A couple of days ago, the CHL, in consultation with Hockey Canada, decided to ban goalies from the import draft beginning in 2014. Due to the lack of Canadian goaltenders succeeding at the pro level, and in junior hockey, banning foreign goaltenders from playing in the CHL would afford more focus to and opportunity for Canadian goaltenders. Said differently, the CHL believes that by banning foreign goaltenders, Canadian goalies, in turn, will get more playing and development time.
I’m proud of my country and I consider the sport of hockey to be one of Canada’s greatest gifts to the world. Having said that, I am ashamed by this show of protectionism that reeks of a lack of accountability, creativity, and courage.
“The thought process goes something like this: Canada, which used to produce the best goaltenders in the world, is having a bit of a goaltender crisis at all age levels. Canadians are not being drafted into the NHL in the numbers they once were and goaltending is seen as a weak spot in international competitions.”
“The top goaltenders in the NHL are now mostly European or American, rather than Canadian. Thus, Hockey Canada and the developmental levels of Canadian hockey must begin to develop better goaltenders. By not allowing foreign goaltenders, the CHL believes they can develop better Canadian goalies because more Canadian goalies will get playing time.“
He’s not finished…
“It’s a #dumb move, designed to look good rather than achieve results.”
“Frankly, in the absence of the kind of development that Finnish and Swedish (and to a certain extent Russian) goalies get from the time they’re 11 or 12 (or younger), handing a few goaltenders more ice time is a minor change that has as many drawbacks as positives. The most obvious of those drawbacks is that it decreases competitiveness by artificially removing competition.”
“The worst drawback to a move like this one, however, is the sense that the problems of Canadian goaltending are being blamed on outside forces like 18-year-old Swedes rather than on systematic deficiencies in goaltender coaching and development throughout Canadian hockey. It gives Hockey Canada the illusion of addressing a problem without doing the hard work of actually fixing things.”
“What this means, essentially, is that young European goalies looking for North American experience will be going to other leagues, like the NCAA, the USHL, and the ECHL. And that means that those leagues are going to be getting better while the CHL stagnates by not investing in “infrastructure.”
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I just want to quickly contrast this decision with something that happened to Canada’s 7th most popular sport, tennis, in 2007.
After decades without having a player in the top-50, Tennis Canada decided to adopt a new developmental strategy. The country’s top players were consolidated into metropolitan training hubs. One million dollars were allocated per year towards top-notch facilities, experienced coaching, and traveling expenses. Most importantly, the top players from across the country were engaging at the highest possible level of competition available in the nation. You need to look no further than Milos Ranoic to see what a daring process-redesign, and some ownership, can do for a sport.
I’m not saying Hockey Canada should throw a billion loonies at the problem. However, if you proclaim yourself as the best hockey country in the world, it’s most probably advisable to do the same things that got you to the top of the mountain in the first place. Passion, accountability, and ownership of your sport’s future. A banning against foreign goalies will do nothing to strengthen the competition in the CHL, Canada’s breeding ground of the next generation of NHLers. Given the knowledge of a major gap in the junior developmental process, the CHL has decided to deflect blame and hurt themselves in the process.
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