Junior A

Some articles hit harder than others. A few hours after publishing “QMJHL Draft Day Disappointment”

I received a message from a hockey lifer and an executive from Maritime Hockey League team. The message read.

“Nice article!”

“Would be great to see one about how Junior A can help players get to where they want to be. Batherson and others have taken the Junior A route and they can do it and stay close to home.”

“The grass is not always greener elsewhere. Take care and keep up the good work!”

First of all, it’s an honour to receive messages like this. Secondly, they are hundred percent right. Check that they are a thousand percent right. There’s a massive misconception in the hockey world especially in this region, that Junior A hockey is a demotion or an inferior brand of hockey.

Junior A hockey across the country is gaining notoriety from examples like Cale Makar or Alex Newhook, but honestly let’s be realistic not every kid playing at that level will be those two players. Not every kid that’s playing in the QMJHL will go on to star in the NHL like Thomas Chabot. Junior A hockey isn’t a demotion, it’s another option.

Clearly when people choose the alternative or go “off brand”, so to speak, the hockey world cringes.

In this neck of the woods, it’s evident that the QMJHL reigns supreme. Atlantic Canada is “Q centric.” It’s Q or bust, that’s the mindset and that’s wrong on so many levels. Like the hockey lifer explained, the “grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

The dream to play in the QMJHL is an awesome one, but many young players and their families never would consider taking a different route, those that do around these parts are shamefully criticized for doing so.

Everyone that knows the Maritime Hockey League, knows the circuit is vastly understated and underrated.

Common misconceptions about the league continue to cloud peoples judgment. Ironically, those people haven’t darkened their local community rinks to watch the league in years. Those that do understand the caliber of the league.

Obviously, a small shift in focus is required when it comes to attracting younger players to the league. Misconceptions about the MHL are usually cemented in past indiscretions revolving around the pugilistic side of the game. Everyone associated with the league realizes it needs to get younger to be more attractive, but they just can’t get there right now.

The league has a mandate that 16 year olds have to play within their home province only. If that rule was to change one would assume the league would get younger and instantly gain notoriety amongst recruiters and scouts.

Junior A hockey is an incredibly viable option that should be considered. It’s not a demotion, it’s an opportunity to play at a very high level within the region which will continue to open doors rather than having them shut abruptly.

The Maritime Hockey League and other Junior A leagues across the country are the best kept secrets around.

It’s hard to believe that a league as old as the Maritime Junior A circuit would be a secret, but it’s true.

Gone are the days of staged fights and or multiple tilts a game.

The brand of hockey that is being played in the MHL is truly remarkable and it’s only going to get better.

Many Atlantic Canadian’s wanting to keep their NCAA eligibility in tact chose to leave the region and apply their craft out west or south of the border or out west.

There’s no question the MHL is and will become a viable option for players to remain close to home and still receive the intended and much desired exposure.

Year after year, the MHL continues to develop players at a torrid pace. 

Year after year, the brand of hockey and the caliber of players within the league continue to skyrocket, but people still ignore it, still let their preconceived notions dominate their mindset and decisions.

The MHL is truly a hidden gem and will undoubtedly become a hotbed for high profile prospects and a jumping off point for the USports and the pro ranks in the years to come.

The MHL is a league on the rise and it’s finally gaining the traction and exposure it deserves.

Some articles do hit harder than others.

I received a message on Tuesday night, what was the Day 2 of the QMJHL Draft. A 2005 born player reached out wondering what their options were after going undrafted.

The dream to play in the Q was at the forefront of their concerns. Who am I to question that dream or anyone’s dream for that matter?

I sent the player my number and they called after they finished their shift at work. We spoke for about an hour. We talked about different options or different scenarios that could arise if they pursued the QMJHL route via free agency and if they chose to the Junior A route what that might look like.

A growth and developmental mindset was firmly entrenched within the player. My role in the discussion was to listen to concerns, answer a few questions, but more importantly provide examples of possible scenarios moving forward.

In my opinion conversations like that one aren’t being had enough and they aren’t being had by the people that need to have them most.

“Q centrism” continues to be top priority and that’s fine, but conversations and mindsets need to change.

The perception that Junior A hockey is an unacceptable or second tier route is not only hurting the game, it’s hurting young players and their hopes in pursuing different opportunities and avenues in the game.

Let’s change the conversation. Let’s change the mindset. Junior A hockey is extremely viable option for any player to pursue!

One comment

  1. Had a conversation with a MHL exec who echoed your call for the league to get younger. Trouble is a lot of teams don’t want to and it’s forcing those that want change to keep postponing it. NCAA scouts are not watching the league because of this and so kids that want to further their education don’t see the MHL as a good option. Midget coaches are talking to kids about the BCHL/AJHl or Ontario leagues for those looking to the NCAA route. Until the entire hockey community starts working together kids from the Maritimes will not want to stay home.


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