Politics will be the only thing holding back the success of U-16 programs.
Some people don’t believe in the U-16 level, because they honestly feel there’s no talent there.
They clearly don’t understand the process or progression of development.
Politics in the game of hockey is no big surprise it’s been around since they dropped the puck, but there are still those within the game that feel it’s an inferior brand of hockey and that it doesn’t matter what happens down there that a player’s resume means everything.
You see where you played last year still means something. “They” or the powers that be can say it doesn’t matter, but it does and that’s the difference maker right now. That thinking will sink the league if “Major” programs don’t support or consider U-16 programs as legitimate and worthwhile options for development.
U-18 and U-16 programs must work together, but more importantly U-18 programs can’t hide anymore behind the promises of affiliation and not honour it.
That’s exactly why “Minor Midget” programs haven’t made any headway in the past, because the old guard subtly froze them out.
Isn’t funny how the old guard feel threatened by anything new, anything that might upset the structure, history or tradition of a program.
You see that’s the political aspect of the game that some call the business side of the game.
“Oh that level, they aren’t good enough.”
“It’s not worth my while to go take a look there.”
It’s really unfortunate that the only thing stopping the progression of the league or level are potentially the team’s that could benefit the most from the level.
Just think about that for a second and let that sink in.
If U-18 sign affiliates from U-16 then they better damn well use them if needed, not dig into the Bantam AAA level like they have for years because some believe it’s a sure thing or that it’s their true pipeline.
You see that’s the political jockeying that will ruin the progress of the league and players and families believe in it.
If you think the U-18 level is difficult to convince, try hockey’s bureaucracy or the next level.
“Minor Midget” or “Midget Espoir” is just that Minor.
Some would argue it’s a “Major” inconvenience because it impacts scouting resources.
The idea of the late-bloomer or trusting in the process or earning your spot or getting drafted at 16 is so rare that some scouts or organizations refuse to consider it and when a 16 does get drafted, they often say things like;
“Oh that’s great to see, that they took a 16.”
“I doubt they make it, but it’s great to see.”
You can look at all the analytics and draft ratios with regards to 16’s getting drafted and playing in the QMJHL or beyond, I think everyone would think it’s a massive long shot, but when it boils right down to it, it’s all about opportunity.
A very wise hockey lifer said it best; “Craig, it’s one year, who knows where they will go from there.”
It’s all about the door being opened rather than being constantly slammed shut.
Hockey’s bureaucracy that wants the creme de la creme, might not have room or the patience to deal with late-bloomers, but boy do they ever tell those stories of perseverance and persistence once the player makes it and proves people right or wrong.
The only thing that can stop hockey’s bureaucracy from holding back these players progress is if the individual teams and scouts actually pay attention and truly invest the time projecting the talent that’s ever present.
If the player isn’t ready, then the player isn’t ready, but at least you had eyes on their progress.
Obviously, the big catch phrase around the hockey world is player development, but you have to also believe in the opportunity and exposure factor.
Clearly this doesn’t paint the best picture, but there’s still hope, there’s always hope when you trust the process, have quality coaching and above all talented players developing.
If all those aspects are firmly entrenched at the U-16 level you will have all the opportunity and exposure that is required free of political bias or hockey’s bull shit.
What is the purpose of U-16 programs?
So why aren’t more people paying attention and taking notice?
Well it would be just a matter of time if those that still believe or follow the political side of the game would just get the hell out of the way.
Always beware of the politics surrounding any change of philosophy within the game of hockey because it will threaten “some” institutions or programs and their hockey bureaucrats will do anything to stop it.
Player development does matter, it’s always mattered, but some how the political side of the game has always had a way of stifling it.