With the 2021-2022 season kicking off with summer camps and showcases, its time for junior hockey expansion. Tier III expansion is expected across North America as the pandemic subsides with mass vaccination programs.
We are predicting approximately ten new Tier III teams will be launched, or are starting to be launched right now. Combine that with teams trying to return to play after the pandemic and you have a feeding frenzy for players at showcase events.
The teams and leagues who played through the pandemic need some credit this year for simply managing to get through last season. Teams who not only survived but thrived, are likely to fill up quickly, and deservedly so.
Yes, I know, you are going to play Tier II. Of course you are, and so is every other player attending camps and showcases this summer. Only Tier II is not expanding as quickly as Tier III and the Canadian border will remain closed for the foreseeable future to American players. So, you might want to take a backup plan at Tier III if you are speaking to a good operation.
A couple of things have changed since the pandemic in Tier III. With the good operations at least. The biggest change?
The days of players and parents holding Tier III teams hostage and trying to get discounted player tuition are over. The good operators are not giving discounts, and they don’t have to. Good operators have a good product, and if you want a good product, you are going to pay for it.
The level of play at Tier III was exponentially higher than in years past thanks to the pandemic. The level of scouting at Tier III was exponentially higher at Tier III because of the higher level of play.
You should expect that because of rising arena and travel expenses, that Tier III tuition will also be raised. Good programming needs money to be able to be maintained.
The other thing that is different this year about Tier III expansion? The market can handle it this time.
When COVID hit, many teams went dark in the United States and Canada. Many of them will not be returning.
The 2020-2021 season saw Tier III teams carrying an average of 30 players on each team. This season those extra players will easily fill the new rosters. Combined with more Canadian players coming down to the USA because of uncertainty in when the 2021-2022 season will begin in Canada, and you have a great scenario for rosters filling quickly.
Usually readers could expect everyone to be complaining about more Tier III expansion. Not this year. This year, if you get a good Tier III offer from a good organization, you need to take it as your backup plan, because if you don’t they will take the next guy in line, and that line is going to be long this year.