When the game is not decided on ice

April 12, 2015

Hockey may be played on ice but much of what makes — or breaks — the game happens away from it.

As in the board rooms, where white-collar decisions are made.

As in the corners of the stands in cold arenas, where scouts huddle to decide a young kid’s future.

Then there is the ice itself, where practices are held and games are played.

Where the minor hockey coaches are entrusted with the development of players in their formative years.

Where the minor hockey executives can shape or bend a player’s future depending on the coaches they choose and the level of outside competition that the young kids are exposed to.

So much goes in and out of the game that players and their parents have no control over.

So much depends on being in the right place on the right team and playing for the right coach at the right time.

So much depends on money to spend — whether the parents can afford it so their kids can play and whether the fans and advertisers support a team so it can exist.

Ah, grassroots hockey.

Fun but no fun.

Good intentions that don’t end well.

Hearts that are big and hearts that are broken.

Dreams that come true but hopes that are dashed.

Pucks and politics that don’t mix.

And questions that must be asked — and answered.

Like in Sault Ste. Marie, for example.

Like, what has happened to the minor hockey system in the Soo?

It wasn’t that long ago in a given year of the Ontario Hockey League draft that it was a given that five or six players from the Soo would be selected in the top five or six rounds.

But the decline in recent time is rather troubling.

Two years ago, centre Blake Speers was the only high pick from the Soo minor hockey system, a first-round selection of the Soo Greyhounds.

Last year, centre Zack Dorval was the only high pick from the Soo minor hockey system, a second-round selection of the Kingston Frontenacs. (But the Soo can only take partial credit for Dorval, who played just one season here after moving from the northeastern Ontario town of Hearst.)

At this year’s OHL draft, which was held on Saturday, the highest a player from the Soo went was in the sixth round. Three others followed — in the eighth, ninth and 15th (and final) rounds.

What has happened to minor hockey development in the Soo?

What are we doing wrong here?

Who has the answers?

They are questions that I can’t answer.

But some people need to answer them.

Some people need to look in the hockey dictionary and study the formula for development.

Some people need to shape up before parents ship their kids out.

What you think about “When the game is not decided on ice”

  1. Good OHL example from this past weekend’s OHL draft – The London Knights drafted 3 of its own Minor Midgets, 1 is heading up to the Soo. Great article and it’s interesting to read this from my Southern Ontario location (London).

  2. Same question could be asked for Sudbury area as in 2011 the 1995 age group had 7 players drafted to 2012 (1996) having 7 as well to 2013 (1997) Having 5 to the past two years (1998 & 1999) having only 2 players drafted.

  3. Lot of factors in play. North finally woke up to Minor Midget being required at the AAA level. Scouts won’t come North as there are no longer the big tournaments like we used to have in the Soo and Sudbury. Scouts reluctant to pick a player based on 4-5 weekends of watching. Cost is driving parents away as now players need to pay to have extra training, fitness guys etc etc. Lets be proud of the fact that over the past few years we’ve put good kids in the O. Amadio, Speers, McPhail, Sicoly, Caron, and Headrick to LSSU. What about all the kids excelling in the NOJHL? I think for having 1500 kids playing in SSM we’ve done ok.

  4. Excellent Randy…to the point and so true….A good topic to cover in your next issue would be to look into what transpired two weeks ago with the GNML and the NOHA regarding ownership Team NOHA. …This group was able to convince the NOHA that they will have a better showing at the OHL CUP & GOLD CUP.
    For years BOB ALLEN was the director of operations for this program and this program was taken away when the GNML took over….
    The problem with AAA hockey and other levels is the coaching and teaching part of the game. Being part of the coaching staff this season, I had the opportunity to quiz the players in groups of three or four to determine what they worked on learned during the season with their respective teams . Needless to say ,I was shocked at some of their comments…..in closing, I could go on and on with coaching problems.
    Take care and keep up the good work.
    Larry Bedard

  5. Can you provide the data for the last time we had that many kids drafted that high? Been around a while and can’t remember 6 kids drafted in the first 6 rounds. I’d like to see what years they were.

  6. Talk about a timely item….My daughter tried out for and signed with the Colborne Hawks with the CIHL for the 2014-2015 season. She was equal with others that tried out, so the team took her as one of their 3 goalies. Her teammates considered her to be a bonifide member of the team, practicing, and playing in both their exhibition games. The coach, though, refused to give her a chance to show what she could do during league play. For anyone who followed the Hawks they know it certainly wouldn’t have hurt the team to have her play, and it could have boosted interest and helped with promoting the team and league. As it was, with the difficulties of both the Hawks and CIHL she was without a team going into 2015 so there were no scouting opportunities and her advancement was stuck in neutral. She was able to pick up some ice time with various men’s shinny but no formal league play. Hoping to play internationally at some point for Canada’s women’s teams, she focused on the Provincial Women’s League’s tryouts that were taking place this past week. She skated for one team, doing well, but was told as she was cut, that the team had pretty much already decided who their goalies were prior to the tryouts. The 2nd team she contacted said both their goalies were returning . The 3rd team had 6 goalies come out, including my daughter. Again, she was cut with the reasoning that they didn’t know her, and that they hadn’t seen her play (even though they had her profile and they could have seen fit to include her in their exhibition game roster). So, someone who can fearlessly face shots taken by Jr.A men somehow can’t be given a chance to show what she can do in a women’s hockey league exhibition game because someone isn’t already known to a coaching staff? How can anyone expect to advance, or even be noticed if this is the mindset of the those in a position to make these decisions. It may sound like sour grapes but it’s not meant to be…it’s just the frustration of having limited opportunities that become even scarcer. She’s only 17 and is very determined, but she is so discouraged that she is on the verge of giving up the sport, and position, she loves

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