The “watered down” argument is debatable. Compare today’s amount of teams to 30 years ago and you’ll find that there isn’t much of an increase in the amount of teams. The only thing that has really changed is the labels we put in these teams. The elite label and the power that term has with parents is what’s killing hockey in MA. I’ll spare everyone the birth year but I watched a tourney this past season where the Fed Elite team (who ended the year mid pack), destroyed 3 E9 teams (who finished 1,2,3). Now let’s be honest, we’re the E9 teams really elite? Answer is they weren’t even close.
It is not debatable at all.
While numbers are down, there was not fifteen options for single birth year within a half hour drive thirty years ago. There are way more teams now.
Also, thirty years ago almost everyone played for their local town program. A few were selected to play "selects" and it was only a few kids from a given town or area. There was one select team for that area.
So to compare then and now. 90 percent of kids on "elite" teams today would never been asked to play selects thirty years ago.
I will say that the overall talent has improved drastically, only meaning that the kids that are good now, are better than the kids that were god 30 years ago, however. On teh other hand. I just saw kids at "elite" tryouts that belong at public skating !
My oldest was on the “Elite” team his whole youth hockey years. He didn’t belong there, in fact 3/4’s if the team didn’t. It was a pretty sobering day for a lot of parents when we played our 2nd team in a tournament and lost by 4.
The coach never cut or added to the team. Thought he could identify the talent early and coach them up. He was wrong on both parts. I’m sure lots of coaches have this mentality.