A website that shaped youth hockey in the United States and Canada in part by ranking thousands of teams in both countries each week has announced that it will end the practice at the youngest levels of competition. .
Neil Lodin, the founder of MYHockey Rankings, said on his website on Wednesday that the platform will no longer assign numerical rankings to teams of children under 12, saying the rankings contribute to an unhealthy approach to the game by players. adults.
“Youth sports have become a frantic race to the top among parents, coaches and clubs,” Lodin wrote. “There’s this ‘If you don’t follow the Joneses, do you even love your kid?’ mentality there.
“The youth hockey community is not immune to these issues,” his post said. “And let’s be honest, rankings are a contributing factor when used negatively and exclusively instead of being a coaching tool and a planning resource.”
In December 2021, MYHockey Rankings and its influence was featured in the New York Times. Ken Martel, director of player development for USA Hockey, the sport’s governing body, said in the article that he’s worried the weight given to rankings by some parents, coaches and youth hockey associations is having an effect. detrimental to player development and the cost of the game.
The website’s ability to select and analyze a range of statistical data on thousands of teams spanning the age groups of 9-18 has made it an indispensable resource for many in the youth hockey community. .
At its core is a sophisticated algorithm that predicts a team’s “performance rating” and goal differential of any match it might play against any opponent in the database. Coaches and Tournament Directors regularly use the website to identify teams that should tie and schedule matches accordingly.
But critics argued that the website’s sideline practice of assigning numerical rankings to teams fueled a primal instinct in too many young hockey players to climb the rankings ladder in an endless game of one-upmanship.
In an interview, Lodin said the website would continue to provide the basic data that helped inform planning decisions — like win-loss records, match results and other statistics — while eliminating rankings. of its younger teams. The site ranked about 3,000 teams for kids under 12 in the last hockey season.
“We are taking steps that we believe will make users more likely to use the site as intended, as a tool to help teams plan appropriate levels of competition, as opposed to detrimental to hockey,” Lodin said.
Tom Farrey, executive director of the Sports and Society program at the Aspen Institute, to whom Lodin credits the idea of getting rid of the rankings while retaining the data that helps teams find well-matched competition, called the decision ” not in the right direction”. .”
“It sends the message that development is more important than comparing kids and teams that are still in the early stages of growth,” Farrey said.
USA Hockey’s Martel applauded the development.
“That will hopefully take the pressure off a bit,” he said. “We are a late-developing sport. The best young children are not the best children later. No one knows who’s really good before puberty.