoples back yard, you are very hard pressed to get many people to go out and watch east coast Jr. hockey. (If it's the same driving distance as an NHL game, guess which one people tend to go to, especially considering that most east coast hockey fans have money to blow, so they dont mind the difference in ticket costs)

The reality is that no matter how good the talent level of the hockey on the east coast becomes, they are never going to bring in the ticket revenue that they do out west, so if we are requiring these organizations to have the same financial stability as the mid west programs, then we are going to have to come up with some way get them money, because I dont know to many investors that are willing to shell out money when they know that their overhead is going to far exceed their revenue.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:46 PM, June 19, 2007) : 

I used to think Tier III a was a joke. I now have a different view. I now see it as a way USAH can combat these rival leagues from propping up everywhere. Let's face it, the talent level in the AEHL and WHA blows.

By creating III A and giving leagues and teams time to either up their level. Players who want so bad to play "A" can now do so under the blanket of USAH. Not that I am a huge believer of the USAH system, as a whole. But they offer alot more stability than these upstart indy leagues that tout themselves as "A" and are nothing more than brutal jr. b leagues pissed off they can't fly an "A" flag under USAH.

What pisses me off even more is the growing number of USAH teams that label themselves as "Junior A caliber Independant teams." What a crime. These are merely groups who can't get accepted in a league so play an indy schedule. They tell kids they are "A" and have no guidelines to back themselves on.

These leagues might not be the best run or the most stable, but they have been around for some time and offer stability. I would trust sending my boys to an established league over some independant team. I am tired of the B.S. they ar pulling.

I was at Global in Canada and spoke to a few teams (San Antonio, Helena, Lafayette). None of their representitives said to me they were IIIA or even eluded to it. However, when I spoke to other teams (Pheonix, Eugene, Hampton Roads, Tri-selects, Ft. Vancouver, deleware, Exeter, Delaware are the ones I remember) all preached that they were "A" teams. Who am I to believe?

Esdale...this is not an issue that is an easy one to fix. But you need to make a decision either way.

If what is said about 1/2 the teams in this catagory about teams not meeting criteria is true, then let these teams (ALL OF THEM) have a year or two to raise the level of their teams or boot them out!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:26 PM, June 19, 2007) : 

Another Ft Van lie. Ft Van was not at global........


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:32 PM, June 19, 2007) : 

We should make this REALLY simple

Tier I--- I pay you (Team pays player)

Tier II--- Nobody gets paid (wash)

Tier III--- You pay me (player pays team)

Tier IIB-- You pay me more (player pays team even more)

Tier IIIC-- Happy Gilmore meets House Hockey (where is the beer?)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:39 PM, June 19, 2007) : 

Grisdale said the plan is to operate the club as a Canadian team, with the same import rules that now apply to the existing BCHL teams. Construction of a 4,300-seat arena in Wenatchee is slated to begin this summer, with plans to finish it just in time for the 2008-09 season.


If this happens, and a US based team can operate as Canadian (like the OHL, WHL, Q..), this will quickly blow up in USA Hockey's face.

What would keep Alaska from buying thier way into the BCHL, as the Alaska Division? Especially if Whitehorse was somehow included. All it would take is money, and not too much of it. I have seen this somewhere before.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:18 PM, June 19, 2007) : 

They should use the letters to signify the level of play, and use the tierr level structure to dictate the fees that teams can charge.

Jr A Tier I = USHL

Jr A Tier II = NAHL

Jr A Tier III = EJHL

Jr B Tier III = CSHL, AJ



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:26 PM, June 19, 2007) : 

It is great that Wenatchee is getting a BCHL team. The States needs a true dose of hockey. Outside of the USHL the States is hurting for some real junior hockey. The WHL is overrated and the BCHL is some of the best hockey next to the USHL to watch. I hope more teams will come to the States like to places like Bellingham or Squamish.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:48 PM, June 19, 2007) : 

Unless we launched another invasion while I wasn't paying attention, Squamish is still in Canadian hands.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:20 PM, June 19, 2007) : 

Bellingham? Squammish? WHO lives there?? Where you gonna get the fan base to fill up the rink each game -- "rent-a-fan"? (and I'm not talkin' about the oscillatin' kind!)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:43 AM, June 20, 2007) : 

and the BCHL has a requirement any new locations (whether new or relocated franchises) have rinks that can hold minimum 1500 and have made it very clear the last few years they will stick with that number.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:45 AM, June 20, 2007) : 

Bellingham did have the Ice Hawks play in the BCHL during the 90s. The problem wasn't attendance in a direct sense. It was that the arena had lousy seating accommodations, and that's what ultimately discouraged the fans from coming.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:02 AM, June 20, 2007) : 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Blogger Marc Foster said ... (8:15 AM, June 20, 2007) : 

Okay that was just sick... behave yourselves people...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:49 AM, June 20, 2007) : 

The purpose of Tier III A was to clarify hockey in the East. Prior to Tier III A, both the EJHL and AJHL were classified as Junior C, while there feeder teams the Empire and MET were and are classified as Junior B. The statement I'm being moved up from the Empire to the EJ, makes no sense if the classification is B to C. Also, the birth of renegade non-USA sanctioned A leagues the AEHL and the new IJHL, further complicated the East. Both of these leagues in reality are below Junior B. The USA Hockey letter classification in the East Tier III, Junior B works when you consider level of play.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:07 AM, June 20, 2007) : 

Well it must not just be the rogue leagues you mention, AEHL, IJHL, etc.

You now have the WHA and the new league in Canada, CJEHL.

Perhaps it is USA Hockey that needs to go as people are sick of the foul up and confusion they themselves have created.

Again, it is the teams that send players, not USA Hockey, Tier 3, 4, 5, etc. If a player is good and showcased, he will get noticed, period.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:57 AM, June 21, 2007) : 

Truth be told, most of the EJHL and AJHL teams currently do not meet the Tier III A criteria.

In my never to humble option Tier III anything is a joke. You're either Major A, Tier II A or Tier II B...Z.

The only reason the Jr. B leagues are running for 'the hole in the fence' is they are loosing kids elsewhere who have been promised pie in the sky. Once these players make the move and are financially committed, they find the grass is not greener but they are hooked.

What should happen is that the old structure of A, B & C should be resurrected and and let the chips fall where they may.

In addition, the USAH directors should pull their collective heads from the sand and make Midget hockey a two year division once more. At that point you will see real development of elite level hockey players (ala La Fontaine, Iafrati, et al.) in the US.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:31 PM, June 21, 2007) : 

I for one am not sure about the continued existence of the Tier III Jr. A classification, but I hope I can shed some insight on how it happened and how it spun out of control. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a writer who works for a magazine based around New England hockey and am a friend of a league officer.

As another poster stated, the Eastern Junior Hockey League was originally a Jr. C league. Back in its infancy, it was a Jr. C league in all respects. However, the league's quality greatly increased around 200-01, and starting in 2003, the league petitioned for a better certification. However, the rules were clear: if you charge tuition, you cannot be a Jr. A league.

Geography was the major obstacle to the EJHL gaining a higher certification: eight teams exist within an hour of Boston. This goes along with the Bruins, four AHL teams, and ten D1 colleges that provide a higher level of hockey. This is precisely why the NAHL and USHL have teams in out-of-the-way places. More competition means less fans, and ultimately, the need to charge tuition or fold up shop.

The EJHL, meanwhile, gained a lot of respect from the NCAA hockey community and has sent 40+ players to D1 teams for at least the past five years. EJHL teams hold a 5-1 record against the USA Under-17 team, and the 2004 EJHL Champion (Monarchs) defeated the 2004 NAHL Champion (Tornado). Clearly, this league is not your average Jr. C league.

In 2006, the Junior Council met and voted on whether to elevate the EJHL to Jr. A. One commissioner proposed the idea of adding a new Tier to (1) acknowledge the fact that the EJHL is well above the Jr. B and Jr. C level, and (2) maintain the integrity of the certification process. This was considered suitable to the decision-makers.

However, the Atlantic Jr. Hockey League formed in 2003 and copied the EJHL's operations model. To quote Sublime, "That's when things got out of control." USA Hockey was reluctant to add the college-advancement criteria to the proposal, and only adopted the operational distinctions. As a result, many Junior B leagues are trying to adjust to meet the Tier III Jr. A criteria. Last season the EJHL and AJHL were the two Tier III Jr. A leagues, and it created the perception that they were equal. This likely ended after the "National Tournament."

My personal solution: abandon all certification levels. Let the leagues survive or fail on their own merits. The USHL rose above the NAHL and AWHL when both were Tier II Jr. A. The EJHL existed as a Jr. C league for 13 years, attracted top players from New England, and established itself as the top junior league on the east coast despite competing with Jr. B and C leagues. Let a pecking order sort itself out, and even without the letters (A, B, or C), it will likely remain the same.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:44 PM, June 21, 2007) : 

USA Hockey does nothing that makes you really think they will solve their own mess within 2 years? Are they really any better at administering Youth/ Junior hockey then any non-USA Hockey group?


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