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What do you think hockey in the Burgh would be like without PPE?


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I don't know how many on this board go back multiple decades in PGH hockey to be able discuss this one. For those that remember\experienced the evolution of PGH hockey from the 70's, 80's, 90's, and 00's........ Royal Travelers, Am Pens, Hornets, etc.....

What course do you think hockey in the area would have taken if PPE never came into existence and forced a hostile takeover of the Hornets? 

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On 6/19/2021 at 2:32 AM, GrumpyOldPucker said:

I don't know how many on this board go back multiple decades in PGH hockey to be able discuss this one. For those that remember\experienced the evolution of PGH hockey from the 70's, 80's, 90's, and 00's........ Royal Travelers, Am Pens, Hornets, etc.....

What course do you think hockey in the area would have taken if PPE never came into existence and forced a hostile takeover of the Hornets? 

The same. What happened in Pittsburgh with the sale of 'elite' status to parents happened all over with youth sports. It would have come in some form or another.

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1 hour ago, Saucey said:

The same. What happened in Pittsburgh with the sale of 'elite' status to parents happened all over with youth sports. It would have come in some form or another.

Agree with Saucy here.  It's in all sports. 

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So, let's look at this from the point of view of their description of themselves as best players, best coaches and best facility and how this has played out. 

The 2006 players were the first group to come out of 8U and into the 2 team model at PPE. So, in year 1 there would have been 30 skaters and 4 goalies that had the benefit of "the best of the best". I think what remains is 1 goalie and 3 skaters (maybe 4), so the question is what happened? If they had all the best players being coached by the best coaches in the best facility for 6 seasons in the prime development years, why did so many of those players not develop to the point of a higher retention rate?

 

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57 minutes ago, sadday4hockey said:

So, let's look at this from the point of view of their description of themselves as best players, best coaches and best facility and how this has played out. 

The 2006 players were the first group to come out of 8U and into the 2 team model at PPE. So, in year 1 there would have been 30 skaters and 4 goalies that had the benefit of "the best of the best". I think what remains is 1 goalie and 3 skaters (maybe 4), so the question is what happened? If they had all the best players being coached by the best coaches in the best facility for 6 seasons in the prime development years, why did so many of those players not develop to the point of a higher retention rate?

 

Great analysis and question that should be asked by every parent who is considering PPE when their kids are 8 years old. Who is going to hold the PPE's feet to the fire. 

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Once you hit midget years, they started recruiting out of state. With Excel, that gives the ability to do it at a younger age. The elite come from all over the world, not just Western Pa. It's not like it is unique to the Pens. 

As to the development...come on. I get being bitter if that was the sales pitch, but that is all of these freaking programs. A superstar at ten isn't necessarily a super star at 16. And no matter how much money you throw at a kid, if he isn't a natural athlete to begin with, big and internally motivated, he or she is not likely to become elite.

And it doesn't matter how much all of this is pointed out to a parent. They will sign their kid up. And then go down the line to the any other team with the extra A till they land somewhere, no matter the quality of the program.

The best chance to go anywhere in hockey is not to play around here, anyway. It is getting better, but easier to break in if you go to a bigger hockey market. If you don't stick out there, then you can bring the child back.

I think it was better when no one called the mites elite. I would rather see a community based system until midgets. Play at the rink closest to you and then be recruited.

18 minutes ago, hockeyisgreat said:

Great analysis and question that should be asked by every parent who is considering PPE when their kids are 8 years old. Who is going to hold the PPE's feet to the fire. 

Or any other program. It's not like PPE has cornered the market around here on this kind of thing.

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I firmly believe that girls' hockey would be much more robust in the area without PPE. My complete list of reasons for thinking this are too complicated for me to type out while at work, but there are many here who probably know what I am thinking about.  Short version, to start, is that girls get tempted by the 'Elite' programs when they are young, and those programs take everyone, because that's how they help pay for the older players. Over time, those girls tend to lose any affiliation with organizations they started with, all the time thinking (because most of their parents are relatively naïve, not being hockey people themselves) that their girls are really elite-class players who got in on the ground floor.

And then, as @Sauceynoted above, they reach an age where the elite organizations aren't taking everyone, and on top of that the local girls are now competing with players from all over. And when they don't make a team at the elite organization, some of them don't really have any idea where to go to continue, because so few of the local organizations have girls teams at any ages, much less the older ages, despite that 14U and older girls teams should be prevalent because of the start of body checking, and because - let's face it - PAHL girls hockey is noncompetitive. Many organizations have several coed teams at each of the age levels, but can only spare ice time for one or two girls teams for all ages combined. There aren't any single-sheet buildings supporting more than two girls teams and many of the more significant organizations in the city don't have a single girls team.

I understand the allure of the elite organizations, and the drive to compete at a high level that draws the players to them, and entices the parents to buy in. But I firmly believe that the way that these organizations tend to operate is damaging to girls hockey in the long-term.

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1 hour ago, Saucey said:

The best chance to go anywhere in hockey is not to play around here, anyway. It is getting better, but easier to break in if you go to a bigger hockey market. If you don't stick out there, then you can bring the child back.

This is a pretty crappy mentality to have in my opinion. 

1 hour ago, Saucey said:

I think it was better when no one called the mites elite. I would rather see a community based system until midgets. Play at the rink closest to you and then be recruited.

This would be ideal if all the local organizations had coaches who knew what they were doing and not just some kid's dads who never played hockey growing up. Not to mention the lack of ice time because they have 5 squirt teams and 4 peewee etc etc...

 

I personally would rather drive 45 minutes to my kids practice where the coaches are challenging them and putting them in situations to develop and get a full 50 minute skate in rather than have a program in my backyard where Bill the insurance salesman that played baseball in high school who only got into hockey in 2009 when the Pens won the cup is running practice and the drills are terrible and the kids aren't developing and half the practice is the coaches setting up the drills. But hey, that style may be what some parents and kids want. Will be pretty hard to recruit a kid to a higher level who has had years and years of that type of "development".

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58 minutes ago, sadday4hockey said:

Shouldn't they be held to a higher standard than the pop-ups like Icemen and SHAHA and Appalachian Elite?

Why? Don't they all promise the same thing for extra money?

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1 hour ago, Saucey said:

Once you hit midget years, they started recruiting out of state. With Excel, that gives the ability to do it at a younger age. The elite come from all over the world, not just Western Pa. It's not like it is unique to the Pens. 

As to the development...come on. I get being bitter if that was the sales pitch, but that is all of these freaking programs. A superstar at ten isn't necessarily a super star at 16. And no matter how much money you throw at a kid, if he isn't a natural athlete to begin with, big and internally motivated, he or she is not likely to become elite.

And it doesn't matter how much all of this is pointed out to a parent. They will sign their kid up. And then go down the line to the any other team with the extra A till they land somewhere, no matter the quality of the program.

So I don't understand what you are saying.  Are you saying that the only answer is to move to a hockey hotbed with a 10 year old if he is a natural athlete to begin with? How do you know at 10 if they will have the drive at 16?   How do they have a better chance to develop?  Maybe you are saying to let them play where ever and if they are good enough at 16 tryout for PPE.  Up until then its just a waste of Money?  All very interesting!  I sure don't have an answer. I do know that being a natural is not enough without the internal motivation.

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4 minutes ago, hockeyisgreat said:

So I don't understand what you are saying.  Are you saying that the only answer is to move to a hockey hotbed with a 10 year old if he is a natural athlete to begin with? How do you know at 10 if they will have the drive at 16?   How do they have a better chance to develop?  Maybe you are saying to let them play where ever and if they are good enough at 16 tryout for PPE.  Up until then its just a waste of Money?  All very interesting!  I sure don't have an answer. I do know that being a natural is not enough without the internal motivation.

Oh ya, I'm all about identifying the ten year old NHLer. 😅

Lol. Play local when young. Play where you feel they will develop, which is getting harder as programs put all their resources in top teams these days. Everyone says dad coaches stink and PPE doesn't develop, so I don't know where to tell you. Not around here, right? I  am being a little sarcastic but there is also a lot of truth in taking your kid elsewhere if you truly think your kid has what it takes. Go ahead and mortgage your house and future for their all star career.

Elite programs were not labeled elite (and technically still aren't until they can compete for a national title) until recently. They hit 14, then think about talking to someone who knows about advancing about what to do. Billeting out of state. And it may be a crap attitude, but the fact of the matter is that Mid Am, not just Western Pa,  puts up about one or two kids on the USA U16 every year. So maybe one Pens kid. Think about that. Go look at the past USA rosters. 

Even the people that I know who 'made it' ...played college D1, etc....they aren't making much money now or are doing very little with hockey. They are really good hockey players.

So what is the point of this rat race people insist on jumping on? Make sure they do well in school. Keep hockey focused on fun over elite. Give them something that will provide joy, comraderie and exercise the rest of their life. Compete and work, yes. But stop the mad chasing of the dream. And the bad mouthing and the back stabbing. People are so rotten in the name of their kid...and then for most...it's over at age 16. Most exit playing travel hockey entirely.

Is it all worth it for that?

You want to advance...Go to a legit prep school. Get on and play with the top teams in Michigan. Billet your teenager. They hang there, you have a chance. If top programs aren't looking at your kid..... yeah, hang it up. Because what I see people doing in the name of whatever is just insane.

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Your last paragraph says it all.   If top programs aren't looking at your kid.......yeah, hang it up.   What if your kid wants the dream more than you and is willing to work for it but just isn't quite good enough or big enough to stand out. Toughest part is to tell the kid that wants it he will never be good enough.  I say let him keep trying and let him come to his own conclusion. At least he will know he did all he could.  I would never discourage a kid from pursuing his dream.  But then again I am not going to spend 10's of thousands of dollars just for him to be told he's not good enough. Tough Tough decisions.

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44 minutes ago, hockeyisgreat said:

So I don't understand what you are saying.  Are you saying that the only answer is to move to a hockey hotbed with a 10 year old if he is a natural athlete to begin with? How do you know at 10 if they will have the drive at 16?   How do they have a better chance to develop?  Maybe you are saying to let them play where ever and if they are good enough at 16 tryout for PPE.  Up until then its just a waste of Money?  All very interesting!  I sure don't have an answer. I do know that being a natural is not enough without the internal motivation.

There are lots of kids that may be "athletic" at 10.  The ones on the "elite" teams at that age are usually there because they developed sooner than the other 10 year olds.  Moving to a hockey hotbed is not going to change that.

If you asked me to choose which 10 year old is going to be the better athlete at 18, I'm looking at the parents.  Did they play sports in college?  Did they play any sport at a high level?  Are they athletic?  I'll be right more often than looking at are they on the 10 year old elite team.

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4 minutes ago, hockeyisgreat said:

Your last paragraph says it all.   If top programs aren't looking at your kid.......yeah, hang it up.   What if your kid wants the dream more than you and is willing to work for it but just isn't quite good enough or big enough to stand out. Toughest part is to tell the kid that wants it he will never be good enough.  I say let him keep trying and let him come to his own conclusion. At least he will know he did all he could.  I would never discourage a kid from pursuing his dream.  But then again I am not going to spend 10's of thousands of dollars just for him to be told he's not good enough. Tough Tough decisions.

A lot of them do figure it out on their own. At age 16. And quit the grind of travel hockey. When they look at my hockey rankings and figure out what their parents were blind to.

I've never suggested to my kid to quit dreaming. But I have told him what he would need to do to get there and waited to see what he would do. I mean, I keep hearing this...I don't want to kill my kids dream....I don't even understand that. Don't they all say they want to be rock stars or what ever when they are in kindergarten? Does that mean that we as parents are obligated to fund that, regardless of talent and if it is a realistic goal? 

I think my income must be in a much lower bracket than most of the people posting here. 😅

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A huge part that gets overlooked:

It's easy to "want" something. You can learn skills if you are athletic (you don't need the genetics of Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin- just some solid athleticism) and work hard. 

There are two missing variables:

1) How much funds do you have to pursue this? I wonder how many future Crosby's never even tried hockey because of just this factor? 

2) How dedicated to working hard is the kid? How dedicated is the kid to spending nearly every free hour on hockey? Missing vacations, not spending time with non-hockey friends, not running around with a girlfriend or boyfriend on the evenings after school or weekends? Driving to the rink that has the best coaching, which might be an hour and a half away, versus the rink 20 minutes away? Can the player/parents work the schedule out to accommodate all this stuff? Is everyone in the household on board with this, including siblings? This is a much bigger obstacle to "making it" than not having athleticism in the top 1%.

 

Of course the natural genetics help. But I think these two things are as important, if not more. 

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You can also look at it another way, that the development that many non-PPE kids receive is so poor that few have a chance to make the PPE down the road.  There was one local 06 that made it and one local 07 that made it.  I think 08 might have some influx from the Vengeance, right?  Not sure where those kids where from.  At one point, PPE had a billet rule.  But I think that is sort of not enforced or they get around it due to the ability of some parents to actually move here and telecommute.  

All roads lead the beer league is poor way to look at it.  Every sport has a few guys that make it as pros,  But by playing in college, whether it be division 1 or club, means that down the road you have parents who have played the game and just might give something back to the game.  This is a good thing and we are better off with these guys coaching our kids than some guy that never played hockey. 

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4 hours ago, twoboys said:

You can also look at it another way, that the development that many non-PPE kids receive is so poor that few have a chance to make the PPE down the road.  There was one local 06 that made it and one local 07 that made it.  I think 08 might have some influx from the Vengeance, right?  Not sure where those kids where from.  At one point, PPE had a billet rule.  But I think that is sort of not enforced or they get around it due to the ability of some parents to actually move here and telecommute.  

All roads lead the beer league is poor way to look at it.  Every sport has a few guys that make it as pros,  But by playing in college, whether it be division 1 or club, means that down the road you have parents who have played the game and just might give something back to the game.  This is a good thing and we are better off with these guys coaching our kids than some guy that never played hockey. 

Those guys don't stick around long in my experience. Driven out by crazy parents. Young guys return from D1, want to give back only to find much better ways to spend their time after a year or two of being crapped on. Again, too many people are over the top awful. It's unfortunate, the young guys are frequently tremendously beneficial to the game and kids, and that is a shame to lose them.

I also know plenty good of the much maligned dad coaches. There is much more to coaching than having played at a high level. Another narrative this board pushes, as well as those pushing the sale of the extra A. But it is better to have experience once you get to the older levels. So long as you have someone who knows what they are doing to lead to the younger program who passes that on to parent helpers, you can develop good dad coaches. But I've mentioned before...I think that development is being sorely neglected around here, with all resources going to top teams and less and less attention being paid to developing those young players who could be very good once they hit puberty. And new coaches get very little help to really learn, so it not really fair to crap on the volunteer dad WHO MAY HAVE STEPPED UP when no else would. USA Hockey could do a heck of a better job to provide useful training instead of regurgitating the same stuff every year.

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8 hours ago, Saucey said:

I think that development is being sorely neglected around here, with all resources going to top teams and less and less attention being paid to developing those young players who could be very good once they hit puberty. And new coaches get very little help to really learn, so it not really fair to crap on the volunteer dad WHO MAY HAVE STEPPED UP when no else would. USA Hockey could do a heck of a better job to provide useful training instead of regurgitating the same stuff every year.

This is something I have been thinking about for years - how many kids could develop into really good players who end up shunted to the bottom teams and never really hitting their stride if organizations really tried to give the kids who NEED the help some good coaching? I know there aren't great coaches falling out of the sky, here, but organizations could be spending more effort to help out those parent coaches who maybe aren't hockey people but who stepped in because otherwise there wouldn't be a team at all. 

Disparaging dad coaches is popular here because everyone thinks their kid is a AAAA phenom or would be if only Rick Tocchet was their kid's coach. I know a good number of dad coaches who work hard at it and really try to do the right thing. It's a shame that Pittsburgh doesn't have the base of parents who played when they were kids, but my kids will be good coaches for their kids, and the next generation will have experienced coaches to pick from because of the growth here. It's fashionable to say that Pittsburgh hockey isn't the same as Detroit hockey, because it's true, but it won't be true forever as our kids come up and coach the next generation.

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I know I talk crap about dad coaches a bit here and honestly its because of the experience my kids have had. We have only have one really good dad coach. A guy who motivated the kids to get better and would take the time to fix the problems. He also made it fun. No surprise either, he played  AAA/D3 hockey. I am positive there are a tons of guys just like him out there. I would like to think I would be myself If I was able to coach but after a bad car accident in 2011 that left me nearly paralyzed I am unable to skate anymore, therefore I feel it wouldn't be beneficial for me to coach. 

I am not trying to downplay the importance of volunteer parents. Both my wife and I are involved in our organization and we do everything we can to help out, but strictly from a developmental standpoint the dad coaches need to be better prepared be it by USA Hockey or their organization. I have seen WAY too many wasted ice slots simply because the coaches didn't really have a practice plan so they are just making stuff up as they go. That is disheartening to see for everyone involved. 

I think at the younger 8U/10U levels, the majority of the kids have the potential to be good hockey players and in my opinion the biggest hurdle is the lack of ice time. Nearly every mite program in PAHL has one 50 minute practice a week and then one jamboree on the weekend. I'm sorry, but that is not even close to enough ice time for these kids to develop. Think of it like playing piano. If you only practiced for 50 minutes a week it would take you years to learn anything useful.  I'm not saying these 8-10 year old kids need to be on the ice everyday, but 2-3 weeknight practices with good drills would really be beneficial. 

Then again, there are kids and parents who only want to play hockey once a week and that's fine, but they shouldn't be lumped in with the kids who want to play everyday. It's not fair to either child. That's the reason I am not totally against the separation between the top teams and the other teams. You can watch the practices and games and see who is out there practicing on their own time and who isn't. 9 times out of 10 the kids on the top teams are the ones shooting pucks in their garage everyday. 

There are SO MANY parents who have zero idea what is involved in travel hockey and honestly should probably just play in house but the model we have developed in WPA is PAHL heavy so they stick the inhouse kids in the B or A Minor 3 division and take their money. Why was there ELEVEN 12U B teams in PAHL last season?!?!? That seems insane to me. Talk about throwing your money away. Those parents are still paying 2-3 thousand a year....

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9 minutes ago, forbin said:

 

Then again, there are kids and parents who only want to play hockey once a week and that's fine, but they shouldn't be lumped in with the kids who want to play everyday. It's not fair to either child. That's the reason I am not totally against the separation between the top teams and the other teams. You can watch the practices and games and see who is out there practicing on their own time and who isn't. 9 times out of 10 the kids on the top teams are the ones shooting pucks in their garage everyday. 

There are SO MANY parents who have zero idea what is involved in travel hockey and honestly should probably just play in house but the model we have developed in WPA is PAHL heavy so they stick the inhouse kids in the B or A Minor 3 division and take their money. Why was there ELEVEN 12U B teams in PAHL last season?!?!? That seems insane to me. Talk about throwing your money away. Those parents are still paying 2-3 thousand a year....

First time through all of this is a little crazy. No one in the organization really tells you what is going on unless you really investigate it.  I had no idea of all the levels of Mites then Squirts till well into the 2nd year of squirts.  All I really knew was that my kid was playing with kids of equal ability. He wasn't very good to start! A Minor I think. As he grew to love Hockey we got into private lessons and clinics.  He moved up levels every year and I am continuing to get a great education as to what all is involved with Youth Hockey.  It really is a learning curve for someone who was never involved with it before. He tells me every year he wants to play at the highest level he can.  Thanks to this Forum we have stayed away from AAA tryouts at some organizations. Have limited it to one. Haven't made one yet and might not but he sure loves Hockey and playing at the highest level he can.

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@hockeyisgreat you are 100% right about nobody telling you what's going on.  The majority of the PAHL association websites are not very helpful either. Hockey in general isnt a very "easy" sport to get into so they could do a much better job explaining the process in my opinion. 

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12 hours ago, Saucey said:

Those guys don't stick around long in my experience. Driven out by crazy parents. Young guys return from D1, want to give back only to find much better ways to spend their time after a year or two of being crapped on. Again, too many people are over the top awful. It's unfortunate, the young guys are frequently tremendously beneficial to the game and kids, and that is a shame to lose them.

I also know plenty good of the much maligned dad coaches. There is much more to coaching than having played at a high level. Another narrative this board pushes, as well as those pushing the sale of the extra A. But it is better to have experience once you get to the older levels. So long as you have someone who knows what they are doing to lead to the younger program who passes that on to parent helpers, you can develop good dad coaches. But I've mentioned before...I think that development is being sorely neglected around here, with all resources going to top teams and less and less attention being paid to developing those young players who could be very good once they hit puberty. And new coaches get very little help to really learn, so it not really fair to crap on the volunteer dad WHO MAY HAVE STEPPED UP when no else would. USA Hockey could do a heck of a better job to provide useful training instead of regurgitating the same stuff every year.

Frankly, the younger "coaches" that don't have kids should probably run skills sessions for an organization.  That way they are kept away from the parents.  And they can impact the most kids.

A former college hockey player who has a kid is ideal provided he is able to coach.   And even a Dad who hasn't played but can coach is okay when the kids are younger.  At some point that isn't enough. 

The problem is that we are sometimes stuck with Dad coaches who haven't played hockey and can't coach.    And because they want to help they get into an organization and end up coaching for a few years before they are asked not to help anymore.  Once a Dad has a team for a year he is viewed as a "qualified" coach by the organization.

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5 minutes ago, twoboys said:

Frankly, the younger "coaches" that don't have kids should probably run skills sessions for an organization.  That way they are kept away from the parents.  And they can impact the most kids.

A former college hockey player who has a kid is ideal provided he is able to coach.   And even a Dad who hasn't played but can coach is okay when the kids are younger.  At some point that isn't enough. 

The problem is that we are sometimes stuck with Dad coaches who haven't played hockey and can't coach.    And because they want to help they get into an organization and end up coaching for a few years before they are asked not to help anymore.  Once a Dad has a team for a year he is viewed as a "qualified" coach by the organization.

Great points.

But parents of even very low skilled players demand travel. Again, we have a very parent driven market. It gets hard for organizations to say no when everyone else provides what parents demand. And as I hear from all the AAA people...if parents want to pay for their in house player to travel to State College or what ever, who am I to tell them that probably isn't great for them developmentally, that those dollars might be better spent on individual skating lessons? (Yes, that's sarcasm.)

I think our market is currently operating on wishful thinking. Wishing we were a bigger market and operating just like the big markets do, with BY teams, loads of AAA options, etc. Instead of looking at what we have (dad coaches without much hockey experience, for example) and trying to build from there (train dad coaches until the kids who played return to coach) to get to those levels.

You want more ice time? Do we want that ice time to come at the expense of cutting kids? Our area doesn't have the ice rinks like other rinks do. We don't have private ODRs due to weather. And do parents want to pay more at those young ages? Do they want all that time? Do the kids? I have pretty good players. They weren't on top teams at squirts or on the ice more than twice a week for mites. They were not interested in more practice, either. 🤣 They didn't do privates until bantam, when they asked for them. More isn't always necessary so long as the ice touches you do get are quality, which it sounds like doesn't always happen in many organizations, particularly at lower levels. My kids caught up when they wanted to.

But we do have deck rinks. Maybe adjust in that sense, in those ways.

I'd like this area to look at what we have and build from there. Not pretend to 150 AAA players at each level or what ever. I think that holds our market back.

And what is the end goal? Should it be to have everyone running around trying to chase the dream when that is so rare, or should it be fun and development for all who want to play, regardless of how good that child may be? Right now it's the chasers driving the market, to the detriment of the majority,I think.

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