Junior hockey leagues are constantly analyzing and lauding their abilities to move players to the next level. Obviously for Major Juniors, this means professional contracts and in the USHL, they are referencing NCAA scholarships. (This entry only references the "highest" levels of junior hockey; the pointy end of the stick). Here's the article I am discussing for this blog post:
Highlights: Executive Director of College Hockey Inc., MIke Snee uses a clever analogy involving player development and pizza. It reads something along the lines of "don't try and cook a 20 minute pizza in 10 minutes by cranking up the temperature." This concept has been the warcry of the American Development Model since its implementation, and has had a positive impact in prolonging meaningful development for players by helping them R-E-L-A-X. This is also a great message for parents who sometimes need a reminder that good things take time and to trust the process. But I didn't start writing this to stick with cliche hockey development speak.
Purpose: The primary message of this article is that junior hockey can be great HOCKEY decision for many players who are hoping to play at higher levels of the sport. What the article is really saying is that elite level players with options at their disposal should consider the USHL and NCAA college hockey because of its "longer runway" of development. As College Hockey Inc. is the marketing arm of the NCAA, this is not surprising. Promote the brand and trust OUR process for elite development.
Critique: There is not much here for the casual hockey family. Of course every kid wants to play in the USHL and to earn a college scholarship, but the majority of junior hockey players never come close to that level of success. There is not enough "pizza" to go around. Furthermore, the statistic of 95% of USHL players play at the NCAA D1 level is a sensational number, if true. I would like to see that statistic backed up with a reference, or a link to where more information can be found.
The article references the developmental benefits of playing junior hockey and also college hockey, but only briefly touches on developmental practices outside of hockey. As will always be the case, this writer will always want to more about what role junior hockey is playing in the long-term development of these athletes as they transition to the next level, whether that is to play hockey or not.
“A lot of cases, they’re living away from home for the first time, with a billet family, sometimes they’re going to a new high school, so socially, they have to adapt and meet a whole new set of friends and teammates and families.
Overall, this article provides a look at the machinery and marketing of elite-level American junior hockey (and its relationship with the NCAA). But to promote a league for how many players were moving on the NCAA is a bit misleading. Where else would the NCAA be getting its top players? The USHL has a guaranteed success rate as long as we only measure success through "NCAA opportunities". And while 95% is an impressive number to display, the top "amateur" American development league would be in big trouble if it was not biggest producer of college talent. Look beyond the numbers. Find the development. Study where it is actually occurring (vs. where they say it is occurring), and don't burn your pizza. Until next time.