Struggle Bus Update
The final weekend of October was still filled with pay-to-play Junior hockey games in which at least one team could only dress 15 skaters.
The mantra of "We have players on the way" is beginning to fall on deaf ears. As one can imagine, there aren't hidden pockets of yet--to-be-discovered, swift-skating Junior hockey players.
As a side not to the games linked below, the team standings are also starting to reflect some of the roster issues as the season progresses.
The standings reflect the general quality of competition issues that arise when teams are forced to sign players who are willing to pay, but whose skills don't match up with the level of play at which they are signed. Simply having 18 skaters dressed isn't a guarantee for competitiveness.
A team having to spend $3,000 for a road trip to sweep a pair of games by a combined score of 16-0 doesn't help either team, and certainly attracts no attention from scouts.
The North Carolina Golden Bears of the Eastern Hockey League (EHL), who did not play this past weekend as that league was on all-star break, is sitting at the bottom of the standings with a 1-12-0 record and an average goal differential of 1.3 goals per game and 9.0 goals against. In the EHL Premier the expansion New York Bridgemen are 0-11-1 with a -84 total goal differential.
The North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) Struggle Bus regulars -- Texas Roadrunners, Butte Cobras and Long Beach Sharks -- are all in last place in their division with combined records of 7-37-3 and a total goal differential of -198.
In the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) each of the four divisions have at least one winless team. The Cold Lake Hornets (0-3-1), Valencia Flyers (0-8-2), West Sound Admirals (0-7-0), Wichita Jr. Thunder (0-11-1) and Steamboat Wranglers (0-9-0) are all looking for their first victories while compiling a staggering -264 goal differential.
In the USPHL Elite Division only the Potomac Patriots are struggling to put a competitive product on the ice with a 1-14-0 record and a -69 goal differential through the first two months. In the USPHL Premier Division the Jersey Shore Whalers were 1-7-1 with a -44 goal differential when they folded and the Struggle Bus MVP candidate Connecticut Nighthawks are 2-11-0 with -58 goal differential. In the Midwest divisions Struggle Bus runner-up candidate Detroit Fighting Irish is 4-11-0 with a -61 goal differential while the Motor City Hockey Club (1-11-0 with -52 goal differential) and Steele County Blades (3-12-0 with -67 goal differential) are trending in the wrong direction.
Lack of competitiveness has long-plagued pay-to-play hockey, but it becomes a wider issue when multiple teams are suffering from roster and/or quality issues brought about by scrambling to fill rosters in any way possible. The more Junior teams the more competitive issues a league will have.
Here are the list of games from this past weekend that involved at least one team with 15 or fewer skaters.
Thirty-two percent of the NA3HL's 31 games that took place the weekend of Oct. 24-27 were played with at least one team having 15 or fewer skaters.
Eastern Hockey League Premier
Fifty percent of the EHLP's 10 games that took place the weekend of Oct. 24-27 were played with at least one team having 15 or fewer skaters.
Western States Hockey League
Oct. 25 - Ontario Avalanche 15 skaters vs. San Diego Sabers (W 5-3)
Oct. 25 - Wichita Jr. Thunder 15 skaters vs. Okalhoma City Blazers (L 1-10)
Twenty-eight percent of the WSHL's 32 games that took place the weekend of Oct. 24-27 were played with at least one team having 15 or fewer skaters.
United States Premier Hockey League - Premier Division
(While 15 skaters dressed for the Dells Ducks for this game, it is clearly a one-time issue as the Ducks have plenty of rostered players and all their other games on the weekend -- before and after -- saw a full bench)
Twenty-seven percent of the USPHL Premier's 49 games that took place the weekend of Oct. 24-27 were played with at least one team having 15 or fewer skaters.
United States Premier Hockey League - Elite Division
Eighteen percent of the USPHL Elite's 11 games that took place the weekend of Oct. 24-27 were played with at least one team having 15 or fewer skaters.