Pre-Draft Camps: Pay Up Or Save Up?

The majority of the Junior Hockey Leagues across the United States and Canada are deep into the playoffs as we speak, but Pre-Draft Camps and or Spring Camps are happening very soon. You’re probably saying well this is Junior Hockey Standard Operating Procedure, which is correct but let’s reassess a few things before we move forward for those that might not understand how things work.

Junior Hockey is great hockey but we also cannot forget it’s also a business and business is good when teams are winning. Junior Hockey Teams are trying to be competitive, win as many games as possible and move players up to Tier One or Tier Two, along with Division One and Division Three College Hockey. So where do these players come from and how do they get invited to these Pre-Draft or Main Camps?

Players come from all over the country, a number of players are found by Regional Scouts at Showcases, Tournaments or single games during the season. If players are really good they are offered Tenders or Contracts saying they will play for that team for the upcoming season. Players also can be Drafted and also be recommended to teams by their High School or Midget Coaches.

Now for the business side, Junior Hockey Teams are heavily involved in the community they play in so local sponsorship money is very important. However the majority of the Junior Teams out there make their money at Pre-Draft Camps that range from $300-$500 per player and teams will make some serious money at these camps because the majority of them have at least two or more every off season. Junior Teams rely on all money coming in and all the money gets directed from top to bottom of the organization but again there are two sides to this business.

Let’s take a glance at this from the player’s perspective if a scout approaches you and personally speaks to you about trying out for a specific team that holds value, major value. Lots of Junior Teams will contact players inviting them to try out for their team but somehow have not seen them play, case in point no Regional Scout has spoken to them but somehow they have tryouts for multiple teams. It’s not impossible to make these teams but it is very difficult when there are only a handful of positions open.

As a scout I have spoken to so many players that have multiple tryouts for Tier Two Teams, I understand players want to play at the highest level possible and sometimes you have to take a different path to get to where you are going. Families can spend over $1000 for these camps with hotels, food etc. and if players go to two or three of them you do the math. Take that money that was spent for multiple camps say around $2000, when a Tier Three Team offered you a Tender or Contract with a guaranteed place to play and add that to the players cost before the season even starts and that’s a big chunk of change.

The reality of it when all the chips are on the table Junior Teams need money to survive at all levels period. As a player you have to ask yourself are you truly good enough to compete at that Tier One, Two or Three level? Has a scout personally spoken to you about trying out for their specific team? In closing I will say this if a team has not reached out to you the chances of making these teams are very slim, players develop at different stages and just because you did not make a Tier Two Team right away doesn’t mean you can’t make it in a few months, halfway through the season or even after a full season of Tier Three. Remember this game works in mysterious ways and it’s not easy, if it were everyone would be playing hockey.

- Joe B.

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