Good post. Good athletes will get noticed if they are good enough to be a DI athlete. Most students are finding ways to improve through elite leagues (as mentioned in the Let's Play Hockey article), camps, summer teams, etc. The avenues are there to push your limits if you choose to and have the passion to. I question how much better playing on one of these teams makes you if you take the same athlete and they take these alternative avenues to improve. Also, what happens to the student-athlete who wants to play football in the fall and baseball in the spring. This proposed REA team will surely start earlier and end later than the current high school hockey season. Who's to say playing football won't help a player be better at baseball or hockey. Being in competitive situations in football do help the hockey player and vice-versa. Specialization isn't always the answer. Finally, the community-based model should produce more hockey players that play at higher level. With an emphasis on development through good coaching, more players should simply be produced. You can't tell me the state of Minnesota isn't a model that we should be following. Even if only 1-2% are making it to DI, look at the opportunities created for all of these kids. Yet, some still make it to DI. If best practices are followed, maybe 3% would make it. That would blow the proposed system out of the water.
I question the type of program the REA/Hockey Academy wants to produce. I don't hear about many kids leaving Grand Forks to play baseball, softball, golf, swimming, track, etc while forsaking other athletic/musical activities. I could just imagine if someone said the were going to send their kid to Oklahoma to play fastpitch softball and spend $$$ to do it. Those people would be laughed out of town.
Allow kids to be kids.