I\'ve always thought the kids make the program more than the program makes the kids. They all offer just about the same thing, there\'s no magic dust being sprinkled at any of these rinks. The best teams are where the talent settles, for whatever reason...coach, recruiting, rink location, luck.
You are correct, on paper they all offer roughly the same thing but in action they can differ greatly. For example: Skills. A program might say they have an outside instructor running skills but then you watch it and realize it's nothing more than an outside guy blowing a whistle while the coaches hang out on the ice drinking dunk's. No correction being offered, no guidance to the skaters..no development.
In my world, the right coach is the #1 thing I look for but skills is #2.
The problem with looking at the neighbors green grass with envy is unless you are invited into their yard, you may not realize that the grass is just green painted cow patties until you buy the lot.
Prior poster here and I agree with you. There are clubs that offer a weekly skills session on weekends that kids almost never make because of games. I find the off ice training offerings vary widely as well. But the teams offering the best "fringe" benefits are not always the ones highest in the standings, which lends further credence to my point.