Thoughts on MyHockeyRankings.com
The Worst Website for Youth Hockey...ever.
Chances are, if you're seeing this page, you've stumbled across it trying to check the ranking of your son's or daughter's youth hockey team.
For having invested in your child's hockey experience to that degree, I applaud you.
Parents that are passionate about their children's interests are the best kind.
However, if their team's ranking on the MyHockeyRankings.com website causes you stress or if you're checking the site every single Wednesday when they update...well, both your intentions and the needless pressure you put on your child are off base.
First off -- nothing on that website is official.
Nothing on that website means anything.
Nothing on that website holds weight.
Now, even if you're in total disagreement with me right now, hear me out for a second or two.
It's nearly unanimous amongst sports fans, casual even, that the method college football uses to set its rankings is wacky and inaccurate and often, downright wrong and unfair.
We can agree on that, correct?
Well, MyHockeyRankings.com is essentially the exact same thing but to a whole new low...and they rank kids as young as 9 years old.
So here's how it all works. Basically, a parent on a team wants to boost their ego and starts submitting scores to the website. The website generously calls them "volunteers".
Now, since none of this is official, some of those volunteers may only submit scores for games that they win...while also hoping the opponent doesn't also have a "volunteer" submitting their own scores.
Super effective way to boost your ego vicariously through your children, err, I mean, boost your ranking on a silly website.
Incomplete schedules, incorrect scores, and missing teams all over the place -- yet many parents really take these rankings very seriously as if ranking within the top "insert your number here" is the, and I hate to quote Shakespeare on a youth hockey website, "be all and end all" measurement of success during a season.
My sons' teams have been outscored by 20 goals (or more) on a numerous occasions...by teams that are not even ranked.
I suppose in some parent's minds, we're still a better team than those teams.
Reality check -- we're not.
We got beat. Handily.
For the level at which my kids play now, nearly all of our games are in there and accounted for just because it's a competitive level. And with a higher level of competition comes a much higher chance of someone caring about this sort of thing. Ah, the downsides of elite hockey...
Due to the site's popularity, we can't really hide our losses effectively -- our opponents are all wrapped up in the site too.
I get it. Lists are fun.
So how is this a bad thing?
First, even if we're not able to hide our poorest performances and everything appears to be transparent and complete, it's still just not accurate. I mean, if the top 5 teams (or even 50 teams) never even play against a common opponent, how can they definitively be ranked?
Sure, hide behind a complicated algorithm, that's fine. That's how they do it in college football, right?
I get it, people like to know where they stand but please, please, don't allow it to hold much weight.
Lists based on a bunch of numbers and fancy math start to feel like facts...but they're not.
Just like that burger place you like that's "rated" to have the best burger in the country or whatever... I think we all know that "review" or "rating" isn't worth a hill of beans.
A great burger joint doesn't need to be showcased by Guy Fieri on television to be validated.
Likewise, legitimately good teams don't need a silly ranking to know they're really good.
The bigger issue with it, though, is when hockey programs or even individual coaches get sucked into the rankings and start chasing a higher standing on MyHockeyRankings.com.
This is where things get very problematic for me.
So, part of the algorithm is obviously the strength of your opponent. If you barely squeak by a lesser opponent, your ranking will suffer.
This promotes running up scores which, even when goal differential counts as a tie breaker in tournaments or playoffs, is wrong on so many levels.
First and foremost, it's disrespectful.
It's not fun to watch.
It doesn't grow the game.
It doesn't make anyone on either team a better player.
It leads to games getting chippy which, in turn, leads to kids getting hurt and, frankly, it just creates a whole lot of unnecessary animosity in the rink...even in the stands!
In certain cases, it even causes un-needed animosity within a locker room due to cutting the bench short.
Does a shortened bench have a place in youth hockey?
In my opinion, yes, without a doubt. Even at the mite level.
My oldest son is frequently the victim of a shortened bench on his team but I totally get it.
If the team is down by a goal, he isn't a huge offensive threat.
If we're up by a goal and the opponent has us on our heels, perhaps he's not the ideal defenseman either.
I'm able to evaluate his talent pretty accurately, I think, and even most of the other players on the team too. Situational ice time is earned and deserved.
What I have an issue with is when a team goes to a short bench when the outcome of the game is already clearly decided...
This is where things get messy...
Now let's say you've figured out that need to defeat your "lesser" opponent, meaning lower ranked, by more than, say, 7 goals or else your rating will drop on the MyHockeyRankings.com website.
And after 2 periods, you're already up by 4 and dominating the play. I mean, the opponent is showing zero indication of a huge comeback...but to ensure that your ranking doesn't suffer, the coach shortens the bench to maximize the offensive opportunities IN A GAME THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN WON.
It's this precise scenario that makes me ask, how does cutting the bench short make the "team" better?
Sure, triple shifting your top players in an attempt to run up the score might help your team "ranking" but at what expense?
I believe this is often overlooked and currently occurs across countless "elite" youth hockey programs. There's a local program I'm certain my kids will never play for -- at least not while I'm paying their tuition -- because it's so obvious that the "ranking" is one of their primary goals.
Did giving half of the team a single shift in the third period of a game that you were handily winning by 4 goals after two periods make you a better team overall?
I think it's obvious...the answer is NO.
Sure, the end result may be that you moved up on a meaningless leaderboard on an un-official website, plus you may have padded the stats of the kids whose parents see "real" value in the ranking... but at the expense of losing the bottom half of your lineup. Possibly for the rest of the season.
Great job, now you're the 177th best team of 11 year olds. Round of applause. Pat yourself on the back. Well done.
Reality check though, to be the best, all you need to do is win the game.
Best way for any hockey team to have a successful season is to have multiple lines firing on all cylinders and playing with confidence.
A handful of studs playing all of the minutes while the majority of the kids sit on the bench for long durations is not a path to success...for any team.
The website's heart is in the right place and I applaud them for executing a great idea successfully but at this point, in my opinion, it's kind of soured into something that exists solely to stroke parent's egos.
For players peewee and younger, the kids only care about the ranking if their parents have planted the seed that the ranking matters.
It's not a measurement of success.
It's a number on a website.
So the next time you find yourself hitting refresh over and over on a Wednesday morning to see where your son's or daughter's team ranks, ask yourself, does this ranking actually validate anything for you?
If it does, you're part of the reason so many really talented kids quit playing hockey.
I'll say it again, to be the best, all you need to do is win every game you play. By one goal. Not seven.
Way more fun that way for everybody...even if some website says you're the 827th best team in the country, conveniently excluding Minnesota and the Dakotas, and all of Canada too cause, well, they don't want to *crush* any fragile egos.