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Old
10-26-2013, 08:51 AM
  #26
Canadiens1958
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End of Sponsorship Part I Montreal Junior Hockey

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Originally Posted by BadgerBruce View Post
One valuable area of inquiry this thread skates around is how minor hockey in Canada changed once the sponsorship system and the A/B/C card system ended.

My assumption is that at least some community-based minor hockey associations would have grown accustomed to the NHL sponsorship cash and, in some cases, administrative expertise. After all, while NHL teams wanted rights-control over players, they'd also have a vested interest in various developmental issues at the local level-- coaching staff, style of play, etc. Even the cost and availability of practice ice time would be impacted by sponsorship.

When the "system" ended, I can't help but think that many minor hockey associations were left scrambling in so many ways, not the least of which being philosophical. After all, with what amounted to a forced divorce from NHL affiliation, the Federal government's creation of Hockey Canada and its "international" mission in 1968 (Trudeau's election promise), and then the eventual merging of the CAHA, major junior hockey (now the CHL) and Hockey Canada, the entire youth hockey landscape changed profoundly in a short period of time.

The politics certainly increased. For instance, the very clear drop in registrations in 1992/93 was largely the result of a vicious fight between the OMHA and the new Ontario Hockey Federation, a war so nasty that the OMHA was actually declared an outlaw league across Canada, the US and internationally by the IIHF.

We so seldom view the "history" of hockey through the youth hockey lens. I'm just musing here, but I've a sense that my own understanding of higher levels of hockey would be better contextualized if I spent a bit more time examining the growth, development and change in youth/minor hockey.
Very valid questions and points, reflecting my interests in development from intro level hockey thru the NHL.

Before looking at the post sponsorship era, roughly 1970 to date, I'll outline the situation in the Montreal area from the late thirties to 1970.

In 1938 the Verdun Auditorium was built. Verdun, an independent city, 10 minutes down the Atwater hill from the old Montreal Forum became the center for the growth an development of the Canadiens junior system into the mid fifties. The Auditorium was also the main Canadiens practice facility when the Forum was not available. By the early 1950s the Canadiens had three Memorial Cup quality teams up and running - Junior Canadiens, Junior Royals and the Nationale, plus assorted Senior and Intermediate teams. The juniors were the key. Inevitably the coach was a former Canadiens player or a local groomed for an NHL career, Sam Pollock.Why three teams instead of one? Simple - control the league they played in and with three teams it was possible to import six players from outside the province - C.A.H.A. allowed two imports per junior team.

In Verdun, the Canadiens influence eventually drifted down to all levels as minor hockey developed below junior. The revenues generated from ice rentals to the Canadiens for practices, junior practices, games, etc facilitated the minor hockey program in Verdun.

By 1955 the Canadiens changed their junior philosophy. Sam Pollock with Scotty Bowman ran the Junior Canadiens out of Hull-Ottawa, stradling the Quebec / Ontario border, briefly playing in both Senior and Junior leagues simultaneously while staying Memorial Cup eligible.Finally joining the OHA as a strict junior team, 1962.

The Montreal area saw the birth of the MMJHL that acted as a feeder league for the Junior Canadiens although other NHL teams would place players for seasoning before graduating to the OHA team.You also had non sponsored players free to sign with any NHL team. The MMJHL continued until the formation of the QMJHL for the start of the 1969-70 season. Yes, each team was allowed two imports.

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10-26-2013, 10:58 AM
  #27
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Thanks, C58. Your insight is greatly appreciated, and your knowledge of the situation in and around Montreal helps me to get a stronger grip on the many changes in youth hockey.

I'm currently researching the role played by Murray Costello in the modern incarnation of Hockey Canada (1994 merger), particularly since he was so pivotal in the CAHA dating back to the NHL sponsorship days and then in the new "national" Hockey Canada that exists today.

I'm not so sure that the current setup, where 3500 distinct non-profit youth hockey associations exist under myriad provincial/territorial umbrella bodies, which in turn collectively create "regional federations" (eg, BC Hockey Federation, Ontario Hockey Federation) that themselves become Hockey Canada affiliates, is better than the old system.

Views?

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10-26-2013, 11:22 AM
  #28
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St. Mike's

Quote:
Originally Posted by BadgerBruce View Post
Thanks, C58. Your insight is greatly appreciated, and your knowledge of the situation in and around Montreal helps me to get a stronger grip on the many changes in youth hockey.

I'm currently researching the role played by Murray Costello in the modern incarnation of Hockey Canada (1994 merger), particularly since he was so pivotal in the CAHA dating back to the NHL sponsorship days and then in the new "national" Hockey Canada that exists today.

I'm not so sure that the current setup, where 3500 distinct non-profit youth hockey associations exist under myriad provincial/territorial umbrella bodies, which in turn collectively create "regional federations" (eg, BC Hockey Federation, Ontario Hockey Federation) that themselves become Hockey Canada affiliates, is better than the old system.

Views?
Thank you for the kind comments.

Murray Costello, old St. Mike's hockey out of Toronto, Brother of Les Costello both had brief NHL careers.

Focusing on Murray Costello will not get you nearly as far as your effort should. Main focus should be St. Mike's and its hockey tradition, school and athletics, Father David Bauer,original Team Canada, the tentacles St. Mike's had across Canada which in many ways facilitated Murray Costello's efforts. St. Mike's relationship with the Leafs and other elements.

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10-26-2013, 12:46 PM
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BadgerBruce View Post
One valuable area of inquiry this thread skates around is how minor hockey in Canada changed once the sponsorship system and the A/B/C card system ended.
.... not so much "skating around it" as havent really arrived there yet, gone back far enough. Dissected the issues.

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Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
Focusing on Murray Costello will not get you nearly as far as your effort should. Main focus should be St. Mike's and its hockey tradition, school and athletics, Father David Bauer,original Team Canada, the tentacles St. Mike's had across Canada which in many ways facilitated Murray Costello's efforts. St. Mike's relationship with the Leafs and other elements.
Well, sorta kinda C58 but the storys far more expansive than just that little boutique of a history as you know. St.Mikes hockey program, their relationship with the Leafs & Smythe, subsequent exit, Neil McNeil briefly picking up the thread in transitioning from the old sponsorship model & so on but one small piece of a much larger fabric that covered the landscape until app 1966/67. Murray Costello at that time was with the Seattle Totems of the WHL in an executive position, then in the 70's was the "Arbitrator" for the WHA's players so obviously and as we know wasnt even around, part n' parcel of what was going down during the 60's & early 70's at the amateur levels which to me is the more important, seminal period at the developmental levels. Absent NHL sponsorship, the entire business model profoundly changed forever at the Junior and amateur levels which most assuredly did then influence how players themselves were being developed & recruited.

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10-26-2013, 01:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BadgerBruce View Post
I'm not so sure that the current setup, where 3500 distinct non-profit youth hockey associations exist under myriad provincial/territorial umbrella bodies, which in turn collectively create "regional federations" (eg, BC Hockey Federation, Ontario Hockey Federation) that themselves become Hockey Canada affiliates, is better than the old system.

Views?
Despite its flaws and somewhat draconian meanderings yes, the old Sponsorship System was in many ways superior in the developmental process than what we have today. Id actually like to see a sort of hybrid return to that model, engaging the NHL, its member clubs & sponsors along with the NHLPA/PHPA, Hockey Canada & USA at the amateur & junior levels.

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10-26-2013, 01:18 PM
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St. Mike's

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Originally Posted by Killion View Post
.... not so much "skating around it" as havent really arrived there yet, gone back far enough. Dissected the issues.



Well, sorta kinda C58 but the storys far more expansive than just that little boutique of a history as you know. St.Mikes hockey program, their relationship with the Leafs & Smythe, subsequent exit, Neil McNeil briefly picking up the thread in transitioning from the old sponsorship model & so on but one small piece of a much larger fabric that covered the landscape until app 1966/67. Murray Costello at that time was with the Seattle Totems of the WHL in an executive position, then in the 70's was the "Arbitrator" for the WHA's players so obviously and as we know wasnt even around, part n' parcel of what was going down during the 60's & early 70's at the amateur levels which to me is the more important, seminal period at the developmental levels. Absent NHL sponsorship, the entire business model profoundly changed forever at the Junior and amateur levels which most assuredly did then influence how players themselves were being developed & recruited.
St.Mike's is also a seminary with an incredible old boys or "old Brothers" network. Very valuable when building consensus.

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10-26-2013, 02:12 PM
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St.Mike's is also a seminary with an incredible old boys or "old Brothers" network. Very valuable when building consensus.
Indeed. The Costello boys as mentioned above by Badger, Les, Murray & Jack (family of 5) contributed much to the St.Mikes program. Les the oldest played for the Leafs in the 40's before going on to become an ordained Priest and in 1962 a co-founder of the Flying Fathers. Sort of a Harlem Globetrotters type dealeo, Barnstormers, though many games fairly serious & competitive against elite amateurs, Junior, Intermediate, Senior & even some pro teams. Les's attitude towards hockey was it was "just a game, meant to be fun, full of laughter, first & foremost to build character" and as the oldest and who went on to St.Mikes & the NHL imparted same to his younger brothers & to the St.Mikes program (though those precepts preceded his attendance as a student & player) in general. The Flying Fathers comprised of some excellent hockey players literally from coast-coast & who organized administratively, often Managing & Coaching teams from Tyke through Juvenile & into the Jr. ranks like Father David Bauer with that sort of philosophy filtering down to many generations of players be they from BC, Saskatchewan, Quebec or the Maritimes.

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10-27-2013, 08:40 PM
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My interest in Murray Costello is largely related to his role as the primary broker of the 1994 merger that created the modern incarnation of Hockey Canada. Bob Nicholson assumed the reins of the newly-integrated governing body just a few years later, so in many respects brokering the merger was Costello's final act of enduring significance after holding the CAHA presidency for 15 consecutive years. But you folks are correct -- he did not assume a CAHA leadership role until more than a decade after the sponsorship system ended. My mistake.

The relationship between Hockey Canada and the CAHA was rocky from the start. HC had a federal mandate to "oversee" ALL hockey in Canada (indeed, both the Habs and the Maple Leafs were original HC members in '68), but no authority whatsoever as a governing body. Further, HC's mission was strictly to elevate Canada's international performance, nothing else.

Think about that within a 1968 youth hockey context. The CAHA had just spent 30 years in a financially profitable NHL sponsorship system where kids grew up wanting to sign C-cards and eventually play for the Habs or Leafs, not the Belleville Mcfarlands.

That's where Costello comes in, after about 10 years of CAHA floundering in the 70s. To me, he's a pivotal figure in the "re-missioning" of the CAHA from an NHL-centric body to an almost jingoistic "Team Canada" focused body, beginning around 1980 and culminating in the 1994 merger, where the "new" agenda became a reality.
The impact on youth hockey has been profound, to say the least.

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10-28-2013, 12:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BadgerBruce View Post
My interest in Murray Costello is largely related to his role as the primary broker of the 1994 merger that created the modern incarnation of Hockey Canada. The impact on youth hockey has been profound, to say the least.
Murray Costello was head of the CAHA starting in 1979 while Hockey Canada was being run as the personal fiefdom of R.Alan Eagleson who organized more than 2 dozen tournaments between 1976 & 1991, including 5 Canada Cups & World Championships along with various Soviet Team Exhibition Tours. Hockey Canada essentially a "shell" that Eagleson was able to use to his nefarious ends in exploiting the players, the NHL, the taxpayers... anyone with a pulse.

Business end is interesting so to quickly re-cap; for each Canada Cup, Hockey Canada was supposed to have received the first $600,000 of net tournament proceeds after expenses and 15% of net revenues above $2M. Eagleson billed Hockey Canada for staff, including Bill Watters & Rick Curran who's duties & responsibilities in organizing these events was absolutely minimal at best in the amount $70,000+ each per annum, then paid Watters & Curran $35-45K each, their annual salaries for their regular agency business, pocketing the difference himself etc etc.

He also charged Hockey Canada for "office space" (his own premises) charging treble the going rate.... funneled broadcasting rights revenues, rink board advertising & sponsorship revenues through friends & family, skimming and or just keeping the proceeds. Really I could go on & on. Major investigations & suits filed in 91, 92 & on by former players, Eagleson goin down, Hockey Canadas' rep seriously tarnished so come 1994 the merger, a sort of cleansing & handled beautifully by Murray Costello... believe he was inducted into the HHOF in 2005.

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10-28-2013, 12:20 AM
  #35
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Districts

Quote:
Originally Posted by BadgerBruce View Post
Thanks, C58. Your insight is greatly appreciated, and your knowledge of the situation in and around Montreal helps me to get a stronger grip on the many changes in youth hockey.

I'm currently researching the role played by Murray Costello in the modern incarnation of Hockey Canada (1994 merger), particularly since he was so pivotal in the CAHA dating back to the NHL sponsorship days and then in the new "national" Hockey Canada that exists today.

I'm not so sure that the current setup, where 3500 distinct non-profit youth hockey associations exist under myriad provincial/territorial umbrella bodies, which in turn collectively create "regional federations" (eg, BC Hockey Federation, Ontario Hockey Federation) that themselves become Hockey Canada affiliates, is better than the old system.

Views?
Giving this a fair amount of time.

In the district where I grew up - inner city, in 1970 there were 30 such associations plus schools. Today there are 2 such associations in a slightly larger district due to minor urban growth into previous green space. Schools are difficult to determine since now they import or draw players from the district and outside districts. Tend to view schools as a single association even if part of a league or group since most key policies and decisions are effected at the school level.

Major difference today is that there are almost no "walk to" opportunities for youngsters to play hockey or coaches and adminitrators to do their thing.

The tentacles of what started post WWII stretches to the NHL - players, coaches, management. CIS, NCAA, coaches and players. Lost track of how many off island or out of province associations link back.

In Quebec the remote regions have a travel problem especially if there is not a school connection to hockey. Depending on specific circumstances could see the advantage of fragmenting into more association while under other circumstances consolidating into fewer.

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10-28-2013, 12:48 AM
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Hockey Canada C.A.H.A

Quote:
Originally Posted by BadgerBruce View Post
My interest in Murray Costello is largely related to his role as the primary broker of the 1994 merger that created the modern incarnation of Hockey Canada. Bob Nicholson assumed the reins of the newly-integrated governing body just a few years later, so in many respects brokering the merger was Costello's final act of enduring significance after holding the CAHA presidency for 15 consecutive years. But you folks are correct -- he did not assume a CAHA leadership role until more than a decade after the sponsorship system ended. My mistake.

The relationship between Hockey Canada and the CAHA was rocky from the start. HC had a federal mandate to "oversee" ALL hockey in Canada (indeed, both the Habs and the Maple Leafs were original HC members in '68), but no authority whatsoever as a governing body. Further, HC's mission was strictly to elevate Canada's international performance, nothing else.

Think about that within a 1968 youth hockey context. The CAHA had just spent 30 years in a financially profitable NHL sponsorship system where kids grew up wanting to sign C-cards and eventually play for the Habs or Leafs, not the Belleville Mcfarlands.

That's where Costello comes in, after about 10 years of CAHA floundering in the 70s. To me, he's a pivotal figure in the "re-missioning" of the CAHA from an NHL-centric body to an almost jingoistic "Team Canada" focused body, beginning around 1980 and culminating in the 1994 merger, where the "new" agenda became a reality.
The impact on youth hockey has been profound, to say the least.
Hockey Canada, C.A.H.A. Main experience is with Hockey Quebec. Basic issue since the seventies and before is that the various governing bodies under the C.A.H.A. or Hockey Canada, is that they are not pro-active, rather very slow to re-act.

The hockey year issue was finally resolved. Now every jurisdiction follows the calendar year. The issue of importing, now buried in the three junior entry drafts, still exists and no solution is close. The relationship with school hockey is weaker than it was in the fifties when some of the original elite organizations were formed.

Most troubling is the inability to integrate diversity. Alliance Hockey, a parallel option and off-season AAA hockey being two immediate examples.

That said, there has been a great deal of progress during the last 10 seasons especially at the elite levels and eliminating the violence. More of a Dave Branch initiative than anything.

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10-28-2013, 09:48 AM
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Basic issue since the seventies and before is that the various governing bodies under the C.A.H.A. or Hockey Canada, is that they are not pro-active, rather very slow to re-act. The relationship with school hockey is weaker than it was in the fifties when some of the original elite organizations were formed.

That pretty much nails it. The last thing I want to do is over-simplify the current situation, where just 1-in-10 Canadian boys are registered in HC-sanctioned programs.

But the easiest way to increase this number is through the creation of vibrant, school-based youth hockey programming. For context, consider that a typical 10 year old boy in a class of 20 (10 boys, 10 girls) is likely the ONLY boy playing minor hockey. He’s an anomaly, and that’s both absurd and unnecessary.

I’m convinced that school-based hockey programming would change this in a hurry, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for this to occur. Frankly, Hockey Canada is an extraordinary unique governing body for youth sport in that it is structurally and philosophically hostile to educational institutions – even “Hockey Canada Skills Academies,” which are based out of elementary and high schools, are structured in ways that almost guarantee meager participation rates. Just ask if you want to know more.

Most troubling is the inability to integrate diversity. Alliance Hockey, a parallel option and off-season AAA hockey being two immediate examples.

What I expect to see over the next 5-10 years is the emergence of a youth hockey stream similar to what has already occurred in US youth basketball, where children as young as 7 are recruited into shoe company/AAU-sponsored “elite programs” operating completely outside of traditional American roundball development systems. I’ve looked into the American youth basketball situation in some depth and will simply offer the following in relation to the near-term future of youth hockey in Canada: a) never underestimate the unbelievable reach of the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), which only recently moved back into sanctioning youth hockey on both sides of the border after a near 60 year hiatus; b) don’t discount the coast-to-coast phenomenon called “Spring Hockey” across North America, which happily thrives outside of Hockey Canada’s auspices and is an unstoppable juggernaut ; and c) expect Hockey Canada to (eventually) react strongly to the evolving youth hockey landscape, but not in ways that actually increase the organization’s registration numbers. The organization is not good at building partnerships – “integrating diversity,” as you term it, C58 – and tends to operate on a war footing whenever a real or imagined threat is identified. The national “Outlaw League” HC regulation, which would never fly under US Sherman Anti-Trust law, is but one example of HC’s sometimes inexplicable approach to stewardship.

That said, there has been a great deal of progress during the last 10 seasons especially at the elite levels and eliminating the violence. More of a Dave Branch initiative than anything.

True enough, C58. Personally, I have grown to admire the 21st century Dave Branch much more than the 1987 version, which is the one who defended the Piestany fiasco with, in retrospect, such embarrassing fervor. The man has evolved, no question, and his handling of the Michael Liambis situation (a 20 year old nearly killing a 16 year old) was close to exemplary. Further, I’ve actually met him and shared a coffee alone with him at a local Timmies a few years ago, when he was in my town as a minor hockey coach for a Whitby AAA team. He is very hard not to like, and I do find him engaging.

But Branch is also symbolic of a larger issue which is rarely talked about. The following is NOT some sort of conspiracy theory – as I said, Branch is SYMBOLIC of an issue, not “the” issue. Let me explain.

Branch was an executive vice-president in the CAHA until 1979, when he became the Commissioner of the OHL. That same year, 1979, Murray Costello assumed the reins of the CAHA. Branch became President of the CMJHL (forerunner of the CHL), the integrated QMJHL/WHL/ OHL major junior hockey body, in 1996, just two years after the merger between Hockey Canada, the CAHA, and the CMJHL. Prior to this tripartite merger, Canada’s major junior hockey leagues operated completely outside of CAHA jurisdiction.

The obvious question is “why the change of heart by the three major junior entities?”

The answer is buried in the Hockey Canada fine print: the merger of the three entitites (HC, CAHA, CMJHL) in 1994 gave the CJHL “full member partner” status within the new Hockey Canada. Everybody else is simply a Hockey Canada “affiliate.” And ever since, the CHL (as it is now named) has exerted a level of control over Hockey Canada and youth hockey that is, to my mind, frightening. This control also goes a long way to explain the “anti-education” stance of Hockey Canada over the last two decades.

A few simple examples: when the province of Ontario completely eliminated grade 13 in 2002 (the year the last cohort of students passed through a 5-year high school experience), two other interesting minor hockey developments took place, beginning with the 2002-03 season: 1), the birth years for each minor hockey series (eg, Novice, Atom, etc.) were changed so that kids were one year younger when they began the cycle; 2) the OHL draft would now be a MINOR midget draft instead of a MAJOR midget draft.

Net impact? The “lock them up early” approach, in concert with the elimination of grade 13, was a strong deterrent to Ontario youths pursuing NCAA hockey instead of major junior hockey. Today, kids are drafted into the OHL when they are finishing grade 10, and would need to finish two more years of high school before being in a position to pursue NCAA hockey. Most won’t wait that long. The Bantam draft of 14 year olds in the WHL is an even more extreme reaction to the perceived threat of NCAA (eg, school-based) hockey.

There is an almost diabolical agenda here: let’s be honest, the overwhelming majority of 16 year olds coming out of minor hockey in Ontario (or 14 year olds out west) have virtually no chance of earning spots on major junior hockey clubs. These leagues are predominantly for 18-20 year olds. But the NCAA eligibility rules are clear: spend more than 48 hours in a CHL camp, or dress for so much as one exhibition game, and you are forever ineligible to be an NCAA student-athlete in the US.

All of which means that a just-turned 16 year old Ontario kid who goes to rookie camp with the Sarnia Sting for a week in August has no viable way of pursuing education and athletics at an elite level in North America. And make no mistake about it, this is by Hockey Canada design.

Odd, given that Dave Branch attended U-Mass (Amherst) on a hockey scholarship and played NCAA hockey himself. But Hockey Canada’s near obsession with manipulating minor hockey so it is little more than a closed-shop feeder system for the CHL is undeniable.

Best that I stop here . . .

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10-28-2013, 12:08 PM
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Interesting

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Originally Posted by BadgerBruce View Post

That pretty much nails it. The last thing I want to do is over-simplify the current situation, where just 1-in-10 Canadian boys are registered in HC-sanctioned programs.

But the easiest way to increase this number is through the creation of vibrant, school-based youth hockey programming. For context, consider that a typical 10 year old boy in a class of 20 (10 boys, 10 girls) is likely the ONLY boy playing minor hockey. He’s an anomaly, and that’s both absurd and unnecessary.

I’m convinced that school-based hockey programming would change this in a hurry, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for this to occur. Frankly, Hockey Canada is an extraordinary unique governing body for youth sport in that it is structurally and philosophically hostile to educational institutions – even “Hockey Canada Skills Academies,” which are based out of elementary and high schools, are structured in ways that almost guarantee meager participation rates. Just ask if you want to know more.


What I expect to see over the next 5-10 years is the emergence of a youth hockey stream similar to what has already occurred in US youth basketball, where children as young as 7 are recruited into shoe company/AAU-sponsored “elite programs” operating completely outside of traditional American roundball development systems. I’ve looked into the American youth basketball situation in some depth and will simply offer the following in relation to the near-term future of youth hockey in Canada: a) never underestimate the unbelievable reach of the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), which only recently moved back into sanctioning youth hockey on both sides of the border after a near 60 year hiatus; b) don’t discount the coast-to-coast phenomenon called “Spring Hockey” across North America, which happily thrives outside of Hockey Canada’s auspices and is an unstoppable juggernaut ; and c) expect Hockey Canada to (eventually) react strongly to the evolving youth hockey landscape, but not in ways that actually increase the organization’s registration numbers. The organization is not good at building partnerships – “integrating diversity,” as you term it, C58 – and tends to operate on a war footing whenever a real or imagined threat is identified. The national “Outlaw League” HC regulation, which would never fly under US Sherman Anti-Trust law, is but one example of HC’s sometimes inexplicable approach to stewardship.

True enough, C58. Personally, I have grown to admire the 21st century Dave Branch much more than the 1987 version, which is the one who defended the Piestany fiasco with, in retrospect, such embarrassing fervor. The man has evolved, no question, and his handling of the Michael Liambis situation (a 20 year old nearly killing a 16 year old) was close to exemplary. Further, I’ve actually met him and shared a coffee alone with him at a local Timmies a few years ago, when he was in my town as a minor hockey coach for a Whitby AAA team. He is very hard not to like, and I do find him engaging.

But Branch is also symbolic of a larger issue which is rarely talked about. The following is NOT some sort of conspiracy theory – as I said, Branch is SYMBOLIC of an issue, not “the” issue. Let me explain.

Branch was an executive vice-president in the CAHA until 1979, when he became the Commissioner of the OHL. That same year, 1979, Murray Costello assumed the reins of the CAHA. Branch became President of the CMJHL (forerunner of the CHL), the integrated QMJHL/WHL/ OHL major junior hockey body, in 1996, just two years after the merger between Hockey Canada, the CAHA, and the CMJHL. Prior to this tripartite merger, Canada’s major junior hockey leagues operated completely outside of CAHA jurisdiction.

The obvious question is “why the change of heart by the three major junior entities?”

The answer is buried in the Hockey Canada fine print: the merger of the three entitites (HC, CAHA, CMJHL) in 1994 gave the CJHL “full member partner” status within the new Hockey Canada. Everybody else is simply a Hockey Canada “affiliate.” And ever since, the CHL (as it is now named) has exerted a level of control over Hockey Canada and youth hockey that is, to my mind, frightening. This control also goes a long way to explain the “anti-education” stance of Hockey Canada over the last two decades.

A few simple examples: when the province of Ontario completely eliminated grade 13 in 2002 (the year the last cohort of students passed through a 5-year high school experience), two other interesting minor hockey developments took place, beginning with the 2002-03 season: 1), the birth years for each minor hockey series (eg, Novice, Atom, etc.) were changed so that kids were one year younger when they began the cycle; 2) the OHL draft would now be a MINOR midget draft instead of a MAJOR midget draft.

Net impact? The “lock them up early” approach, in concert with the elimination of grade 13, was a strong deterrent to Ontario youths pursuing NCAA hockey instead of major junior hockey. Today, kids are drafted into the OHL when they are finishing grade 10, and would need to finish two more years of high school before being in a position to pursue NCAA hockey. Most won’t wait that long. The Bantam draft of 14 year olds in the WHL is an even more extreme reaction to the perceived threat of NCAA (eg, school-based) hockey.

There is an almost diabolical agenda here: let’s be honest, the overwhelming majority of 16 year olds coming out of minor hockey in Ontario (or 14 year olds out west) have virtually no chance of earning spots on major junior hockey clubs. These leagues are predominantly for 18-20 year olds. But the NCAA eligibility rules are clear: spend more than 48 hours in a CHL camp, or dress for so much as one exhibition game, and you are forever ineligible to be an NCAA student-athlete in the US.

All of which means that a just-turned 16 year old Ontario kid who goes to rookie camp with the Sarnia Sting for a week in August has no viable way of pursuing education and athletics at an elite level in North America. And make no mistake about it, this is by Hockey Canada design.

Odd, given that Dave Branch attended U-Mass (Amherst) on a hockey scholarship and played NCAA hockey himself. But Hockey Canada’s near obsession with manipulating minor hockey so it is little more than a closed-shop feeder system for the CHL is undeniable.

Best that I stop here . . .
Interesting, actually drifting into the realm of fascinating. Start with a bit of history.

In Quebec, well into the sixties, the French Catholic Schools were not coed. You had separate boys and girls schools. Depending on the size of the inner city parish the Boys elementary school would have 4 classes at each level from grade 1 - 7, capacity of 36 boys per class.School would have two rinks in the yard - a junior and a senior size plus access to city and community center rinks during school hours if necessary. Basically each grade played hockey, little NHL format or a class A Team/B Team format. Then you had grade Rep or School Select teams at levels for external competition plus kids could play outside hockey in the Park or Community Center leagues. Doing the numbers shows that a very strong majority of elementary school boys played hockey.

I went thru the coed English Protestant system. Out of a typical class of 25 stretching to 36, half boys, we had enough hockey players to form our own grade team, pestering the principal or a teacher to coach, informal games against other schools, while playing Community Center and/or Park League hockey

Basic problem was the declining birth rate. By 1971 the Montreal elementary school population was lower than 1951. Easy to see the ripple effect on hockey that has continued to this day.

Grade 11. Quebec eliminated the optional grade 12 in 1969. Few high schools offered grade 12 at that time. Fall of 1969 saw the introduction of the CEGEP program in the complete English and French systems. Two year pre university program, three year technical or vocational program leading to the work force. Basic university degree requiring three years. Upside is that high school is strictly limited to minors, no adult 18 or 19 year olds interacting with 13 or 14 year olds.

School hockey and Hockey Canada. Basic issue has always been that schools whether public or private, fall under the jurisdiction of the various provincial ministries of education. Under no circumstances will provincial ministries of education in any way finance private businesses - the CHL individual teams, nor will they accept hockey jurisdictions with no public mandate, dictating any form of policy - transfer of students from province to province, inter provincial choice of schooling is a reality. Yet kids cannot choose their hockey development path with the same freedom. Hockey Canada and umbrella organizations have to recognize this.

AAU type programs. Maybe but Quebec has some rather unique laws about advertising and promotions targeting minors. Also "branding" and how it relates or fits into an academic environment with minors. Would have to look at this nationally.

The bump back or "lock them up early" approach has certain advantages. The number of 18 year olds, skilled and NHL ready has increased in the last five years. This has produced a growth in triple letter and double letter hockey across Canada. Anytime there is such a growth there will be bumps in the road and realignment.

In Quebec you have an excellent Midget AAA league, 15, 16 year old, limited to a max of 5, 17 year olds per team. Elsewhere such players tend to the Jr A. Leagues, again playing with adult 19 and 20 year olds.

My own position is that the CHL will eventually splinter into a hybrid minor/major league. Minor 15- draft eligible 18 year olds. Major 18-post draft eligible -21/22. Necessay since within the next 10 years it is doubtful that the small communities with borderline arenas in terms of capacity can survive. Issue would be paying the Major players accordingly.

Another key issue is the development of hockey programs at the CEGEP/CIS or equivalent levels. In Quebec the CEGEP football programs regularly produce NCAA --> NFL/mainly CFL talent or CIS --> CFL talent. Main factor is the seed money to get the programs started.

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11-26-2013, 12:23 PM
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Relevant article with regards to the NHL talent pool posted today regarding the decline of Russian players in the NHL, at least partly because they can stay home in the KHL.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LadyStanley View Post
http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/11/russ...lining-in-nhl/
USA Today: Russian influence declining in NHL

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