No less than three Midget AAA families have emailed or called me this month with dilemmas. They were good dilemmas though.
These families have two teams not just inviting their son to fall camp but also trying to get him to come to camp early.
This means they want him in town, skating with the veterans and sizing him up ahead of time. (Like I say, spots start getting guaranteed in the spring.) The teams want these players.
The players, on the other hand would like to attend everybody’s camp.
It just doesn’t quite happen that way though.
What Really Happen When Your Son Is Given A Spot
When your son is truly has a shot to make a team, the coach or manager will likely be in contact with you beforehand. They’ll call you. A random territorial scout won’t send you a form letter via email. It’s a call.
They may not promise your son the world, but they will persuade him to come to camp, say the are going to give him a serious look, etc. They’ll want him in their picking pool.
(This happens more with middle-of-the-road leagues and teams. Top leagues and teams have the recruiting power to project a year or two down the road.)
That’s a good scenario to be in. However, unless your son has been affiliated with the team or signed a card before camp, you must realize he’ll probably be vying for his role in the lineup against at least one other player.
Teams also can’t guarantee everybody a spot because they never know who is going to trickle down from the from higher levels of junior, who may still get a scholarship in the summer, etc. Naturally, they want players to “push each other” for a spot. Sometimes teams can afford to do that too if they have enough legitimate players coming into camp.
On the other side of the glass, parents/players have to put their eggs in one basket and pick a camp. That’s just the beginning of the process.
If your son does well at camp, he won’t just make the team. He’ll only earn the right to survive another day in most cases.
After camp, expect your son to stick around another couple of weeks before the roster is finalized. He’ll be staying through exhibition and maybe put up in a temporary billets. Heck, I stuck around for six weeks on two separate occasions before getting sent down both times (and some poor bastards below me who thought he had subsequently ended up getting sent down).
Again, teams will be looking to see who gets sent down to them, who they may acquire in a trade, and more than anything they’ll need to see your son in some games.
I cannot stress enough that it’s a TV land myth that you show up in camp and the coach posts a final roster of the weekend’s best players Sunday afternoon. Prepare long before then and start aligning with a team early…
Caution For Parents Of 14 And 15 Year-Olds
I’ve received some disturbing letters this month.
Three 14 and 15 year old boys messaged saying they were offered spots in a Tier III junior league.
Hockey Canada and USA Hockey rules state that you can’t play in their leagues until you are 16. Now, unless these kids are Connor McJesus that’s way too young.
The teams sending the invites were in a pay-to-play leagues outside of those governing bodies.
It’s wrong on so many levels for these teams to be guaranteeing spots (even if they honor the guarantee) to kids that young.
To me, it’s clearly a grab for money.
If a kid is really good enough to play junior at 15, nearly 99 per cent of the time he is best to play in AAA or a prep school. There are a few regional exceptions to this maxim, but if pay-to-play league wants your son that young even though he has AAA options, something is up.
Moreover, if he is that good, he’ll likely have the CHL and USHL all over him. These leagues will invite him to camp, offer to sign him to an education contract or tender, and be really, really nice to you. Chances are if that happens your son is also a very high draft pick or super star though, and you’ll know that.
As always, I must reiterate that the time to get educated is BEFORE you have to make your decision. If your son is 15 that means he’s going to start getting invited to camps this season if he hasn’t already. Find out exactly what you’re getting into so you have time to steer your son toward a good team that gets scholarships and opportunities. Don’t be left scrapping for a spot after midget.
What To Look For When Making A Final Decision
If your son is one of those players who has to make a decision for this fall between two teams, you probably have one foot in each team’s muck already. Today, you likely know a lot more than when you just received a random letter in the mail a year ago. I’m going to assume you’ve pre-screened the team.
That leaves these three points as my deal breakers…
1) What’s the roster situation—this trumps everything else ten-fold, obviously. Make sure there are spots available. It’s really as simple as asking. In my experience, if you have no initial ties to the team (not drafted, no games APed, etc), they are really honest with you. If they already have a relationship with you’ll get a few rosy stories—you’re somebody they don’t want to lose because they know what you’re worth already.
2) What’s the team’s track record—you’re a smart parent so you already have checked collegecommitements.com to see what kind of scholarships the team gets, you’ve seen the coach send his players from three years ago off to Division I NCAA schools, and you also recognize the CIS scholarships are just for his former CHL players.
3) What fees are involved—you’re the one paying them, so ask how much they are and where the money is going. The CCHL charges fees but they also get their players some legit schollies to great hockey schools by marketing their players and hosting solid scouting events. Some Tier III leagues in the States beg for players to come just so the team can survive. Know that you’re getting bang for your buck and ask what your get. Then verify it.
Get the Most Frequently Downloaded Hockey Parents Resource on the Internet
Enter your name and email for the Junior Hockey Truth FREE Parents Video Series