Over the years, we have discovered that the one thing, that constantly limits the potential of a player, are the decisions that he makes.
Daily, we get calls from players who request our help, and (over the years) we have seen numerous players that never reach their potential because of situations that they easily could have avoided..
In helping players, if we determine that a college program is possible (as an example), we will try to design the best path for hin to achieve that possibility.
Based on a player’s grades in school, his playing style, and his many other attributes, and knowing what specific coaches look for (and where they like to look), we generally can predict which college programs will possibly be interested.
Based on those educated guesses (on our 15+ years of experience and the hundreds of contacts that we have), we help the player make important strategic decisions.
Those decisions will include a number of important considerations, including development and exposure opportunities.
Key among our many strategic recommendations, we ask players to retain as many options as possible for the future maneuvers.
In the game of hockey, players will often unknowingly become the property of a hockey organization, as early as 15 years of age, which will often limit his future options and possibilities.
Players often give up certain rights, which could maximize their opportunities to achieve their long term goals, in the future.
These rights are expunged through written agreement, and/or through other processes which are most often silent to the player, through membership in their sport governing bodies.
For example, according to Hockey Canada, junior hockey players “once registered with a team, a player shall remain with such team until he is released” or meets other criteria provided in certain regulations.
In the United States, through written agreement, or through regulation, junior players are also placed on protected lists, and remain unless otherwise released.
“Released” does not mean that they are no longer on a protected lost. A player could have been dropped from an active roster list, and still be protected.
We have seen situations where players are restricted in their movement to preferred teams and leagues, because they have jumped at the opportunity to play junior hockey (even Tier III) at a young age, thinking it would be best for their development.
They later are not able to easily secure a release from a team, and the result is that their development is stymied, and their opportunity for exposure is derailed.
These days, with players signing up for junior teams at 16 and 17 years of age (thinking that they are doing what is best), and often not yet showing their real potential, they often (unknowingly) sign away their future opportunities.
Most often, player agreements have clauses, which limit the movement of players (sometimes for up to 5 years), without a hefty fee being negotiated, in exchange for a release.
Players often believe that they can sign a junior agreement, and move the next year to a preferred location. Often that can only happen through agreement between the two teams.
I often say, that it is “always the things that you do not know, that you do not know, that will cause the biggest grief in the game of hockey”.
To team adminisitrators, hockey is pure business.
If it is not your business, why would you think that you would be on equal footing at the negotiating table?
An Example: Player A played for a mediocre junior team last year, at the age of 17, while another player of the same age (Player B) played for his local U-18 team.
Both players have an opportunity to play for the same well-regarded Tier II junior team this season, and both are identical players. There is only one spot available, and the GM has to decide between the two players,
Player A requires a release from the junior team that he played for last year, and that can only be secured (unknown by Player A) by the new team paying a $3,000 fee to last year’s team. I say “unknown” because these transactions are always done behind the scenes, in secret, through negotiations between the respective GMs.
There is no cost to acquire Player B, because he was not signed to a junior team last year.
Which player do you think is going to be on this year’s preferred junior team?
We know of a father, of a player, who recently found himself in a similar situation, because he did not take the necessary steps to avoid placing his son in this position. He paid the team (in excess of) $20,000 to gain his son’s release.
Every year, we see players who are not given an opportunity to advance, because although two players are equal hockey players, one has “too much baggage”.
Through proper negotiation, these sorts of heartaches can be avoided.
Remember, the only time, that you are negotiating from a position of strength with a team, is before you play, or agree to play.
Treat hockey like a business, and maximize the opportunities that may be possible.
It’s not just a game..