Lots of people tell you to “do your homework,” but no one ever really tells you what that actually means when it comes to researching junior hockey teams, especially tier 3 teams, so I’m going to give you a few things you could do along with a few places online to look to get you started.
First place to check out is the team and league’s websites. Don’t get terribly worried if there isn’t much activity on the site in the off season, but if the season has been underway for months and the team hasn’t updated a thing, that MIGHT be a red flag. It also might not be, but most teams keep their sites up to date with advancements, player awards, game reports, etc.
Check out the staff. Make sure whomever is contacting you is actually listed on the site. If they aren’t, might be another red flag--you should at least ask. This also gives you a list of folks to check out. Check their social media accounts and make sure things add up. Check Google looking for news articles. If you find posts on some forum somewhere, note it, but also remember internet trolls exist, and some people just like to talk smack. This is magnified behind the anonymity of a keyboard.
Check the roster. If it’s not currently in season, look at last year’s roster. If you have to keep scrolling and scrolling to read the whole roster because they have players coming in and out only playing a game or two, ask yourself why. Ask the team why.
If they list advancements, check them out. Are they really playing where the team said they went? Check Elite Prospects for that or check the college websites. One or two players listed as advancing to college who never play there could have a perfectly reasonable explanation, but bunches of them might be a red flag.
Now, this doesn’t mean you write a coach off because you found a speeding ticket searching public records looking for criminal activity. This doesn’t mean you write a guy off because the team is in one state but his socials list him living somewhere else. This doesn’t mean you write off a team because school isn’t in session yet, so they don’t have this year’s marketing intern to keep their website updated.
You aren’t necessarily looking for a reason to turn a team down. You are looking for as complete a picture as you can get. You are looking for questions to ask. You are looking for consistency. One thing isn’t necessarily worrisome, but a bunch of things might be. When I’m trying to make a big decision, I like to look for the person most likely to oppose it because they might tell me something I haven’t thought about. I’m looking for them to poke holes in my reasoning, you know?
You also can’t just rely on the internet to give you the full picture. You need to talk to people like former players and other coaches. If you don’t personally know any, reach out anyway. Hockey is family, and chances are pretty good you’ll get a response.
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