Hockey has truly become an international game. It didn’t happen overnight. The process has been gradual since the Canada Cup in 1972 brought it to our attention that there were teams outside North America that were for real.
Fast forward almost fifty years to 2021 and we see players from all over the world pursuing their hockey dreams. More specifically the hockey footprint map for North America touches all four corners of our continent. From California to Alaska, Newfoundland to Florida and all places in between. Hockey touches lives.
With the tremendous growth in the USA young players need to be aware that options are available. In many cases wonderful opportunities are available outside their specific areas, states and provinces in the USA and Canada. The education process of hockey opportunities continues to be a challenging one. People in the hockey markets where growth is apparent want to keep young aspiring players tied to the local programs. It has become such a business that the revenues matter. Yes, revenues from families and young players that are required to pay the bill so their son or daughter can play at the next level. People are not aware of viable, excellent options that are sometimes available somewhere other than home. It is important to weigh the options. Discovering those options can be challenging.
Just a thought. Imagine standing on the USA bank of the infamous Detroit River and seeing another country on the other side that may have wonderful opportunity at an affordable price. The reverse has become reality today, Canadians going to play in the USA. I challenge the thought process that an aspiring young hockey player can draw his own conclusions perhaps with the guidance of his parents, family and people that support him. The young player, looking across the Detroit River from the USA to Canada has many quality hockey teams participating in quality hockey leagues in established leagues that have great history to consider. Canada has a rich tradition of opportunity for players to progress to the next level. The GOJHL in south-western Ontario provides 26 teams at a high level of competition with an established record of pushing players to the next level. By the same token the Canadian player can stand on his own soil and look over the same Detroit river and opportunities are possible in the United States. The USHL and the NAHL are two premier leagues that afford opportunity. The NA3HL and the USPHL have numerous teams that continue to attract players from all over the world.
Unfortunately, young players and their parents get mesmerized by the designation of the league. Trust me the end of the day scouts and coaches do not care what league a quality prospect plays in. I would agree that the better the league, the better the competition. Scouts and coaches can find the “diamonds in the rough” no matter where the player is. Sometimes the process may be a little more involved but good scouts find good players. Development of the player should be the priority. You must play to get better. Being a scratch or playing a few shifts a game make getting better a difficult endeavour.
Foreign players, individuals from outside North America can play on USA junior teams and pursue their dreams, however the opportunities are regulated. In many cases teams are permitted foreign players on their rosters under specific guidelines. In some cases, there are exceptions given certain criteria. The USHL and NAHL appear progressive with latitude for minimal players from outside the USA. The
addition of players from outside the USA continues to be a topic of discussion and progress continues to be made. Accurate, information being relayed to the hockey population is minimal at best. Obtaining advice or direction from qualified, knowledgeable individuals helps players and their families make informed decisions to navigate the junior hockey world. Countries continue to protect playing positions for teams in leagues and continues to be a priority for Federations. As they should protect their homegrown products for the purpose of development it is well known that good players no matter where they are from can raise the level of play and development of teams and leagues. A delicate issue for sure, one to continue to be monitored and reviewed.
Interestingly Canadian Junior Hockey at various levels appears to open the arms for the US born hockey player. The BCHL and the CCHL continue to be premier leagues creating opportunity. I believe it is a truly international game now. Who cares where a player was born, where he resides or what passport he has, if he can play and contribute consideration should be available.
The key for Canadian and USA hockey players that aspire to play junior hockey, to pursue their academics and hockey or the professional ranks is awareness. Education about the process needs to continue to grow. Many young players and their parents need to be aware of junior hockey in North America and the opportunities it has provided to players to move on to NCAA and professional hockey opportunities. I have heard many concerned parents indicate that it took them until their third son going through the process to really understand how the process works. That it is a confusing process to make important decisions in a short amount of time. Information and guidance to assist in the process to help families understand opportunities for their sons / daughters is a valuable tool.
This article may contain advice, opinions and statements from the writer and the information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the opinion of the author, David Cole of RRi Sports Advisors International dba the RRi Hockey Agency and not necessarily the views of the RRi Sports Advisors International dba the RRi Hockey Agency. The article does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement, or other information provided in the article, or from any other member of RRi Sports Advisors International dba the RRi Hockey Agency.
This document may contain confidential information that is legally protected. This information is intended only for the use of the individual(s) or entity named above. You are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying, distribution or action taken in reliance on the contents of these documents is strictly prohibited.