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I will start by clearly stating my kid plays USPHL. It’s good for him and our family. Same cost as other options. Less planes, more buses. He’s played for 3 seasons now. Other folks are correct about talent depreciation. Other options popping up are thinning the pool for this league. I don’t care much about the USA Hockey thing. Both fees are overinflated and corrupt.
As my son is talking to NCDC and NAHL teams for next season I am hearing some interesting rumors. It won’t impact him as his fate will be sealed after this year as to what he does but for up-and-coming midgets it may turn into an interesting landscape.
Let me also be clear that I’m not stating this will happen but I have heard from fairly credible sources from both USPHL and NAHL that there will be a counter to the USPHL’s expansion by 3 National midget leagues coming together, regionalizing and formalizing a partnership and team affiliations program with the NAHL. The coaches I spoke with would not say which ones but I think we can all guess.
So I’m curious to the impact if this does happen. National League with direct exposure to 2nd most fertile breeding ground for college? One linked to USA Hockey, one not?
I mention because it got me thinking given my boy is a U18 with the hopes of getting some NCDC games this year, his real focus is NAHL or USHL. Obviously USHL is a stretch given he hasn’t been selected yet. Seems logical but hockey does not really seem to be a logical sport!
Because a lot of people here are focused only on what happens in the Commonwealth, or are too busy making s#!t up to discredit the USPHL, they may not be familiar with a lot of what you're referring to. For example, an entire DIVISION in the hockey hotbed that is the Great Lakes region defected this year from the NA3 to the USPHL. All six teams.
And if you follow The Junior Hockey News, the publisher there has declared the NA3 all but dead. Now, JK is a bit of an odd duck, I've had some direct interactions with him and he has his biases, but the numbers don't lie. Kids aren't developing in the NA3. They aren't being promoted to the NAHL, the mandatory tenders aren't being honored, and they aren't getting to college programs, not even D-III.
So, it makes absolute sense that the NAHL would explore affiliations with the HPHL and T1EHL Midget leagues to join with the NAPHL and replace the affiliations with the NA3HL. That's a lot of alphabet soup, but those of us with U18 players operating in that space understand where each of them reside in the pecking order.
I don't personally see the USA Hockey thing as a big deal. As we've spoken with NAHL teams, i haven't heard "oh, your kid is in that scab league." But, you also can't deny that it's possible in the dark recesses that kids playing USPHL U18 and NCDC aren't going to be seen on a level playing field with USA Hockey-affiliated leagues that, after all, fund the NAHL and USHL. I don't think NAHL or USHL teams would necessarily NOT choose a USPHL/NCDC kid - if he can play, and they see him as better than the next kid, that trumps all - but if two kids are seen as equal, maybe the other kid gets the nod?
So far, we haven't been willing to throw our kid's superior NE education into the s#!tter for an online GED. Maybe it has hurt his chances to advance - in hockey. Hockey isn't life. I think - hope? - he gets a chance to play in college, maybe even after. But, at least he'll still have good grades from a really good school.
Don't kick dirt on the NA3's grave just yet. If you dig deep you will see there are NAHL big club owners that are buying up and affiliating themselves directly with NA3 programs near them. They will use these teams as feeders to develop/stash players and even go so far as sharing staff, i.e. the GM/Head Coach of the big NAHL club calling the shots for the NA3 team. The NA3 is in the process of re-inventing itself. It will shrink and the ones who are left will be the clubs that are strong enough to stand on their own or are owned/directly aligned with an NAHL club.
The NAHL is a far flung, national league, so this isn't happening everywhere all at once, but where this is happening right now is in Minnesota/Wisconsin with some of the NAHL clubs in the Central and Midwest divisions. Coincidentally, the USPHL has moved into Minnesota/Wisconsin with the teams in the Midwest West division. Who do you think is going to end up winning this battle?
As to Midget super leagues, I have heard there was going to be some shuffling of leagues at the Midget AAA level. First, the NHL would like to see local Midget AAA programs play in an NHL like league together. So you would have the Chicago Jr. Blackhawks (Mission rebranded), Jr. Blues, Little Caesar's, Jr. Ducks, Jr. Kings, Jr. Preds, Jr. Golden Knights (formerly Vegas Storm bumping up into a AAA program) etc. forming a league. Problem is programs like Mission and LC are just too good for some of the other programs like the Preds. Besides, why would LC commit to all that travel when they could stay so close to home and play some of the top Midget competition in the country in the Detroit and Chicago areas?
I've also heard about some shuffling and maneuvering with the current HPHL, NAPHL, and T1EHL. That's normal stuff though as movement always happens.
What is different is the feeling that Tier 1 AAA is getting watered down and there is this movement to create Tier 1 Elite where only the top, top programs play each other. Might be as simple as a Tier 1 Elite invite showcase, a new league, or an entirely new designated level. Who knows?
Highly unlikely the HPHL or TIEHL would hitch their wagons to the NAHL. While a number of players from those leagues go on to the NAHL, the top players go to the USHL, or even the OHL or WHL Canadian major junior leagues. Those midget leagues would not agree to NAHL tenders because their top players are not going to the NAHL.
The trend in hockey, like in business generally, is consolidation, with more regional and even national leagues. TIELHL, NAPHL, etc. are examples. By the way, NAPHL is the NAHL midget affiliated league, NA3 is an affiliated junior league. Even the HPHL Chicago/Detroit teams are expanding their reach with a joint event in Boston with the top NE teams, and teams like Selects at South Kent are also going to events in Detroit.
USPHL is expanding significantly, both in number of teams and geographic reach. Other leagues will no doubt match them. I think this is, for the most part, good for hockey. Scouts tend to frequent larger events, which are often put on by the larger leagues. The larger NE showcases also have an affiliation with Mass Selects/EHF/USPHL, so this is already happening organically, if not officially.
As always, the unique wrinkle in NE is that many, but not all, of the top players go prep, whereas in other parts of the country the best and only option is typically FS teams. That differing landscape from the rest of the country is recognized in NE with a number of SS teams coming together in the fall for various showcase leagues and events. The newly merged Mass Selects/EHF/USPHL will no doubt take advantage of the fall season as well with all the SS teams that are now part of its constituency. At the same time, the number of FS teams is increasing, so I think we are likely to see more showcases after the SS ends for the FS teams. I do like the USPHL move to have the top teams in the league compete against each other, and move the lower teams into their own division.
I still think regional leagues will be the norm because of the cost of travel, particularly in hockey hotbeds like the Midwest, and the top teams in NE. Perhaps a few national events.
As an aside, someone mentioned online schools as something negative. Not necessarily. I'm sure there could be a healthy debate, but I know many people that have had some very good experiences with online schools, particularly as to increased executive functioning, organization, time management, moving at an advanced pace, etc.