Jr. A player fees maxed out

HockeyNewsNorth.com Staff
February 1, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following guest column by Kevin Cain of Cain Hockey Management represents the views of the author and not necessarily those of Hockey News North.

Junior A hockey in Ontario is at a crossroad.

The pay to play model that has propped up teams financially over the last number of years is becoming a problem.

The majority of teams and leagues in Ontario charge some sort of player fees which can run up to $5,000 to $7,000 per year per player. Thus, a player who plays three years of junior could pay $15,000 to $20,000 over that time.

Despite the fact that expenses to operate a junior hockey franchise go up, I believe player fees are maxed out. And I don’t believe there is a market for player fees to continue to rise to meet expenses.

While there are a few teams that can afford to operate without player fees, the great majority need them to just to survive.

To be sure, there are really only two business models in Ontario running junior hockey franchises.

There is the privately owned franchise that is owned by a single owner or group of owners. This situation is the least stable of the two but ownership may be willing to operate at a loss for two reasons. One is it’s a smaller community, a source of pride for the community and an opportunity for players to play closer to home.

Then there is the dad who buys a team to ensure his son has a place to play where dad-owner controls the narrative of his son’s junior career, regardless of the costs and losses. It is the least stable because when the son graduates, the dad looks to sell the franchise to the next rich father with an up and coming player. This example is the majority, much more prevalent than people think, especially in the Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

The big issue now is Ontario is the only province with real pay to play in junior A. Even community based junior B teams in the Greater Ontario Jr. Hockey League don’t charge anything over the league player fee of approximately $1,000. This may be one of the big reasons the OJHL has been unwilling to grant junior A status to any of the junior B franchises.

For certain, there are some very successful private operators, especially in the Central Canada Hockey League, an example being Jason Clarke of the Carleton Place Canadians.

Look for a reduction in junior A teams over the next 10 years. Although there are always going to be dad-owners, financially, the numbers will start to make less and less sense.

Only community owned teams have a chance to grow as they are a quality of life asset to the community and a large purchaser of ice from the city owned local arena.

If leagues don’t start to look ahead and trim league budgets, they will make it impossible for league teams to grow. And the days of free spending, high salary league executives are coming to an end.

I hope I’m wrong but with teams maxing out on very expensive player fees, rising costs and over spending leagues, I believe the only question will be how many teams in Ontario will be lost.

— Kevin Cain, president/advisor, Cain Hockey Management

What you think about “Jr. A player fees maxed out”

  1. Its to bad the reality of playing hockey . Right from tom thumb to old timers hockey is expensive . For different leagues and cost of the equipment for players. No more 98 cent hockey sticks lol.

  2. Pretty bang on Kevin. Don’t forget the cost absorbed by sticks and equipment by parents. A big problem for all opperators even community owned, who still have to answer to taxpayers is the bussing costs and league fees in the north. The noha nojhl charges almost 1700$ for league and showcase fees yet it’s common knowledge the league has hundreds of thousands in surplus funds add to that a rumour that may or may not be true that the commisioner is paid 80,000$. Surely these fees can be lowered. Also a team owner told me recently that a 1 hr bus trip to and from a game is $1500 through the bus company they are forced to use for his territory. As for the showcase I’ve been told it has profited Thousands in the last 3 years. Yet as a parent I haven’t seen a refund in the years my son has played in the league showcase. Its nice the gate fees we parents paid to attend go to charity, but shouldn’t we have a say. It’s our $ being paid to run it!!!Seems a likely silution is to put these questions to the heads of the nojhl.

  3. It took some time but this scenario looks and sounds all too familiar. Ie. Midget AAA hockey in Northern Ontario. Back 15/20 years ago,players opted to play junior , even if was detrimental to their development, as these fees did not exist at the junior level. Midget AAA hockey cost the parents some coin, thus became less and less of an option due to the costs. Well like the old saying goes..what goes around comes around…sad……

  4. Where are all the Volunteer’s? You guy’s are paying Commisoneer’s to do work of the Volunteer’s? 80 grand a year say it ain’t so …

  5. “Paying to play” goes a lot deeper than Junior A and AAA Midget leagues. Just ask any parent who has a child playing on a AAA novice, peewee, bantam or minor-midget team. $1K-$5K registration fees seem to be the norm in today’s hockey world.
    We’ve all heard stories about families mortgaging their homes, borrowing money and going into debt, just to keep their sons(s) in the game.
    Unfortunately, hockey has become a sport for the rich!

  6. …owners charge to watch my son make money for his/their team I cannot get around that..never paid jr fees..never would..

  7. After reading this article, I was thinking about players fees and how the NOJHL operates. It is my understanding that the NOJHL is a “non-profit” entity. If this is so, do the owners get a budget showing the profits vs expenses for the league?
    The reason I ask this is that it is my understanding that non-profit organizations should have a minimal balance at the end of every year. If this is true, and the league turns a profit, these profits should be turned back over to the ownership of teams, who in turn would return these profits in the form of players rebates helping lower the cost of playing.

    I think it is Robert Mazzucca’s responsibility as a paid employee of the league to perform a yearly audit of the league’s finances, showing his salary, all NOJHL employee salaries, revenue, expenses, and forward a copy of the audit to league teams. I see an NOJHL marked truck driving around the city, who pays for that, the players fees?

    If the “commissioner” is not willing to open up the books and start explaining where the league spends its money, then what is not being told or what is being hidden? Every team produces a budget, does the league do the same for ownership?

    Until there is transparency in the ivory tower, I do not see the players fees ever being reduced.

  8. So the bottom line is that club owners get paid by their players, have complete control over players’ hockey futures and can make money selling them to other teams (calling the sales proceeds ‘transfer fees”). They can draft players as trade bait with no intention of ever playing them, and destroy their players’ futures by refusing to release or trade them. I sure wish I had a business where my employees paid to work for me and had absolutely no rights. The situation is even worse in the CCHL, which drafts at the major bantam level. I’ve always found it incredible that the current slave model of hockey is even legal (maybe it isn’t, but parents are just too chickenshit to challenge it).

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