The “AAA” Competitive Imbalance

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Updated: February 10, 2016
Dennis GM Western Kings | Newfoundland Major Midget Hockey

The current makeup of Triple “AAA” Peewee and Bantam hockey within our province is an abject failure. In its wisdom (or lack thereof), Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL) has flexed its muscles to form a provincial league that is composed of players from the St. John’s, Trinity-Placentia (TriPen), Conception Bay Region (TriCom), Central and Western minor hockey leagues. In effect, it has created a league that is destined to be dominated for the most part by teams from two locations (St. John’s/TriCom areas) with Central and Western Teams lagging well behind.

At the time we penned this article, the current standings at the AAA Bantam level shows that the St. John’s team well out in front of the standings, with a record of 20-1-1-0, accumulating 41 points overall. In second place is the TriPen team with a record of 14-4-1-1 (30 points). Close behind in third place is the TriCom team with an 11-10-5-1 record (28 points). This is where the current imbalance comes to light when you have the Central team setting well back with a record of 4-16-41 (13 points) and the Western team sitting in the basement with a record of 4-18-1-1 (10 points).

The disparity continues when you examine the AAA Peewee results. St. John’s again leads the way with a record of 19-2-2 (40 points), followed by TriCom at 18-3-1-0 (37 points), TriPen at 6-13-1-0 (13 points), Central at 6-17-0-1 (13 points) and Western at 6-18-0-1 (13 points).
In speaking with some of the parents with children involved in this level of play, they express their concerns and displeasure at the current structure. Not only is it impacting player morale in the Central and Western ranks, it is creating arrogance in the ranks of the winning teams. This is also carrying over to the parents, volunteers and organizers at the league level. These are the people that are experiencing the frustrations at home and trying to put on a brave face in light of what is occurring throughout the league and on the ice.

Before HNL established the current makeup of Triple AAA hockey within the province, many of the home leagues were seeing an increase in participation at what they considered the “Elite” level of the game. Players were more willing to try-out, participate and looked forward to competing beyond their house leagues. It is evident now that interest is waning and speaking to people privately they will tell you it’s the current imbalance that is a major contributing factor.

There are those from the winning leagues that indicate they have a much larger pool of players in their respective areas. They indicate that talent is also cyclical and that the current imbalance is not so much about the league makeup but more about a great group of young hockey players that have come along at the same time. They liken it to an alignment of “stars” and “planets”, seeing nothing wrong with the fact that one or two areas are dominating the current structure.

At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves is this good for the game of hockey here in Newfoundland and Labrador? Sure there are those players with dreams of following the likes of Dan Cleary and Michael Ryder to the NHL, but in all likelihood, many of today’s younger players will be lucky to make it to the ranks of a great junior team or even to one of the Newfoundland Senior Hockey teams.
The focus in our opinion is that the current structure is broken and is taking the fun out of the game for both the players and the parents. No one enjoys losing but when you have the governing body of hockey here in Newfoundland fixing the structure of play to benefit certain areas, one has to question such wisdom.

It is time for something to change at the Triple “A” level of hockey here in the province. The game has to be returned to being both competitive and fun for all those involved.

Stay tuned for more on this issue as we examine Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s jockeying the system to favour St. John’s teams.

9 Comments

  1. Steve Brown

    February 10, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    As a parent of a player currently playing with Central in AAA Bantam, and who’s older child has played both AAA Peewee (winning the provincials) and Bantam, I have no problem with the league. Look around. Compare other AAA leagues, not just in the Atlantic provinces, but further west. The areas of higher population, have teams who dominate the leagues. Are all those leagues “abject failures”? The NS league currently has a team with 1 win and 29 losses. NB has a team with 0 wins and 26 losses. First place teams? NS 29 wins 1 loss , NB 20 wins 2 losses. Obviously those leagues are failing as well. Our biggest issue? Geography. Do we have to travel if we live outside St. John’s? Yes. 2 years ago, my oldest played AAA bantam , old way, no league, just 4 tournaments. I travelled much,much more that year than I’m doing in the league this year. If your child wants to play at a higher level, and you’re limited by geography, you travel. That’s life.
    For Central or Western to compete, all the best players have to tryout. Not move to get better hockey. Even when they all tryout, only when we have a bumper crop are we truly competitive. But that’s realistic. Show me a AAA league where all teams are relatively equal. Bantam, peewee, midget, I don’t care. You won’t be able to.

  2. admin

    February 10, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Why is participation down at this “elite level” of hockey here in the province? Talk to the kids on the losing teams & to the parents who are frustrated about what’s taking place. Is there an easy solution here in the province with such a geographical distribution of teams / players? Probably not. However, HNL has to revisit the changes in our opinion & try to establish some parity that everyone can live with.

  3. NorthernPen

    February 10, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Well i feel so bad for you! How about the kids from Labrador? They don’t even get to play at the AAA level any more. No one gave a second thought about them when you formed your little “elite” leagues on the island. They get left out once again. Oh yes we get invited down to play in the end of year Tournament, what a joke. Sure bring down your team from Labrador the get to practice twice in the season and not play one game, come one down and play against our teams that 25+ game season. What a joke ” HN ” and the rest of you are!

    Then to add insult to the associations up in Labrador, you do nothing but cry when you get graded and have to take part in the Easter Tournaments up there. Saying how expensive it is to go up there. Well have a look at all the teams they send down? How much money do those people have to raise to send their teams and their kids to play on the island.

  4. admin

    February 10, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    You raise great points! It isn’t just at the minor / AAA levels. It’s at all levels of hockey that Labrador is largely ignored. We are guilty of it here at NL Hockey Talk as well when it comes to coverage of the sport. This is something that has to change from HNL, all the leagues, players & the media! Thanks for the comment.

  5. David

    February 10, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    The goal of AAA should be to have fun while developing the top players. The province wide league should be abolished and each region should have its own league to make things as competitive as possible.

    If you want to have a overall champ at the end of the year, have each league send their champ to the year end tourney with the the smaller regions getting a few pick ups from other teams in their league based on population. This way throughout the year everyone is happier and the scores / standings won’t be as lopsided.

    If you have an outstanding kid in a smaller region in Banatam for example, the parents will have to decide if they want to send them or move to the bigger centre for better competition / exposure.

  6. admin

    February 10, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks for the comment David. Many in the Western part of the island are suggesting something similar.

  7. Scott Burden

    February 12, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    In response to Steve’s post- and to be honest I don’t think the admin’s articles were written to compare provinces’ relative success or failure with AAA- firstly, there is no province-wide AAA in Pee Wee in Nova Scotia- and there shouldn’t be any in NL. It’s too early for kids of that age. By the time these kids get to Midget, they’re burned out from all the long Winters of travel. Secondly if we are to compare Leagues, province to province, 10 of the 12 teams in Nova Scotia’s Bantam AAA league typically play competitive games – the results of the games are posted online. Typically there are a couple of teams that are better than most of the league, and a couple of teams that struggle against most of the league. My point is that with so many teams, more kids get to play, there are always teams in your general area so travel is cut down, and finally, if a team has competitive games against 8 or 9 teams out of 11 possible opponents, it isn’t so bad as when a team like Western, for example, can only compete against 1 or 2 of 4 possible opponents. I can only speak to the situations in NS and NL. It’s simple math- there are more competitive games in NS. Yes, the geography of NL is unique- absolutely. What’s the solution? To be honest- I don’t know and I wouldn’t presume that I could come up with one given that I’ve been out of the Province for a couple of years. But surely, I know there are great hockey people in NL who, if they could step back and not worry so much about NL’s (typical a team from the Avalon) results on the Atlantic stage, could brainstorm to find a better way.

    I can’t confirm this because I’ve only spoken to a few friends from Corner Brook, but I’m hearing that people from Western are doubting whether they’ll be able to ice a team in AAA Pee Wee- as early as next year! And who could blame them? Lining up for a season full of 4-9 hr drives to games, many during NLs Winter, only to be mercilessly beaten on the ice, and then to turn around and make the long drive home on Sunday to make it in time for work/school on Monday? Ask the East Coast parents if even they feel the drives to the West Coast for games are worthwhile. I suspect they don’t see much value given the lack of competition, cost, and inherent risk in the drive.

    Just my two cents- I’m not speaking for anybody but myself.

  8. admin

    February 12, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for the reply Scott. I spoke with a parent (and coach) yesterday, who had said that it is highly unlikely that AAA Pee Wee will be represented from Corner Brook.

  9. jon

    February 18, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    The other problem which has been eluded to but not fully discussed is practice time. The St. John’s Tricom teams practice at least once per week in prime time hours. They have little disruption from their day to day routine.

    Practices allow for systems to be in place players get better and more comfortable with their teammates etc.

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