Should House League
Players Have The Right
To Choose Where They Play?
|Rep players have had to deal with geographical restrictions
forever. If a player wishes to transfer to a team in another jurisdiction,
he is required to get a release from his home organization. In some cases,
the home organization refuses to grant the release and parents have been
forced to either move to another city or threaten legal action.
Now the question is being put to House League Associations, especially
in small rural communities where declining registrations are impacting on
the number of hours of ice time they are allotted for practices and
The issue came to the forefront in the City of Greater Sudbury at the
beginning of the 2003-2004 hockey season.
For the previous three years, the Northern Ontario Hockey Association
passed a ruling requiring house league players to follow the same
geographical restrictions as players in elite leagues. As a result of the
closure of two arenas in the region, and declining registrations, some of
the outlying organizations are finding that there are many boys and girls
who want to play house league in the outlying communities instead of in
the core Sudbury Minor Hockey Association. Unfortunately, these players
will need releases. The problem is that no one organization can afford to
lose players at the house league level without losing ice time. Ice time
is allocated in accordance with registration totals.
In past years, all of the associations had an informal agreement to
release any house league player upon request since there was high
enrolment and players were moving across boundaries all of the time. With
the intense competition for ice time, some associations are no longer
"recruiting" one or two players to fill rosters, but rather,
trying to encourage whole teams to move. It could easily escalate into a
battle for children which includes incentives to attract much needed
players. Some of the smaller communities may have to cease operation of
certain levels due to a lack of players. These players will then hope to
be picked up by neighbouring communities, thus affecting the balance of
ice time allocation.
SHOULD HOUSE LEAGUE PLAYERS FACE RESTRICTIONS?
The question remains...should house league players face movement
restrictions at all? If a boy or girl wants to play in a particular
community at the house league level, and the association is willing to
accept his registration, then why should the player be prevented from
playing where he will enjoy his experience the most?
It is understandable that restrictions are important at the elite
level. Nevertheless, the Greater Toronto Hockey League has a pretty
liberal policy with respect to the movement of players within the
organization. At the elite level there is much more danger that rich
sponsors will come up with funds in order to have their club attain a
better image for the sponsor.
After The Whistle would like to find out what is happening in some of
the other regions of Canada, the United States and around the world.
Comments would be appreciated and will be posted for all of our readers.
After The Whistle would like to hear your comments on this issue.
COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS
|The following is a series of letters that were exchanged
between the publisher of After The Whistle and a parent from the community
of Valley East, which is located in the northern sector of the City of
Greater Sudbury in Ontario. The issues are likely common in a number of
places around the world. We would like your comments.
I am the parent of a 10 year old boy who has been playing minor
hockey within the Valley East Minor Hockey Association for the
past 5 years and I have to firstly say that I have no ill feelings
towards the coaches, assistant coaches or trainers that have been
involved in my son's teams from the start.
My problem is:
The Valley East Minor Hockey Association operates on a tiering
system that is vigourously defended by its board of directors as
they have their own ideas as to how this system should operate.
What I have observed, however, is that it would appear that this
tiering system is defended by a board of directors who,
interestingly enough, are all tier 1 (better, more advanced
players) coaches who, also incidentally, preach that the tiering
system is to allow tier 2 (less advanced/beginner players) players
to improve their skills, while I have observed kids who were not
tier 1 material on tier 1 teams because their parents are tier 1
coaches. The Valley East Minor Hockey Association also
defends its tiering system on "an extremely large
volume" of players and claim that there is no other way to
have it. The tier 2 teams, interestingly enough, were short
9 ice times for practices. How then can less experienced
players get better? No one in the Valley East Minor Hockey
Association's board of directors was ever able to give a direct
answer to that question.
They also refuse to remove the tiering system because, according
to comments made by one of the coaches during a meeting, "it
would dilute our good teams and make them less competitive".
How could he say this and at the same time, defend the tiering
system by adding "so that kids could have fun playing the
game...it's not about winning games..."? I find it
strange that this organization is trying to suck and blow at the
same time! Presently tier 1 Valley East Minor Hockey teams appear
to be having a a hard time being accepted in tournaments because
other associations feel that Valley East is "Stacking the
Deck" with high caliber players.
I had attended the Valley East Minor Hockey Association General
Annual Meeting where the removal of the tiering system was was
voted against, therefore, the tiering system shall remain for
another year. (I have theories on why and how this occurred
but that would be setting myself up a libel/slander civil
litigation suit). I understand the democratic process.
I am not in favour of this system, however, I shall respect that
My questions are:
What I have an extremely hard time with is that when a request had
been made to obtain a release in order that my son play hockey in
another township, I was told that this may not be possible because
the Valley East Minor Hockey Association wants to make sure
that it has enough players to make up enough Valley teams!
Why then, might it not be possible for my son to get a
release if there is such a supposedly "an extremely
large volume" of players?
Why then, am I stuck putting my son in an association that I feel
does not look after the best interest of my child with their elitist
system that does not assist him to progress to the best of
his abilities? (Admit it or not, there is a social stigma
attached with what team kids play with where this
transgresses into confrontations at school).
Why then, am I not, like any other customer (as I am paying
an awful lot of money to put my son in hockey!) allowed to go
somewhere else if I am not satisfied with the service I am
We are now situated in the City of Greater Sudbury that now
encompasses all of the former City of Sudbury, the former City of
Valley East, the former Town of Capreol, the former Town of Nickle
Centre, the former Town of Walden and the former Town of Rayside
Balfour. Why then it is necessary to have to obtain
releases at all?
I now understand (and I stand to be corrected) that the Valley
East Minor Hockey Association now plans on charging an
administration fee to process releases (and only when the
VEMHA season is under way. Would this, to ensure an
"extremely large volume of players" for more ice time
allocation?) without even the guarantee of a release or
reimbursement of funds in the release is not successfull.
Kids in the old City of Sudbury could play within either the
Sudbury Minor Hockey, Sports North or in Copper Cliff.
With the creation of the City of Greater Sudbury, why, once again,
are ancien geographic boundaries coming into play in some areas
and some not?
This is just House League, not the NHL!!!
|The Editor responded:
I will try to do some digging into the policies of the VEMHA
and how they are affected by the NOHA policies. When I was
involved in the system, house league players were not
"carded". I understand that they are carded now and as
such their freedom of movement is restricted by boundaries.
I am not sure if your son is a Tier I or Tier II player. I
would suspect he is a Tier I level player.
Regardless, all players pay the same registration fee and are
entitled to the same amount of ice time during the year. If some
teams raise extra money for additional practices - so be it.
Movement between associations is determined by the NOHA
policies as much as the local consitutions. Amalgamation did not
affect the NOHA boundaries. That being said, there has always been
an unwritten policy that allowed releases between communities as
long as no child was displaced by an incoming player. I wouldn't
think the problem would be encountered with getting a release FROM
Valley East. The problem may be getting permission to ENTER
another association. It doesn't appear that this is the case in
The Tier system works well as long as your priorities are on
your own system and not on tournaments. The houseleague is a
development league for the progressive teams. Unfortunately, I
have seen many houseleague coaches treat their team as if it was a
competitive team and enter upwards of six to eight tournaments per
season. That is not the purpose of houseleague.
If you continue to have problems with getting a release, find
out who your DISTRICT REP is for the NOHA and contact him.
|The writer answered:
My son is tier II and from what I can see from the V.E.M.H.A.'s ways
doing things he probably will remain tier II forever.
You are right about the same registration fee and there SHOULD be an
equal amount of ice time, however, the tier II players were short 9
time practices not counting the extra ice time bought through
fund-raising by other teams (an ingenious idea but no one from any
II teams were even told by the V.E.M.H.A. that it was possible to do
this, although many of the tier I teams had been doing it for a long
time). When this was brought up during the V.E.M.H.A. general
the tier II teams were told that this happened as an oversight,
happened before, and shouldn't have happened. It did happen
unluckily for the V.E.M.H.A., someone (the Atoms tier II convener -
appeared to be the only one who fought for fairness) actually kept
last season and was able to bring it up. The teams did receive
reimbursement, but that was not the point.
You are also right about the tiering system working IF it is being
properly. From what I and a lot of other parents have
would have appeared as if some players who could have made it into
I were bumped down to tier II because other players who were not
material found places on tier I teams because their
parents/friends/relatives were tier I coaches/assistant
coaches/trainers. The Atoms tier II players played Novice tier
Great for the Novice players who got extra ice time, but the
teams fell short on ice time again.
The tiering system does work if it is not being abused.
The removal of the tiering system was defeated during the last
V.E.M.H.A. annual general meeting. As I said, I understand the
democratic process and can respect that. If the V.E.M.H.A.,
and the hockey parents want to keep what I consider to be an elitist
system, that's up to them. I don't like that system, I want
can I not have the option of going to another minor hockey
that doesn't operate on a tiering system? Why is it that kids
in the former City of Sudbury be able to have the options of playing
either Sudbury Minor Hockey, SportsNorth or Copper Cliff Minor
and kids from the outside not?
|The Editor responded:
Make sure you attend all of the Board meetings and bring up the
time. You definitely must be given the same amount of ice time for
because the registration fee is the same. If the Board does not
commitment, then advise them that you will contact the NOHA in North
ask for an investigation.
As for the transfer issue, there is a "residency rule"
under the NOHA that
governs all "carded" players. My understanding is that
even Tier II players
are now carded (is this correct?) If so, you are really fighting a
that has been holding on to the territorial reigns for a long time.
you can do is "negotiate a deal" between the two
organizations. At the end
of the day, however, it is not really about the "hockey"
as much as it is
about your son enjoying himself. Have you ever thought about
coaching? It is
much easier to make changes when you are on the inside.
When we get into the latter part of August, contact me again and
can do a story on this for The Vision Paper. I am going to be
stories for the paper beginning in August and I think this would be
Take heart, however. My sons were all good hockey players. My
Marty was a 'AAA' Peewee player with the Lakers. They all quit
Major Peewee to focus their time on high school sports and
was the best thing they could have ever done.
Enjoy the summer. We'll see what we can do this coming year.
|The writer continued:
|Hi again, Rob!
Thanks for all the replies.
I'm sorry if I sounded like a parent who feels that his kid should
made tier I and not tier II and wouldn't have ranted and raved if my
had made tier I. I just felt my son's frustration when he was
defensive line with a kid who had never skated before (no ill
towards that kid, we all have to start somewhere and everyone has a
right to play) because my son was a stronger player and had to do
job of two players at once. What was also frustrating was that
hardly won any games (not that winning is an absolute must, but it
important). It's especially tough for the kids who were
(lower tier I - upper tier II) caliber and felt that if the
had been done by independent 3rd party evaluators, they could have
up somewhere else.
I know kids who have left the V.E.M.H.A. to play in a non-tiering
environment. What I saw were weaker kids who were forced to
with the better kids and became better players in the long run.
I'd love to coach, but I can hardly skate (that's why I never
criticized the coaching. It's a tough job in itself and I
it's a totally volunteer commitment). I did, however, very
being one of the team managers.
My wife and I attended all the board meetings. That's when we
about all the things that we felt were wrong with the tiering
We fought it and lost, but are not going to criticize it any more
none of the parents who said they were against the tiering system
showed up for the meeting to cast a vote.
I spoke with my son at the camp fire last night, he said that he
wouldn't mind staying with the V.E.M.H.A. if he had nowhere else to
even if his tryout does leave him, once again, in the tier II
because he enjoys the game and wants to play hockey. I think
more important than anything else.
Thanks for writing back to me, it was actually quite therapeutic!
Just to point out the fact the
convener wrote the schedule with the tier II with less ice was not
point out till mid Feb.
At that point I looked at both
schedules and bought extra ice to make up for the conveners
mistake. Everything was even up to one hour of ice so we gave each
team money for a year end party for the difference.
The player did get a release and
played in a neighboring hockey association. But this year the
numbers were down in peewee so we did not tier but they did not
come back .
The parents came to us at the
beginning of the season and told us there was a mistake made
on his evaluation. So the convener, another board member and
myself looked at the player a second time. The conclusion was he
was in the right place. I have had a number of parents with the
same story and we always follow up the same way. I also have had
many parents thank me after words because they were in the right
My son and a number of our boards kids played
tier II and enjoyed the
year. But I helped find that extra ice and fund raised to pay
for it. In fact I was the coach so I also found teams to play
extra games.You only get out what your willing to put into it.
I will be the first to say tiering is
not a perfect system but I truly believe it's the best. I voted
against it the first year my son was tykes because I heard it was
bad and knew nothing about it as my son just came out of tykes.
That was the closes it has ever been to be voted out. I believe 20
out of 120 people there.
Now that I know more about it I truly
believe there are many advantages.
|I couldn't find any dates on your site.
Is it still active and current?
I was looking for discussions on the "new
Also, in Saskatoon, we have re-created the tier I minor
hockey program. While we do not have a AAA division in PeeWee
or Bantam, we had a huge inbalance in the zone system
(neighborhood) version of creating teams - ie: 50% of the
games were 10 - 0. In the past 2 years, we have virtually
eliminated the blow out (ok, almost eliminated) games - less
fighting and problems on the ice, less hassle in the
stands, and we have noticed a huge improvement already in the
development of good players.
|Thank you for your comments. The site is
As for the new enforcement initiative, there haven't
been many comments coming my way. It seems as if the
expansion into minor hockey levels is discovering that
unless you put two referees on the ice, along with two
linesmen, you will never accomplish the same goals as
Your comment about the Tier system is interesting. It
is something that has been in place since the 1970's in
my own neck of the woods (Sudbury, Ontario). However, it
does depend on the numbers. If you have enough players
for at least eight teams, you can form a Tier system.
|Thanks Robert - and I enjoy the site.
The Tier System I mentioned was in response to a section on
the site about improvements to minor hockey, and development.
The Tier System has been in place as long as I can remember in
Saskatoon. What we changed may not be an issue in GTA or
some areas where kids can play for whatever team they want.
In our area, it has always been restricted residential
boundries as to what zone you played with. Each Zone had
Tiers I,II,III, with Tier I being considered AA because of the
size of the center.
What was changed was - all Bantam players in Saskatoon that
want to play Tier I come to 1 tryout format. After
skills, scrimmages, etc. the players are drafted by coaches,
much like a playoff pool at the office. What has
happened is we have virtually eliminated any blow out games,
which has almost eliminated player issues with fighting and
stupidity, as well the parents do not create a animosity as
they have friends and former teammates on the other teams.
This year, after 18 games, 3rd through 7th in a 7 team Bantam
AA league was separated by 4 points. In PeeWee AA the
difference is 1st through 5th (again 7 teams) is 6 points.
It was a very large battle within the community here, with a
lot of criticism regarding playing outside of Saskatoon and
being competitive, but for most people, all winter going to
the rink and knowing that anyone can win has made it a lot
more fun. Also, the development that the kids get in
playing in 3 -2 and 4-2 games all winter is huge. Check
the numbers of kids bantam drafted from Saskatoon per capita
vs. other centers (last year it was 13 for the WHL - 5
in first round). Also, the teams playing with this
intensity all season were very much improved, and competitive
within the province.
It was quite a battle. Keep up the good work on the
site. To check our league out go to http://www.smhacitywide.sk.ca
Saskatoon population 200,000 Sudbury
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