The season of “we have identified you as someone who might give us money if we tell you that you are the kind of hockey player we are looking for” emails has begun. It is a double-edged sword because you can’t make a team without going to one or more of these camps, and many players need to attend more than one camp to find the right fit, yet no one wants to blow a ton of money on going to camps and combines every weekend, so the trick then becomes deciphering which opportunities are legit and which are just attempts to get bodies at events.
Let’s just get this out of the way right away: EVERY one of these camps, combines, and showcases are “money makers,” especially if those running them are doing them right. Ideally, those events all fill up because they are so good, everyone wants to go to them. Also, the vast majority of those events have both players who have legitimate opportunities to make the team and players who are just bodies on the ice and cash in the bank. Making money on those events is not what you need to focus on, and it isn’t what makes one “bad.”
For every single event, you can find stories of players and parents who thought the event was terrible and players and parents who thought it was the best thing ever. You can find stories of players who thought they had a team locked in because they were personally contacted with a camp invitation and then didn’t make the final roster, and you can find stories of guys who were complete unknowns going into camp and making the team. Every coach you talk to will have stories like that.
The squeeze is on, full stop. While no one is sharing their balance sheets, nor should they, I am inferring based on my social media feeds that even the teams that are playing are feeling it in their bank accounts. Some of them are getting pretty creative to get butts in seats as much as they can or to generate revenue in other ways. Tuition has increased, and even free to play teams are charging players now, and that probably isn’t going away next season. That means they are going to go as hard as they can to fill every camp.
You need to remember that if you are paying, you are a consumer, and recruiters recruit. The vision you create in your head isn’t necessarily reality, and some of these guys are pretty good at selling the dream without telling a single untruth. Don’t get stuck on the opportunities for advancement or the possibilities of moving on. You aren’t paying for dreams and opportunities. You want the team where your player will play and the coach who will make your player better, so don’t pay for the status of that high level team where you end up riding the pine all season or wearing your suit in the stands.
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