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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Let the misinformation begin

Well, it didn't take long for an article to appear misrepresenting Tier III. This one comes courtesy of the McKinney (TX) Courier-Gazette, and contains the following nugget of stretched truth:
After the offer was extended, Barberis immediately jumped at the chance to play for the Junior A (Bozeman) Icedogs.

Junior A is the same classification as the Texas Tornadoes (sic) and is the highest level of amateur hockey a player can play in and still retain college eligibility.
So Bozeman is once again at the same level as the Tornado, and the Tier II NAHL and Tier I USHL no longer exist. Great, I'm glad we cleared that up.

I guess I shouldn't have expected too much, considering the writer couldn't properly name the local junior team - the Tornado play about 15-20 minutes from McKinney. But how many times are we going to see articles where a kid playing in one of the six T3A leagues is placed on the Jr A pedestal with no mention of the Tier III aspect?

Now, I'm not bagging on Bozeman here. They aren't quoted in the article and I have no indication to believe they had anything to do with this. In addition, their website says nothing that would misrepresent their status as a Tier III Junior A team. I already mentioned the reporter didn't seem too knowledgeable, and that probably had a lot to do with it. However, out of curiosity I surveyed Tier III websites to see how leagues and teams were representing themselves. In doing so, I found a number of examples of the follow types:

1) Tier III announcement proclaims team/league now Junior A with no reference to T3 in the headline. Many times the body of the announcement mentions T3.

2) Team website banners calling team Junior A, with no T3 mention.

3) Tryout forms calling the team Junior A, with no T3 mention.

4) Team referenced only as Junior A, with no mention of T3 anywhere

Am I nitpicking? Perhaps, but I think the teams and leagues have an obligation to be completely honest, and consistent, in their branding to players, parents, fans, and media. About a third of them aren't doing so.

If I were NAHL commish Mark Frankenfeld, I'd be calling for legislation regulating how the new level is referenced. Teams/leagues should not be able to call themselves just "Junior A," but instead use the proper "Tier III Junior A" or "Junior A Tier III." Otherwise they've just misrepresented themselves to whoever is reading their material (players, parents, media, etc...). It devalues the NAHL brand, and to a lesser extent the USHL's as well (though they no longer use "Jr A" in their branding, instead focusing on "Tier I"). Make it simple - $500 fine for any team/league materials (website, tryout brochures, etc...) not referring to the full and proper classification, and a $100 fine against the team for any team/league article quoting a team/league official and containing the same reference, in the quote or out of it, makes no matter. If the official is getting quoted, they can make it a point to the reporter to get it right. Give the teams/leagues until the start of the season to get their sites fixed, then start enforcing thereafter.

A final note... This isn't about bashing the Tier III concept. With the decision made, that genie is out of the bottle and all we can do now is make the best of the situation, hence my previous comments about performance measures. That said, let's not turn the comments into a generic T3 bashing. Let's just focus on the branding issue at hand, folks.

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Comments on "Let the misinformation begin"


Blogger Chab said ... (7:34 AM, July 29, 2007) : 

C'mon Marc. While i don't condone how the levels are being represented by some teams, this is not a new problem. Your high and mighty NAHL does the same thing. I only checked 6 team websites, but 4 of them mention they are Jr A with no hint that they are actually Tier II. Heck, the NAHL site doesn't even mention it.


Blogger sandc said ... (8:09 AM, July 29, 2007) : 

At least you're writing about it... It's just not fair for the players who work so hard to play on a "Tier I" level (or even Tier II level.)


Blogger Marc Foster said ... (8:15 AM, July 29, 2007) : 

First off, they are not my NAHL... Secondly, while your point is well taken, it was rendered moot when the USHL decided to not only pursue Tier I status, but upon attainment refer to themselves only as Tier I, with no mention of Junior A. Thus, there's no confusion when comparing the USHL and NAHL in terms of quality. This is true also in comparing the Major Juniors with the Tier II provincials - many or most of whom don't call themselves Tier II. The same is not true today between Tier II and Tier III, as the article demonstrates.

Look, this is the problem one runs into when similar identifiers are used in differentiating levels. Confusion reigns.


Blogger fangers said ... (6:11 PM, July 29, 2007) : 

Speaking as a parent, it was confusing before...even more so now. Clueless parents continue to believe their kids playing legitimate Jr A with the same exposure as the NAHL/USHL. They really have no clue and the intentional - and I do feel most who choose to not include the "Tier III" are doing so intentionally - exclusion of "Tier III" is not helping the situation.

I've taken a bunch of heat from local hockey parents for sending my son away to play at a more competitive level - they all feel I should have kept him local for their own selfish reasons ("we'd be so much better if kids didn't leave..."). All weekend when I dropped my so off at the local rink for drop-in hockey all I heard was "see, guess you feel pretty stupid for sending your kid away. He's still not playing Junior A and our kids are". Too bad they are the ones being suckered...


Blogger Junior Hockey Fan said ... (9:27 AM, July 30, 2007) : 

Personally, I think the teams that are not mentioning it, are doing it for a reason too. There is a clear differentiation between the USHL and the rest of Junior hockey, no question about it. The NAHL would argue against that but that's not the way I see it. On the other hand, people in the AJ, CSHL, MJHL, NORPAC and WSHL are now putting their leagues and teams in the same realm as the EJ. Well, once those leagues send as many kids to DI colleges as the EJ, then they can make that claim. For the EJ, is it location? Is it talent? Do the coaches do a better job of promoting their players than even the NAHL? I think it is all of them. The fact remains that those other leagues just don't compare. Teams in those leagues might be able to compete, Phoenix, St. Louis, Minnesota Ice Hawks, but even those teams will not fair well with the top of the EJ.


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