NATIONAL TEAMS: WHAT MATTERS

When the U.S. team won the gold medal at the World Jr. (under-20) Ball Hockey Championships in 2006 at Aosta, Italy, there was no secret to our success. I coached the team, but I make no claim to brilliance. We won because we had the best U.S. players available. Of our first 20 choices, we got 19.

That can’t happen now. Not anymore.

World ball hockey has split into two organizations. As a result, U.S. ball hockey has split into two organizations. As a result, we have two U.S. national teams.

As a result, we have zero hope of winning.

The proof was in last year’s pudding. The U.S. finished second at the WBHF tournament in Toronto, losing to Canada’s primary team 7-1. The U.S.finished without a medal at the ISBHF tournament in St. John’s, losing to the Czech Republic’s primary team 7-2 and to Slovakia’s primary team 6-1.

That’s 0-3 against the primary teams from the world’s three ball hockey powers. Every loss was embarrassing. Aggregate score: 20-4.

Somebody tell me how that’s good for U.S. ball hockey.

The foundation had already been built: Three medals in four World Junior Championships between 2006-2012. Fourth-place finishes at the World Men’s Championships in 2009 and 2011, including an elimination of Canada in ’09.

Were things done perfectly? No. God, no. Not even close. But progress had been made. Now we’re back to being routed by the world’s ball hockey powers. Apply any spin you like, but that is simply not acceptable.

This dispute between WBHF and ISBHF shouldn’t even involve us. Canada, the Czech Republic and Slovakia love what’s going on. We were catching up. The results show that. And now we’re fractured, and competing among ourselves.

What’s happened isn’t what’s best for U.S. ball hockey. It’s not what’s best for the elite players. It’s limiting their opportunity.

Selecting a national team should be cut and dried. You get the best players available. Now, with two options, it’s like trying to get a prom date. I saw the rosters for the two U.S. world junior teams. One player is on both rosters. Now issues like perceived friendship and loyalty and “How will I be used?” creep in. Those factors should not be relevant.

Critics of past selection processes will argue that agendas were served. I can’t deny that, although I don’t think I indulged any with my teams. Everyone thinks they have a better way. But certain agendas are being served now. None I care to currently discuss, but it’s plain as day. You can move in a different direction. Results dictate if it’s the proper direction. Win a medal, and you did things right.

I don’t question anyone’s good intent. Buffalo’s Chris Banks, in particular, is a Godsend in all this. He should have been involved a lot time ago.

But this needs to be fixed. This is so far from fixed, it’s disturbing.

I have two proposals:

*Both domestic organizations sit down and don’t leave the room until they figure out a way to become one. Then decide which world organization to join. If this can’t be accomplished, or until it’s accomplished…

*…assemble two national teams, but divide them by quality. An “A” team and a “B” team. Send the “A” team to what’s perceived as the better tournament, and the “B” team to the other tournament. The “A” team would be primed to medal. The “B” team enjoys the experience of playing in a world tournament. The same amount of U.S. players gets to participate. All perceived obligations get met. If the world organizations don’t like it, too bad. It’s none of their business. They don’t get to pick our teams.

That’s what they’re doing now, you know. They’re picking our teams via forcing their conflict to spread to us. They’re dividing, then conquering.

If the leaders of the two domestic organizations can’t sit down to facilitate this, then the domestic organizations are simply not interested in the players, or the greater good. They have either made business deals we don’t know about, or they enjoy a pissing match. Either way, let’s get everyone’s cards on the table.

Get the 4-5 very best U.S. men’s players at this meeting, too. This affects them more than anybody else.

The U.S. has a golden generation of ball hockey players at its disposal. We’re poised to waste that. Absolutely waste that. The way things are currently structured, U.S. teams stand zero chance of winning.

You may think different. You may think “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” But I’ve been in the trenches and I’ve witnessed different. Dedication and preparation matter. But nothing matters more than talent. Our talent is divided.

I’m curious about the reaction to this. If U.S. players don’t care enough to rally against the split that nullifies their excellence, they’re all going to get exactly what they deserve. Key players need to step up and lead – not on behalf of one of the domestic organizations, but on behalf of what’s right for all U.S. players.

One Response to “NATIONAL TEAMS: WHAT MATTERS”

  1. Sean April 11, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    I agree with what you are saying. I was never a big fan of how things where done a couple of years ago being that us down south never got a fair shake on any of the teams back then, but now it seems even more confusing. I was able to watch a lot of both men’s teams last “worlds” I would say, for the most part, if you took the best 7-8 guys from both teams it would be one hell of a USA mens team.

    I am not saying that all 30 guys shouldn’t be mentioned for the A team, I think they do, but I know for a fact after watching both teams there are players from both teams who are the best in USA.

    I hope this could be worked out, and I would have loved to be a part of it.

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