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Author Topic: The dilution of AAA and the impact it is having on all levels of competition  (Read 7059 times)

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Before I begin, let me make it clear that this is not a knock on talented AAA players.  Parents of these skilled athletes have every right to be able to find appropriate competition for their kids, regardless of age level.  Your kids work very hard and deserve to be where they can find a good game.

With that said, something needs to be done about the absolute money grab that AAA hockey has become in our area (and probably everywhere else it's played).

When I was growing up (I am 50 now), AAA hockey served it's purpose.  If you were clearly superior to your peers and your family had the means, you could try out for one of the very few Tier 1 teams that existed at the time.  I don't remember the tryouts being cost-prohibitive nor do I recall many kids trying out. What I do recall though, was that you really had to be good to make a team since there were so few of them.  And when I say good, you clearly stuck out. Not just against your tier 2 teammates, but in your entire hockey club.  I would estimate that one kid would even be good enough to try out for AAA about every four years from each club.  Sure, there were a lot less kids playing ice hockey back then.  But I would also argue that those that did play, on average, were of higher skill (mainly due to the high expense the sport requires).

Contrast this with what we are seeing today.  Nearly every club is establishing their own AAA level team.  Why?  Well, because these clubs are mostly businesses.  Why risk losing your most skilled customers when you can keep them?  And for the same matter, why not charge all of his or her former teammates two to three times more for a few more practices and an extra tourney during oft unused Summer ice time?  But this is only the tip of the iceberg as to the problems this dilution of AAA skill creates.

By enlarge, the original AAA teams in our area are still far superior to the money grabbing clubs, except for those few clubs that have become so greedy that they actually field multiple AAA teams at the same age level (though there is clearly an 'A' and 'B' and sometimes even a third 'C' team). This is easily verified by looking at rankings and standings.  But you need not trust me.  I hear it from the parents of these new AAA teams.  They love the extra practices, the team buses, the video training and nothing more than the badge of honor of saying their kid plays AAA hockey.  But they can't stand getting blown out in tournaments and don't understand how they can do so well in league competition, but get ripped apart when they say, go up to New England.  Most blame it on bad luck.  But the truth is that these teams have no right to play in these tournaments at that level.  The tournament results are laughers.  Most of these teams hardly score a goal against real AAA competition.

This affect trickles down to every level of competition and even hurts the superior AAA teams as well.  Very little is learned during a hockey game, compared with during practice.  Absolutely nothing is learned when one team can easily mercy the other.  Yet every time a legitimate AAA team plays a money grabbing club, this mercy occurs and no one "really" wins.  Then down in AA, so many Tier 2 players are wasting their time on a money grabbing AAA club that there are about 4 competitive teams in all of AA and the rest of the games are lopsided mercy killings as AA is made up of a few AA players and the rest are really A or less skilled.  This is repeated, to a lesser degree at the A level.  The only one who wins are the greedy club owners.

Every year, this phenomenon continues.  It has gotten to the point where every level now has to travel further to find good competition since nearly everyone and their mother is wasting a heck of a lot of money in subpar AAA, travelling around like fools to end up being mercied against real Tier 1 teams. It's getting so bad that my son's team (which is incredibly reasonable to play for since they are non-profit) which has never finished out of the top 3 in AA, can't even find replacements for the players who move up to this subpar AAA.  Heck, barely anyone even showed up to the tryouts last year. This year, we had to take on a player who played B last year.

Want to know how bad AAA has gotten?  These subpar teams are afraid to play my son's AA team for fear of losing to them.  The real AAA teams will play us and we'll give them some game.  But they will rightfully always beat us.  Usually 6-3, 4-1 or the like.

So as you should be able to clearly see, I really don't have a horse in the race.  I could easily pay double or more for my kid to play on one of these subpar AAA teams, but it wouldn't get either of us anything.  And he's probably not quite good enough to crack a real tier 1 team (nor do I want to pay for it)  It was truly so much better when we traveled less and had better competition nearly every game.  Sadly, those days are long gone until USA Hockey establishes either a standard of play that each tier must be able to compete at, or develop a league with promotion/demotion built into the standings (my preferred solution).

In short, there should only be so many tier 1 teams to match the small number of tier 1 players that exist.  Everyone else is kidding themselves and draining their bank accounts simultaneously.  This is completely unnecessary and damaging the sport for all players at all levels except perhaps for the absolute novices.

It's sad.  Really.
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Reply #1:
 August 13, 2020, 04:05:51 PM
Can’t argue with anything that was stated.  In fact, this same topic/complaint has been stated many times on this site.

A perfect example is the Palmyra Black Knights located in Central PA.  Palmyra went AAA a couple of years ago resulting in nothing more than a mediocre AAA program that only attracts local kids because “true” AAA kids wouldn’t ever play there and a tier 2 program that is not even competitive.  B kids playing on AA teams = blown out games.  All because of a hockey director’s ego rather than the betterment of the kids.  But hey, if parents are willing to pay, people will always be there to take the money.
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Reply #2:
 August 13, 2020, 05:00:57 PM
Palmyra being a mid pack AAA team after two years of existence doesn’t sound bad to me, what do you expect when your building a program.  Palmyra retains players and develops teams rather than the Fire sale of teams that happens every season in Philadelphia to recruit new supposed stud players with no in-house development.  To criticize the director at Palmyra leads me to believe you have been scorned by the program or just plain do not know anything about developing players, because he’s clearly one of the best in the area.
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Reply #3:
 August 13, 2020, 05:01:04 PM
Whats even worse, is back in the day, (I'm 50 as well), the Coaches had no kids on the team, so you made the team based on skill, as opposed to nepotism and friendship.   (For the most part)

Many AAA Coaches today are there to ensure their kid is on the team, or to build up their own ego.
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Reply #4:
 August 13, 2020, 05:39:56 PM
You are right about the constant talk about AAA.  This will never be the same in all sports.  The same has occurred with any travel sports program, such as baseball, who many can easily relate that neighborhood little league has been failing as well.

You can’t fault parents who want more for their kids who have talent.  Seen it many times that talented players are losing out because other less talented on the team are not helping but hindering, this those who can get better do not.

You can’t fault parents for wanting better training and coaching they hope for in AAA.  Although as you know many are not up to par but a far step away from daddy coaching.  If you can find a better program then good luck and good find.

Those organizations that do have AAA need to do the right thing is what it comes down too I suppose.

What is the answer?  It is annoying yes I agree.  Good post!

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Reply #5:
 August 13, 2020, 06:29:45 PM
There is so much criticism of Tier I, but a better question is what's so wrong with Tier II that families are leaving to play on zero-win, AYHL American Division squads or new independent teams that have never played a game.

Tier II is the worst of all worlds. Not much cheaper than AAA when everything is factored in. Dumb evaluation rules. Kids that can make a AAA squad having to play A every other year because there are no pure teams until bantams or midgets. And nepotism? In Tier II you get to plenty of player moves that have nothing to do with skill. E.g. my son's club playing an '11 in peewee so he can play with his dad. And, of course, there is sandbagging...

After several years and tens of thousands of dollars invested in this sport, neither my kids' club or the league has ever asked for feedback. The only feedback parents can really give is to go play in another league. DVHL squads should wake up, get feedback from the players and parents on what they want, and adapt.
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Reply #6:
 August 13, 2020, 06:43:19 PM
I have to be honest, whenever I see these AAA critics come out of the woodwork I have to ask Why?

Why do you care, what people do with their money? It really highlites your own insecurities as you attempt to justify your kids talent.

My son played AA, one year of AAA, and back to AA this year.  The tier 1 team that my son played on had about 50% kids who deserved to be there and the rest were AA kids who wanted to be there and work hard trying to keep up with the better kids.
They were paying for the coaching and the competition.

So you want less tier 1 teams so that the talent in the dvhl is better at the AA and A level? So your son has better talent to play against?
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Reply #7:
 August 13, 2020, 10:01:57 PM
They were paying for the coaching and the competition.

This.  If you want to pay for better coaching and more ice, it's what you do.  Kid should be into it though.  Tier II some clubs approach the ice time of a Tier I club - but probably not the coaching quality.  It is hard to get better as an A/AA player if half of your team is playing up. 

The same issue is everywhere, so stop feeling so special, you supposed AAA parent people. 

If you feel like there are kids there that are ruining your kid's experience (but is it really about your kid?), create a AAAA where you can buy your way away from the no talent  commoners.  But lots of people have money so good luck.

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Reply #8:
 August 14, 2020, 11:56:06 AM
My kids have played Tier 2 hockey and now play Tier 1 hockey and there are many differences bw it and Tier 2. One major difference is at Tier 1 all the kids are dedicated to the team and expectations are that you will work in the offseason and make the team #1 priority. Tier 2 is not that way, many of the kids dont touch the ice until late August and have other priority sports which is perfectly fine. As for Tier 1 being weak, I disagree. In every league there will be bad teams/bad programs, but for the most part its very odd to watch a game and say that kid sucks. You will always have elite players but the gap is not that large as you would typically see at Tier 2. I have seen AA games where all you have is the better players going end to end and thats all you see. Kids develop differently and at different times, I have seen many examples of border line AAA players develop because they are playing at the higher level and are now top players.
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Reply #9:
 August 15, 2020, 09:11:58 PM
Before I begin, let me make it clear that this is not a knock on talented AAA players.  Parents of these skilled athletes have every right to be able to find appropriate competition for their kids, regardless of age level.  Your kids work very hard and deserve to be where they can find a good game.

With that said, something needs to be done about the absolute money grab that AAA hockey has become in our area (and probably everywhere else it's played).

When I was growing up (I am 50 now), AAA hockey served it's purpose.  If you were clearly superior to your peers and your family had the means, you could try out for one of the very few Tier 1 teams that existed at the time.  I don't remember the tryouts being cost-prohibitive nor do I recall many kids trying out. What I do recall though, was that you really had to be good to make a team since there were so few of them.  And when I say good, you clearly stuck out. Not just against your tier 2 teammates, but in your entire hockey club.  I would estimate that one kid would even be good enough to try out for AAA about every four years from each club.  Sure, there were a lot less kids playing ice hockey back then.  But I would also argue that those that did play, on average, were of higher skill (mainly due to the high expense the sport requires).

Contrast this with what we are seeing today.  Nearly every club is establishing their own AAA level team.  Why?  Well, because these clubs are mostly businesses.  Why risk losing your most skilled customers when you can keep them?  And for the same matter, why not charge all of his or her former teammates two to three times more for a few more practices and an extra tourney during oft unused Summer ice time?  But this is only the tip of the iceberg as to the problems this dilution of AAA skill creates.

By enlarge, the original AAA teams in our area are still far superior to the money grabbing clubs, except for those few clubs that have become so greedy that they actually field multiple AAA teams at the same age level (though there is clearly an 'A' and 'B' and sometimes even a third 'C' team). This is easily verified by looking at rankings and standings.  But you need not trust me.  I hear it from the parents of these new AAA teams.  They love the extra practices, the team buses, the video training and nothing more than the badge of honor of saying their kid plays AAA hockey.  But they can't stand getting blown out in tournaments and don't understand how they can do so well in league competition, but get ripped apart when they say, go up to New England.  Most blame it on bad luck.  But the truth is that these teams have no right to play in these tournaments at that level.  The tournament results are laughers.  Most of these teams hardly score a goal against real AAA competition.

This affect trickles down to every level of competition and even hurts the superior AAA teams as well.  Very little is learned during a hockey game, compared with during practice.  Absolutely nothing is learned when one team can easily mercy the other.  Yet every time a legitimate AAA team plays a money grabbing club, this mercy occurs and no one "really" wins.  Then down in AA, so many Tier 2 players are wasting their time on a money grabbing AAA club that there are about 4 competitive teams in all of AA and the rest of the games are lopsided mercy killings as AA is made up of a few AA players and the rest are really A or less skilled.  This is repeated, to a lesser degree at the A level.  The only one who wins are the greedy club owners.

Every year, this phenomenon continues.  It has gotten to the point where every level now has to travel further to find good competition since nearly everyone and their mother is wasting a heck of a lot of money in subpar AAA, travelling around like fools to end up being mercied against real Tier 1 teams. It's getting so bad that my son's team (which is incredibly reasonable to play for since they are non-profit) which has never finished out of the top 3 in AA, can't even find replacements for the players who move up to this subpar AAA.  Heck, barely anyone even showed up to the tryouts last year. This year, we had to take on a player who played B last year.

Want to know how bad AAA has gotten?  These subpar teams are afraid to play my son's AA team for fear of losing to them.  The real AAA teams will play us and we'll give them some game.  But they will rightfully always beat us.  Usually 6-3, 4-1 or the like.

So as you should be able to clearly see, I really don't have a horse in the race.  I could easily pay double or more for my kid to play on one of these subpar AAA teams, but it wouldn't get either of us anything.  And he's probably not quite good enough to crack a real tier 1 team (nor do I want to pay for it)  It was truly so much better when we traveled less and had better competition nearly every game.  Sadly, those days are long gone until USA Hockey establishes either a standard of play that each tier must be able to compete at, or develop a league with promotion/demotion built into the standings (my preferred solution).

In short, there should only be so many tier 1 teams to match the small number of tier 1 players that exist.  Everyone else is kidding themselves and draining their bank accounts simultaneously.  This is completely unnecessary and damaging the sport for all players at all levels except perhaps for the absolute novices.

It's sad.  Really.

Great post. Love your thoughts which I agree with 100%. I have been around the game a long time as a player, then coach, then a parent of players, coach and referee. Hockey has been around in SE Pennsylvania for well over 50 years, but developing truly skilled players has really dropped.

Yet I see more talented players coming out of Arizona, California, Texas & Florida which have never been hockey hotbeds, making USA NDTP teams, prep schools, etc. If the question is “why” the simple answer is because “they are better.”

The real question should be “how did they get so much better?” (The problem is the DVHL doesn’t ask this simple question because the president knows everything and wants no feedback or criticism.)

Even Virginia is producing some great players and the answer is simple. Lots of practice. In speaking with a parent from the Reston Raiders a few years ago, they said up through Pee Wee they practice 3 times a week and play 1 game a week. Two practices during the work week and 1 practice and 1 game on the weekend. Such an amazing idea!

Let’s be honest, parents have too much say. Lots of practice means they can’t cheer for little Johnny at a game.




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Hockey Canada Changes Names Of Age Levels To Introduce More Inclusiveness

Started by Youth Hockey InfoBoard General Youth Hockey Info

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Last post November 23, 2019, 05:52:05 PM
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