Junior hockey is full of guys who “deserve” to be playing at a higher level, and the lower the level of play, the more of these guys there are it seems. Quite honestly, it’s no different than what I saw in youth hockey as soon as tryouts were over. Every year there were complaints about how little Johnny should have made the A team because he was “too good” for Bs so it must be politics. It’s not politics. It’s numbers, and after tryouts are over, the kids get to play hockey.
These coaches aren’t out to get you or hold you down in some way. They are trying to place players where they fit best in the case of youth hockey, and in juniors, they are trying to pick the best guys for their team based on their best guess at the time with the information they have, and if that information changes over the course of the season, that player can be traded or cut at any time.
Let’s take a small youth association as an example. Say there are 45 players, and there is going to be one A, one B, and one C team. There are probably a couple kids who are most definitely A players, and a few who are definitely C players. The majority of them are somewhere in the middle so the evaluators have to determine where they go based on a few sessions on the ice. There are kids on the A/B bubble, and kids on the B/C bubble, and chances are nearly 100% that there will be kids who could play A on the B team or kids who could play B on the A team. It happens, but at the end of it, the hockey season starts, and you play where you are.
In juniors, though, there aren’t the geographic limitations like there are in youth hockey, and instead of playing the season at the level you were placed at the beginning, you can be moved up or down for a game or two or the rest of the season. You can move sideways to another team, too. Since the USHL only rosters four 20-year-olds, that means there are 20-year-old players in the NAHL who have played tier 1, and then those guys coming down pushes some players down from tier 2 to tier 3. There are tier 3 players who have played tier 2 for a game or a season, too.
You aren’t necessarily defined as a hockey player by the tier you play or the league you play in. There are kids every year on the tier 1/tier 2 bubble as well as tier 2/tier 3 bubble. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the system we have. However, having the attitude that you deserve to be on that higher level, even if you previously played there, will not get you there. There is not a single player that isn’t expendable no matter the level. You are entitled to nothing. You earn it with every practice, every shift, every game.
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