Hockey issues in S.S. Marie

Randy Russon
July 2, 2017

To be sure, there is a widespread notion that all is not well as it pertains to minor hockey in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

I have heard it from parents who have kids playing within the Sault Major Hockey Association and the Soo Pee Wee Hockey League.

I have heard it from business people who sponsor teams.

I have heard it from former executive board members from both associations.

I have heard it from coaches, both present and former.

Suffice to say that the number of people who I have heard it from qualifies as the aforementioned widespread notion of major issues within the local minor hockey system.

The issues range from how coaches are picked, how players are selected for certain teams, the refusal of executive members to listen to the concerns of parents and a total lack of financial transparency.

Sault Major draws the most complaints — at least in my experience — with regards to player fees that run in the neighbourhood of $7,000 per year at some levels and a subsequent lack of financial accountability.

The way I see, the financial books should be a matter of record to those who are paying for the kids to play — the parents. Not only should parents know in exact detail where their money is going and for what but they should have the right to see any and all bank statements.

To me, a refusal by any such organization to provide full financial accountability would lead me to suspect some level of misappropriation.

I have tried more than once to discuss issues with executive members from both Sault Major and Soo Pee Wee. Of numerous e-mails sent and messages left, the responses have been few and far between.

In fact, one member of Sault Major sent me an e-mail accusing me of “trying to destroy rep hockey” in Sault Ste. Marie based on some of the questions I was asking.

Really. Trying to destroy rep hockey by asking questions that parents are not getting the answers to?

I am not sure if there is a way to go about fixing what seems to be ailing the minor hockey system in Sault Ste. Marie.

I do know that there are many well-intentioned coaches and managers who are truly “in it for the kids.” The flip side though is that there are some executive members — and a few coaches — who are in it only for themselves and/or their kids.

But back to what I am told are major issues — high player fees coupled with the refusal to provide full financial disclosure.

The refusal to disclose financial statements and records is the one that really gets me.

What you think about “Hockey issues in S.S. Marie”

  1. People have to realize that flashy track suits, hoodies and vehicle window decals are not a factor in developing quality players.

  2. Makes sense Randy
    The big thing that needs to happen is to put all the players together in one organization and represent the city as the great hockey hot bed it was
    If there has to be a divide, have one organization develope the younger ages then move to the next for exposure and drafting and NCAA route what ever makes sense for each player
    The population is way too small to divide the talent then all suffer !

    Need a revival in the hockey world up there !

  3. You are right all type of leagues involving money fees should show where it is being spent. As far as the hockey for minor hockey the problems are the same every where. Its been that way for years and continues . So if you wa nt your son or daughter to play take them to the rink and enjoy the game and stay out of the politics.

    1. Great response buddy, Just sit back and let the shit happen, give your head a shake. Its attitudes and acceptance like yours that got us into this mess…

  4. Sadly….coaches whose kids dont belong coach many of these “rep” teams and form alliances with some other parents of “bubble kids” to coach OR manage these teams.” Its who ya know and who ya blow” for alot of spots. There is NOT 1 true rep team in hockey at ANY level in SSM….not sure why coaches refuse to wake up in this city and take the 15 BEST available kids at these tryouts……until that happens…SSM will rarely succeed at any elite level tourneys with the BEST in Ontario. Hoping for change…..doubtful it’ll happen. Too many logo chasers and tracksuit wearers locally…….

  5. The sad fact now a days is that in kids team sports you can not make everyone happy even if the coaches were from the moon . And it might be causing a lot of kids not to be interested in playing sports or quiting . Who knows what the remedy is ?

  6. Sadly Randy, in my opinion there are many things wrong with youth hockey in SSM. The bulk of the problems are caused by Sault Major and their executive group. Below are the big problem areas along with opportunities to improve on.

    1. Sault Major refuses to listen to their customer base. Parents have requested change with regard to the operation of the rep programs, the hockey model and the financial model for the rep programs. Parents are tired of being bullied into paying $7,000+ per player to play AAA hockey at the Bantam and above age groups. Parents are tired of seeing >$60,000 per season being spent on buses when parents follow behind in their own vehicles. The reality is the vast majority of parents want to travel with their kids to tournaments and league games. >$60,000 + is a complete mismanagement and waste of parents money. Why do you need to take buses to Sudbury and North Bay for league games? Why do you need to take buses to tournaments in Toronto and other southern Ontario locations September through November when weather is good? It’s a total waste of money. Limit your bus trips to 2 per year (2 tournaments Dec. – Feb) and save the parents approx. $48,000 ($2,800 per family). The Atom and PeeWee AAA teams can operate on $2,000 – $2,500 per family. Why can’t the Bantam teams do it?

    Change was attempted at the May 31st 2017 Annual General Meeting (SMHA). A number of constitutional changes were brought forward by board members and team staff (coaches & managers). Through discussion at the meeting it was brought out that:

    (a) All received constitutional changes were not brought forward by Sault Major at the AGM. The only constitutional changes brought forward by the Sault Major Executive were the constitutional changes they deemed appropriate. Essentially this means all constitutional changes that were received on time were reviewed and decided if worthy of consideration for the AGM. Basically prior to the AGM Annual Meeting and without the membership knowledge constitutional changes that were forwarded by the membership were reviewed and cherry picked for the AGM.

    (b) At the AGM a motion was passed for all constitutional changes to be read, discussed and voted on. This would allow all the “hidden” constitutional changes to be heard, discussed and voted on. The executive board (AB and crew) was fearful and put a subsidiary motion on the floor that would prevent all constitutional changes requests being read, discussed and voted on until the AGM in May of 2018. A subsidiary motion means “A subsidiary motion is a type of motion by which a deliberative assembly deals directly with a main motion prior to (or instead of) voting on the main motion itself”. Basically a subsidiary motion must be dealt with and voted on prior to anything else currently tabled on the floor. The subsidiary motion was passed and voted on (approved) so no further discussions were heard on constitutional change. The problem being, the number of executive members easily outnumbers the others in attendance. So as long as the executives vote together, no change will ever be implemented. It was further learned, the executive was afraid of two possible constitutional changes, the first one would give each family member of a player currently playing in Sault Major a vote at the AGM and the second change would allow constitutional changes to be carried at 50% + 1 instead of the current 75%. These changes if passed would breakdown walls of the current executive and allow input and say from the customer base (families with players in Sault Major).

    2. Current rep programs are poor programs. The coaching received must be at higher levels to develop and teach our kids. Parents see no value in the current programs. In particular the PeeWee Major AAA, Bantam Minor AAA, Bantam Major AAA programs. All have suspect coaching staffs with historically poor results. Past and current players aren’t developing. The PeeWee Major AAA team lost their top 10 players to the Soo PeeWee Select Team. The PeeWee Major AAA team will be carded AAA but play at an A level. The Bantam Minor AAA families and parents have indicated they won’t play AAA because of the hockey model, costs and sub-par coach staff. The Bantam Major AAA team have lost players to S. Ontario and frustrated players and families who feel the development and hockey model are not worth the $ demanded by the team. Many feel the coaching staff is poor and have asked for change. SSSM may not have AAA Bantam teams at the Major or Minor levels this season. A very sad situation.

    (a) Proven coaches came forward, applied and were recommended by the Sault Major’s Coaching Selection Committee. In the end, Sault Major Executives decided to disregard their own selection committee recommendations and continue with the old coaches (parents requested change – no change made).

    (b) Players are leaving our hockey community to develop elsewhere at alarming rates. No coach or hockey program has ever asked why. The attitude of we’ll do fine or better without you is sickening. Our kids are leaving because the current programs are bad. With the right coaches and development many players would stay in SSM. Have a discussion with the 2003 kids that are leaving. Have a discussion with the 2002 kids that want to leave (releases refused). See why they want to go. No parent wants there 13-15 year old son to leave home. Something is very wrong.

    (c) We have a number of hockey people in SSM who want to coach our rep programs. Some have applied; some have had discussions with the executive. Why aren’t they offered the opportunity? We’re the laughing stock of the North. A once competitive hockey town now gets embarrassed at just about every age group. Why not give these hockey people an opportunity? We can’t get much worse.

    (d) Sault Major voted to kill the AA programs at the Bantam level. This was done to force families and players to play AAA. The Bantam AA teams were operating fine; they were cost effective and developing players. Families and players were happy. Why kill a successful program? The correct decision would be to fix the problematic AAA programs. In the end, you’ve killed Midget AAA along with Jr. A hockey for years to come. You’ve not developed enough players to fill these spots. High School Hockey has become a very attractive alternative for many.

    3. Sault Major doesn’t have any idea on how to operate a Hockey Organization. They don’t have any hockey people on the board. Failing that they don’t consider input from knowledgeable hockey people and they’ve built up walls around them so people with new ideas can’t be involved (reference notes on AGM and constitutional changes).

    (a) The executive board of Sault Major is dysfunctional and incapable of making sound decisions. Many examples are listed above. Reference the decision to kill the Bantam AA programs. Reference the many requests from parents for change and the refusal to listen.

    (b) The executive at Sault Major doesn’t take direction from the president; they regularly hold meetings on their own and discuss strategy and how votes are going to be handled. Reference the above note on “subsidiary motion” from the AGM in May. Do you really think AB on the fly would be able to wave her magic wand and come up with “subsidiary motion” language and have it passed? It was planned prior, discussed and then implemented by the group. It’s shameful these people are ruining hockey for our youth in SSM.

    In the end, AAA hockey is dying. The executive team at Sault Major is responsible for it. Our kids deserve better, our hockey families deserve better.

    We need one hockey organization with accountable people in charge. Time to get rid of the “old boys club”, “the sweet little old ladies” and the “timekeepers” who are in charge now.

  7. Awesome and right on the money. I hope randy keeps digging. Where is the monies really going that were not allowed to see?

  8. One thing I can guarantee is aaa programs aren’t making money off of the parents. 5 years I went through it. Taking days unpaid from work to go away on trips. Using whatever holidays i had in the winter time to spend with YOUR kids. I’ve never been able to spend time on vacation with my family in the summer because I used up my 10 days vacation in the winter. Probably lost over thousands every winter . I’ve never complained about this either because seeing kids i coached years ago now turn into successful citizens of our comminuty is enough for me. Btw soo major makes every team summit a financial report Jan 1rst and also another one at the end of the season. The question should be asked to sault major about where the money is going. Saying that I don’t believe they would be stupid enough to try and make a profit off parents. Also maybe it’s time to look somewhere else when renting a bus. Aj bus line prices are rediculous. After Calvin most of them are just miserable and not very accommodating. Hotels have become overpriced down south. anyways great article Randy. Hope you can get to the bottom of this. One question I have always wondered is how minor programs down south afford to pay coaches full time? Some big centres don’t even have goalie coaches and parents have to pay to have one hour ice time with a coach who works with every team in the league. Talk to some parents down south. They are amazed with what the volunteers ( coaches ) in the north do for zero compensation.

  9. The answer is long overdue…….oust Matt Cavaliere . He has zero hockey knowledge , has never played the sport at any level to support the position he holds on the executive overseeing rep teams. He continues to reward rep coaching staffs with teams year after year that fleece parents wallets with a ‘laughing stock of the north’ rep program . A ridiculously overpriced product that parents continue to support which, in my opinion, resembles a Lada, the old Russian car of the 70s that was an underperforming, problem riddled, lemon.

    1. Well said Gordie,
      The problem is not what we know but how to make what we know happen…
      Change is needed top down and I think only one way to change it is for everyone to boycott the program and force Sault major exec to resign via NOHA intervention.
      The 04 and 03 AAA teams from last year have taken an approach to go AA local league. 8-10 of the 05 AAA team have left to hopefully land a better opportunity at the Peewee. 08 team didn’t even have a tryout, gone to the life of affordable hockey. A few fortunate parents are moving top kids to southern ontario or other communities again as anything less than AAA will likely set back their potential development. Sault Major we’re not drinking your Kool Aid anymore. There are discussions behind the scenes by top hockey guys in the Sault to form a Rep committee and develop a program that works. Its not brain surgery but until we dump that LADA off the Mackinaw Bridge we wont get anywhere…

  10. Gordie and Rep Hockey Dad you’re bang on. Sault Major has sat back and made bad decision after bad decision figuring parents would continue to drink their Kool Aid. Well their Kool Aid STINKS and they need a new product.

    The warning signs were there last summer with the 03’s. False promises were made by Sault Major executive and Ralph C and crew. Parents quickly realized they had been had.

    Rep hockey is a disgrace in this city, Sault Major is a disgrace and the majority of the coaching staffs in rep hockey are a disgrace (PeeWee Major AAA and above).

    NOHA why do you let this continue? You’re loosing AAA programs in SSM and loosing AAA leagues in the NOHL. The effects of this sh*t show are beginning to be felt around Northern Ontario. Time for you to step up and make change. We need accountable, qualified and good decision makers operating our local hockey programs.

    Let me remind you again:
    Major Midget AAA – good chance there’s no program
    Minor Midget AAA – good chance there’s no program
    Major Bantam AAA – no program
    Major Bantam AA – program canceled by SMHA
    Minor Bantam AAA – no program
    Minor Bantam AA – program canceled by SMHA
    PeeWee Major AAA – top 10 kids left – A level hockey at best
    PeeWee Minor AAA – weak team, AA at best
    Atom Major AA – good team and team staff
    Atom Minor AA – no team – parents wouldn’t drink the Kool Aid

    Out of the 10 Rep Programs operated by SMHA only 1 team will be competitive.

    You’ve failed our kids, you’ve failed our parents, you’ve failed our grandparents and you’ve failed the citizens of SSM who enjoy watching local AAA programs in the city.

    Shame on you SMHA, Shame on you!

  11. What can the noha do? wouldn’t they get involved if they could? how do we get these executive members out???

  12. Why are the board members staying? If this is a volunteer position And the teams are failing and the parents want them out then why are they staying? Can anybody answer this question ?why would a volunteer stay where they are not wanted?

  13. Just to clarify… Major Peewee AAA lost 2 forwards, 3 defence and a goalie from last year, not their top 10 players….. just saying.

  14. Drinkin the “RED” kool aid far too much there “crumiel”….. Anything to make you sleep at night, its gonna be a long year for the kids. My only concern is that the remaining AAA selected kids don’t suffer additional humiliation for the sake of a useless coach and 2 helicopter parents who wont let go of a pipe dream…… It is about the kids right? I call bullshit on that one… What about the top 6 kids from the AA team who were selected to go to the AAA team… That AA team group is gonna suffer now too….
    So lets do the numbers to help you with your denial/reality check…. The two top kids who left the year before for better programs, the balance who left the team 7 top players, and then how about the top AA kid who should have been there the year prior. That adds up to 10 kids….. Everyone of them crucial to maintaining the AAA level of “real world” hockey the AAA team would be playing against if they were all there….. I read this paragraph over and over again man it makes me puke!!!!!!

  15. How about being a single parent with 2 kids in hockey…. and we wonder if only the most deserving are always selected? Most can’t afford to put one child through our rep system or go bankrupt doing so. The combination of trying to keep up with those who can afford all the training for their children and those who get perks from ‘who you know’…you get the picture. My children have experienced the politics and all I can hope is that it made them stronger people! Because breaking through the wall in this city is basically impossible. So when you see parents doing their best to ‘get in’ with the ‘haves’ just be understanding as we all know that often is what it takes to afford your children any developement opportunities with the SSM hockey system and others I’m sure! I chose not to take that route but to each their own. I could never understand how these parents (knowing how their children got to where they are) could still walk around with their heads held high thinking better of themselves than others? But maybe they don’t? Instead I taught my children that whatever they achieve, they will achieve on their own and will one day (after their frustration settles) be very proud of that, which is much more gratifying. The only unanswered question that I’m really left with…. did I actually pay money to have my children abused?? Ultimately, they will know how to accept disappointment and that life isn’t always fair, and work hard for what they achieve….and maybe make great politicians some day!

  16. I am writing this reply as a hockey fan as well as a supporter of youth Minor hockey. I attended two games today. At the Pee Wee Major AAA level. I had to see if all the complaints about this team and coaching staff were what people have been saying or was it just sour grapes.

    To say the least the staff was out coached, there are a number of players on the team that do not belong and it shows. There is no way they can honestly consider this team a AAA team, the main kids are missing and it really shows.

    I just hope Soo Major has had it’s eyes opened now with this HUGE mistake they made. It is only gonna get worse as they start to move to play teams down South.

    In closing hope you make a change and good luck to those boys, hold your heads up.

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