We often talk about integrity as it pertains to players and coaches. Today we're going to get after the owners.
There are two types of team owners; the hobbyist that does it for the love of the game, or in many cases, for the love of his family, the other does it purely for the love of money. There are many that fall somewhere in the middle.
At the tier one level (Major Junior, USHL) we rarely see situations where owners are operating teams at or below the minimum standards for that level play. Unfortunately, that's not always the case for the rest of junior hockey.
Ironically enough, it's the owners themselves that created the standards for operations at these levels of play, but for some reason many fail to meet these standards on a regular basis. Its mind boggling, here in the United States, free-to-play team owners are complaining about pay-to-play teams from unsanctioned leagues poaching players. Yes it does happen, but it happens for a reason. Many of the lower-level teams are operating programs that deliver better amenities and exposure opportunities.
It's finally starting to sink in; teams that fail to maintain minimum standards are having a negative effect on the entire level play.
Pay-to-play teams appear to be all over the place.
Once again it is the team owners that have established the standards for this level of play. Unfortunately, those standards are geared entirely in favor of the teams. There are a ton of good operators that suffer because of the actions of the few bad apples.
Pay-to-play hockey gets a bad rap when team owners lose track of what is right and wrong. Nonrefundable player agreements should be outlawed. Teams have an opportunity to load up the rink with 50 players, take their money, and begin releasing or selling the weaker players one by one until they get down to 25, keeping a large portion of the player fee in the process.
Does that happen? Maybe not all with 50 players, but it happens. Let's not even get into the situations where the club has more than one team.
There also has to be some provision in these agreements to guarantee refunds in the event the team fails to deliver their end of the bargain.
It's my position that every league needs to take a hard look at standardizing player agreements. These agreements should include mandates that force the delivery of the minimum standards for that league. Failure to do so should result in refunds and releases. Owners that refuse to comply should be forced into dormancy for a full season. There's nothing like the threat of losing a season to motivate the delivery of the minimum standards.
Until this happens we are forced to depend on the integrity of each team owner, something that has proven to be unreliable again and again.