Mission Statement: Let’s keep hockey pure and put our egos, agendas aside
OK, folks, this time of year always brings this topic to the forefront for me, as I start to take a look at our tier teams and how they are match up in our state’s quest to get our second national championship ever.
First of all, I continue to hope and push that this is the actual goal for our hockey community. It is as much about achieving the goal as it is keeping in perspective that this game is still truly a team sport. I have always said that team success, as the priority, will translate into not only individual opportunity, but more importantly, keep the lessons and all the tools that a proper team first approach can teach our young players skills to be successful human beings.
I still see so much focus on individual promotion, improper labeling to appease egos, and a lack of emphasis on team goals.
To illustrate my point, I would like to use our 16U level as my example.
We currently have four AAA 16U teams (two 15U, two 16U), seven 16U AA and a handful of A teams in our state. With 70-80 players at a AAA label, what we are doing is thinning out our talent pool from the very top and the trickle-down effect is a watered-down AAA product, a thinned-out AA talent pool, and a handful of players who want travel experience rather than just the high school experience.
I have a few suggestions to help reset this effect and refocus our priorities on our state and team success:
- A unified AAA program, where we might have 20 kids who are truly at this level.
- A renewed focus on AA and our state’s realistic opportunity to really make a push nationally as we deepen this pool of talent to compete with stronger, unified states who are realistic about where their kids truly are. We used to have deeper, stronger teams who took pride at this level – that needs to be a focus again.
- Refereeing needs to have a more consistent approach across the Valley so our teams can have a unified standard that mirrors national standards so our kids have a consistent mentality to each game.
- I am focused on an older level, but the mindset needs to change at younger levels and labeling. We can’t have AAA Squirt teams that are playing at the same level as A-B teams. The state needs to step in and stop this mindset and propaganda early so folks can start to refocus less on letters and more on the actual team play and level.
I also think a few good steps have been made with our in-town league, for example. It is far from perfect, but it is helping folks see a little more proper perspective when A teams are beating AA and AAA labeled teams by the organization. The reality labels are more for marketing and less about the actual team level.
I also see a best-of-three at the AA level – a great step by the state as an effort to get the best and most consistent team to represent our state at these national events. The key to any success is a deeper, more consistent team that can put together 15 periods of hockey in a four-day span. If you aren’t at that level, you will eventually be exposed by this much hockey.
I hope organizations will refocus on how team success is, in reality, the sacrificing of egos and personal agendas for a common goal. That has been the essence of this great sport and with that as our guiding light. With that look in the mirror and refocus, things will start to get back to where they need to be if folks are truly honest and pure to this great game.
Jeremy Goltz is the director of hockey operations for Mission Arizona.