Solution to the A and B issue

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hockey4106
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Solution to the A and B issue

Post by hockey4106 » Tue Mar 23, 2010 8:34 am

The Talent Pool.
It is not about “A” or “B” teams but rather the number of “A” and “B” players that make up the teams in small, medium and large associations within the state of hockey.
I have made a general observation about how talent typically spreads out based on years of coaching experience and observation. Let me give you a different perspective on “A” versus “B” athletes. I call it the talent pool. Imagine kids swimming in a crowded pool. Some swim very well, (25%) others swim well enough to get by with help from others (50%) and the rest are way in over their heads (25%) - thank goodness the lifeguard is on duty!
Most medium and small association pools are drained quickly of talent when they field an “A” team. The players left to play on the “B” teams typically are the kids still learning to swim. These kids are of varying abilities: some have great strokes and are catching up fast, (improving) some tread water (don’t get any better,) some can barely swim, (fall behind) and unfortunately some drown (get worse) when pitted against programs with better kids who swim (skate) circles around them.
Just as a swimmer has to be taught to swim, a hockey player must be taught to skate in order to keep up and touch the puck in order to improve. Every athlete must improve their fundamental skills. That is done by practicing. Not by trying to keep up with superior athletes who have already mastered the basic skills. You cannot learn to swim by simply watching a good swimmer, you have to DO IT. I have never understood why people say: ”if my kid plays with “A” players they will be an “A” player. Not if they can’t keep up, they won’t.
Kids develop and peak at different times. Give all players of equal ability the chance to compete against others of equal ability…They will get more out of it. Kids improve because they work at it, they practice. Small programs that have multi-level talent are the most challenging for coaches. Anyone can coach in an association that has a deep talent pool, try coaching and being successful in a program where there is only one or two “A” players and the rest of the kids are just learning.
A large program that can field an “A” team and two “B” teams has 45 kids of which only about a third of the “A” roster - maybe 3 forwards and a couple of defense are pure “A” quality players – enough for a solid first line. The rest are “bubble” or role players who still need a few more years to develop better skills in order to keep up with the top players.
Associations with more kids – say 60-150 at each age group could easily field two solid “A” teams but instead typically have only 1 “A” 2 B1, a B2 and a few teams at the recreational “C” or house level.
Large associations in their boy’s programs regularly relegate high talent kids to B1 teams unless they soundly leapfrog over a “once an “A” always an “A” team member the next year. Particularly with boys, you see B1 players who are truly “A” players dominate a game against smaller associations who only have an average B1 team. I have seen large association B1 programs in the state that could easily handle many “A” teams.
This is why we see the same teams year after year after year in the metro – Edina, Eden Prairie, White Bear Lake, Lakeville, Centennial etc. remain competitive - they have the numbers to field high level “A” and B1 teams based on sheer numbers to remain competitive. To keep the analogy alive they have a deep talent pool!
For those who think that girls hockey at “A” is way better than “B” I would argue that it is true only at programs that have 60 or more girls at the same age group. At the smaller association programs I regularly see a single solid “A” player dominate an entire game at “B” but unfortunately one player does not an “A” team make. Take that one kid off the ice and that team would not be competitive at all. Put that kid on an “A” team in an association with 60-100 kids at her age group and I would argue that the kid would still be a standout. The answer isn’t having the “B” team go “A” because of that player rather have the player play “A” somewhere else instead. The only way to make a level playing field for “B” players would be to extract the best talent from all associations and create an elite league, leaving the “B” players to play with talent more to their skill level. Take the true talented “A” players out of the “B” equation and the pool becomes shallower.
Here is how:
Large Associations: 60-100+ kids at an age group: 2 “A” teams the rest “B” teams.
Medium Associations: 20-59 kids: 1 “A” 1-2 “B” teams.
Small Associations: 10-19 kids: No “A” team, only a “B” team. Waive the few “A” players to medium size associations to make them more competitive against the larger associations.
Some additional simple rules would level the playing field too:
1. NO Playing up from your age group.
2. No association can declare an “A” team with only one team at an age level.
3. Associations with two declared teams must designate one “A” and one “B”.
4. Large Associations must declare two “A” teams if there are more than 60 kids at an age group. The rest will be declared “B”.
5. Single team “B” declarations will be allowed to waive “A” players into other medium or large team “A” rosters if they make the team during tryouts – but not at the expense of anyone on the “A” team ‘s home association, nor at the expense of leaving their home association team short of players.
6. CO-OPS of small Associations would be encouraged. HOWEVER: PARENTS WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO CHOOSE “A” or “B” for their kid, the COOP would have a full tryout and the kids would play where they fall.

Pens4
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Post by Pens4 » Tue Mar 23, 2010 8:55 am

Interesting...I need to digest this for the moment.

D10RoXyourSoX
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Post by D10RoXyourSoX » Tue Mar 23, 2010 9:03 am

Nice analogy. I agree with most of what you say. The parent groups and associations have to come to an understanding to support such a plan/proposal but to many "general managers" will make it a recipe for disaster.

Another drawback, most associations do not allow waiver players to make A teams which leaves the recruiting mess (ala my club this year) and the "best" coach/recruiter allowed to do so gets the cream and everyone else is crying, not fair.

Did someone say private schools have an unfair advantage? :shock:

Great topic that will always leave room for debate. I look forward to comments & critiques.
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Night Train
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Post by Night Train » Tue Mar 23, 2010 9:59 am

All good thinking. Easier to go to a neighboring association in the metro where it might be 5 miles away as opposed to rural where it can be 30-40 miles away. A number of the rural associations only get 12-15 per level and I agree they're likely B, except for a couple, when compared to large metro associations. Certainly associations hate to lose their strongest players as good players are a feather in the cap of the association and they also rely on the revenue of that family as opposed to sending the payment to the neighboring association. District 1 has a single 14U A club (Highland) and the girls can come from any association in the District to the tryout. I believe they only have 2 12U A teams in the District (Highland and Minneapolis) and the girls are free to attend either team tryout. You're still going to have super powers as I don't think the 2 12UA teams should be equal nor do I think the associations whould want them to be. One A team is skater 1-15 and the second team is skater 16-30. The B team, without the top 1 or 2 players, is a better experience for the other players. Better teaching opportunity with 15 skaters with similar ability. Another issue is the dad of the top player in the small association is often the coach too. Now you send his daughter to the neighboring association and he goes too. I also don't have any problems with the strong B teams only, no A, as they have to be able to compete with the elite metro B teams or they're not truly B themselves.

red17
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Post by red17 » Tue Mar 23, 2010 11:30 am

Well said!

I might share this commentary with my association board. They think making all teams play A, even if you only have 12 girls at one level with A-C skaters, is a good thing.

Maybe they will learn something from your comments!

blondegirlsdad
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Post by blondegirlsdad » Tue Mar 23, 2010 11:40 am

I think the solution is 3 classes.

Based on some experience, I don't think the answer is necessarily 2 A teams, unless you balance them. But I don't see why parents of kids 1-10 would agree to that. I think it would be better for the development of more kids, but what's in it for the top players? They probably don't want any more players developed...

But I think there's a disservice being done to the borderline kids in large associations which can only be fixed with an additional level of competition. Take the bottom of the A teams, the top of the B's, let the big associations create a team with their 15-30s, call it all B1 and let's roll.

...and if Girls keeps growing, this problem will only get worse. How does Minnesota hockey fix it now, because it's too big for one association to fix.

royals dad
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Post by royals dad » Tue Mar 23, 2010 12:42 pm

The problem with letting your top couple players go over to a neighboring association is that they are likely to not come back even for high school. The rich get richer. I would rather see the really large associations open up a move to a smaller association A team for players 16 to 20. Those players may benefit playing at A level and the small to mid size associations will get a potential boost in numbers. District boundaries should not matter they should just be able to find a good fit. I think we could field another 10 to 15 12U A level teams in Minnesota if we allowed these bubble kids some "free agency".

IMO Adding B1 or C will not change this problem, you will just have the same argument that teams are sandbagging for trophies. When in reality they are just stuck with 15 kids that go from A to C in talent level on one team. I guarantee that almost 100% of the people involved with this struggle with finding whats best for the kids and not chasing trophies.

sinbin
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Post by sinbin » Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:17 pm

Good discussion on a difficult issue. It seems that there are a number of thoughtful suggestions. The difficultt is that you have the multiple dimensions of player development for low/medium/high players, team homogeneity (by that I mean relative numbers of L/M/H players - not using C/B/A here since we don't have those team levels yet), team competitiveness, coaching, overall player numbers, rainbow teams, travel, and others. I'd think player development is most important on this list and that team homogeneity contributes greatly to this.

Just to further muddy the waters (since we're talking about swimming), what about using a formula or score to determine team level? At the risk of further labeling players and making things more administratively challenging, my aim would be to develop something that is consistent across districts, associations, age groups, levels, and teams. Your primary goal is overall player development. As far as team level formation is concerned you want your girls on a specific team to be at relatively the same level, so you'd want to avoid a team with 6 H's and 6 L's (or even 4/4/4), but a team of 6 H's and 6 M's would probably be OK. You'd also want to ensure that an L in one association is relatively equal to another association - that would be a greater challenge (obviously H's are open-ended, but you would have a floor in place), but I'm sure that those with strong hockey backgrounds could roll up their sleeves and come up with something to make these definitions apples to apples - or to make sure that teams in the same level are both swimming the crawl instead of one of them dog-paddling (if that's using the correct swimming analogy).

Again, lots of good discussion. My thoughts are to make the criteria as objective and transferable as possible to ensure as many girls as possible are playing at the appropriate level so their hockey development can be maximized.

observer
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Post by observer » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:24 am

I think you're close to the Tier discussion used in Wisconsin. The tiers are based on the size of the associations which is part of their likely strength. Some of what you mention isn't possible because there are small assocations with excellent coaching and large associations with some weak coaching at some of the levels. Not to be sexist but it often comes down to the dads that nurture groups of girls through the years and end up developing 6-7 nice players along with their own daughter. Most of these dads played college of high level high school. Now that we have some young moms with college hockey experience hopefully we'll get more capable female coaches in the ranks of association youth coaches as the young girls really respond to female coaches and role models as opposed to just another screaming dad of which they've experienced several. Some groups of 20 1st graders have that capable dad in place and other groups of 20 1st graders do not. So much of your child's early year success is based almost entirely on the dad/coach leading that particular group.

The tiers work like this. Associations with over 500 skaters in 10, 12 and 14 are tier 1. Associations with fewer are tier 2. You schedule and playoff against assocaitions with the same size skater pool. Now those are total association numbers and of course the girls don't always have the same size numbers and recruiting effort. So, maybe, there's a way to just look at total number of girls in the 10, 12 and 14 levels.

StillAnEagle
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Post by StillAnEagle » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:38 pm

How would you address smaller programs like Roseau who still field A calibur teams?
Citizens for one class hockey

StillAnEagle
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Post by StillAnEagle » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:41 pm

This is probably the same conversation that drove the HS tourney to 2 tiers, then 2 classes.
Citizens for one class hockey

InigoMontoya
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Post by InigoMontoya » Fri Mar 26, 2010 6:48 am

I might share this commentary with my association board.
Let us know how that goes: "I'd like to make a motion to petition the district to allow our girls to play B. I have it under good authority from Night Train that our girls should not be A."

hockey4106
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Post by hockey4106 » Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:14 am

[quote="StillAnEagle"]How would you address smaller programs like Roseau who still field A calibur teams?[/quote]

Teams like Warroad and Roseau have unique exemptions to training times and number of games comapred to the rest of the state. They are allowed training and recruiting players that the rest of MN hockey does not. For example, their 14U play the high school JV schedule and are also allowed to play a 50+ game schedule in USA hockey. Other associations would never be allowed to do that. The associations have rink rat programs and open ice time for kids (good for them) at little or no cost to the families which give them hours and hours of more ice time to develop players. Try that in the cities where ice time is $175 and hour or more...We also have heard that Warroad though Marvin Windows has at times offered jobs to struggling families whose kids happen to be fanatasitc players - recruiting. No different than the private schools.

Phish12
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Post by Phish12 » Mon Mar 29, 2010 2:32 pm

What's wrong with a simple rule that says: If you don't field an A team, your B team cannot play beyond Districts? That way the top "true B" teams move on to Regionals and State. End of controversy. It would then be a choice each association must make: Field an A team and finish middle or bottom of the pack, or field a B team and win a bunch of games but have no chance for a State championship. This would ensure that the best "true B" team would hoist the State Championship trophy every year. It would also ensure that the association was making the right choice for development, not for trophies.

InigoMontoya
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Post by InigoMontoya » Tue Mar 30, 2010 8:07 am

That is way too simple, and might actually be fair. We'd better table that as plan B and get to work on a complicated system with plenty of loopholes that has zero chance of accomplishing the objective.

royals dad
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Post by royals dad » Tue Mar 30, 2010 8:49 am

This whole "true B team" argument is getting tired. If you really think about if your large association has a really good A team you probably don't have a "true B team" either. You probably have 5 to 10 girls in your B program that many associations would love to have in their A program.

Smaller associations are still recruiting into 4th and 5th grade so they will often have first year skaters at U12. The teams that are questioned as not being "true B teams" often have a huge talent gap from top to bottom and many play ups.

Only the mid sized associations with around 30 kids skating at their true age level that cuts 15 to a B team and keeps 15 at A that should be called "true B teams".

If you want to fix this with a system I would rather see no State at any B level and extend the season then just do district tournaments at the end. Otherwise just let associations try and do what they think is best for their kids each year and pick the right level.

luckyEPDad
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Post by luckyEPDad » Tue Mar 30, 2010 10:35 am

Phish12 wrote:What's wrong with a simple rule that says: If you don't field an A team, your B team cannot play beyond Districts? That way the top "true B" teams move on to Regionals and State. End of controversy. It would then be a choice each association must make: Field an A team and finish middle or bottom of the pack, or field a B team and win a bunch of games but have no chance for a State championship. This would ensure that the best "true B" team would hoist the State Championship trophy every year. It would also ensure that the association was making the right choice for development, not for trophies.
I strongly disagree. To paraphrase:

Small associations must never be allowed to participate in a state tournament. Small associations must be kept small by making sure hockey remains a fringe sport with little or no visibility in the community. All children interested in playing hockey must move to the metro area.

This entire thread is nuts. The way to "fix" girls hockey is to have more girl hockey players. Instead of worrying about associations not having "true" B teams we should focus on getting enough girls involved so they can have both A and B teams. The best way to develop talent is to change the culture around hockey and increase the talent pool. At my daughter's age there's somewhere around 200 girls playing soccer, but only about 50 playing hockey. Balance those numbers (raise both up to 200+) and you'll "fix" girls hockey.

In Eden Prairie during the summer months we shut down one of our ice sheets and the other two have reduced traffic. That is a expensive resource not used to its full potential. Making such inefficient use of our ice increases the rates that the community center has to charge. Expensive ice time increases the cost of playing hockey and reduces the number of families that can afford to have their kids play hockey. The result is that most kids playing hockey come from "hockey families" (dad played). Little is done to reach out to the community and recruit new players. The talent pool gets smaller and smaller. Eventually we become the "State of Soccer" or the "State of Lacrosse" (fine sports, but not hockey).

It would be so much better to have an inexpensive summer program that allows kids to dip their toe in. A local league with little travel and few restrictions. An opportunity to find hockey players who thought they where something else. A chance to create new hockey fans. A chance to make hockey relevant to a broad audience.

Just an idea.

Phish12
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Post by Phish12 » Tue Mar 30, 2010 2:43 pm

luckyEPDad, you're talking about two totally different things. I agree that recruiting and retention are the keys to making girls hockey in Minnesota strong. That much is beyond true. And every association should be developing ways to encourage girls to play hockey. But the question at hand is: How do we create a level playing field for these kids? After all, the State Tournaments are designed to crown the best team at each level, not to make sure little Cindy from a small association feels good about herself and her experience in hockey. That's what Pizza parties, hotel pools, and Dairy Queen are for.

You can't honestly argue that a B team with no A team is the same as a B team that also fields an A team? That's just foolish and fails to recognize the dramatic impact even a few A-level kids can have in a B game. Sure some big associations have lower-level, A-caliber players on B teams. But they spread the talent around on 4 such B teams so none are stacked. A "non-true" B team could have 5 or more strong, A-level players on it. Look at the stats: 6 of the 8 12B teams at the State Tournament had no A team. Woodbury and Eden Prairie were the only two teams that did and according to the Minnesota Hockey website, they both finished out of the medals. The 6 teams that had no A team went 209-28-8. The top 4 teams (Champlin Park, Chisago, Tartan, and Northern Lakes) were 151-13-3 and their average margin of victory was absurd. State Champion Champlin Park went 34-3-0 with two losses to St. Francis, another B team with no A team. How is that a level playing field?

Prohibiting a team from playing in the State Tournament won't crush hockey at the small association level. No one said don't let small associations play B-level hockey. Absolutely the opposite. Play B hockey. Play A hockey. Do whatever is right for the kids on the team. Heck, win a 12B District title. Have a great season. Encourage the girls to play hockey for life. All I'm saying is, if you don't have an A team, you can't play in the B State Tournament. Life in Champlin Park would go on if they finished 30-3 with a District Champ trophy instead of 34-3 with a State Champ trophy.

oldhockeyguy
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Post by oldhockeyguy » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:18 pm

Eliminating B state opportunities is a bad idea.

For example, There is a huge difference between 12UA hockey and 12UB hockey. In fact, if you watched many games in both A & B, you would realize every team in B is a B team...including those teams in the U12B state tournament. They are just good B teams all with, let's not forget, C players as well.

Why would you punish an association who has 10 kids try out for hockey and can only logically field a B team by eliminating a B tournament? Likewise, why would you force C players on a logical B team to play A hockey just so the team can have a chance at state because there is no B tourney? How much fun is that C player having never touching the puck? How much development is going on there.

These decisions must be made in the best interest of the development of all kids playing hockey, within the parameters of each association.

There are other options, but eliminating the current B state tournaments as an only solution is a step in the wrong direction for MN hockey.

There is no truly fair solution. But, it's pretty good as is.

luckyEPDad
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Post by luckyEPDad » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:41 pm

Phish, I guess our opinions differ on what is the purpose of the state tournament. I don't agree that it is designed to crown the best team at each level. That's just a side effect. The purpose of the tournament is to promote youth hockey in Minnesota. The important thing about youth hockey is that there are youth playing hockey, not who the state champion is. Instead of playing XBox, these kids are staying healthy, learning the value of hard work and what it means to be a team. Once you have that all else is gravy.

So how to best promote youth hockey? By having the big metro associations dominate both the A and B tournaments? That's what would happen. That could even happen now if EP, Edina or Wayzata... stacked the deck and put their best B players all on one team. Even without resorting to sleaze I heard EP played pretty even with Champlin Park at state. Last year EP easily handled Tartan at the regionals and lost 1 - 0 to state champion Proctor (no A team). Centennial, Osseo-Maple Grove and Lakeville where all at the state B tournament last year. Centennial was the favorite to win. I guess I can argue that a B team from an AB program can compete with B only programs.

I think it far better that there is a separate stage where the smaller associations can shine. Success at the B level can have a big impact on a program. Maybe a few more kids will decide to play. Maybe local business will pony up more money. Maybe coaching and management will improve. With success, a small association or weak association can overcome their problems, develop strong players and play at the A level.

sinbin
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Post by sinbin » Thu Apr 01, 2010 9:51 am

Just out of curiosity, and I don't know how this impacts the arguments, if at all, but how do you think that the strongest B teams would have fared as A teams in post-season play? Does anyone have a relatively objective opinion? Obviously they wouldn't have made it to State, but would they have been competitive at Districts?

blondegirlsdad
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Post by blondegirlsdad » Thu Apr 01, 2010 2:04 pm

The best 12B teams would have problems against any 12A team. In our city, we had 3 teams at B and they spread the kids out. If they made a team of players 16-30 in our association (and last year they did), they could hang with some of the mid-pack and lower A teams, but they can't beat any of the real good A teams. That group would probably destroy any of the other B teams, though.

One of the rules of youth sports is that it's not how many good players you have, it's about how good are your worst players? The 12B teams do end up with some C players...

I like the addition of a 3rd level, B1. But unless it was a Minnesota hockey mandate, I'd recommend associations with a ton of kids to run 2 A teams.

royals dad
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Post by royals dad » Thu Apr 01, 2010 2:32 pm

With Woodbury and Lakeville split or splitting how many associations tied to one school district outside of the Classic Lake(EP, Edina, Wayzata, Tonka) have the player numbers for more than 3 teams at U12?

Phish12
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Post by Phish12 » Thu Apr 01, 2010 2:52 pm

No way these B teams contend for a State Title. Likely they would finish in the bottom 3rd of their District, depending on the District and the talent on the team. An interesting case study would be District 2, where North St. Paul only fielded an A team and Irondale and Moundsview each fielded an A team and combined to field one B team - kudos to these associations for finding a way to make both A and B level hockey available to the kids. North St. Paul finished 2-14-4 in District 2 play, 10th out of 11 teams. Based on final scores, they were in every game and were blown out only once (7-1 loss). They finished ahead of Mahtomedi, which fielded both an A and a B team. Irondale finished 3rd and Moundsview 9th. The reality is, someone has to finish at the bottom. As long as the games are competitive, scores overall are reasonable, and the players on each side are improving through healthy competition, the team's record is largely irrelevant - in other words, a kid won't become better at hockey by winning 2-1 than by losing 2-1.

Others who have seen more of the 12B games this year can opine as to whether Tartan is comparable in talent to North St. Paul, but given their geographic proximity and association size, I suspect they are. As I read somewhere previously, a few A-level Tartan players waived out to play for other A teams - which could have been North St. Paul for all I know - when they learned Tartan would only field a B team. Perhaps Tartan could have called North St. Paul to form combined teams at both the A and B level? Maybe they did and it didn't work for some reason. I have no idea. What I do know from the District 2 web site is that Tartan's 12B team went 15-0-1 in District play, outscoring their opponents 110-9. That's correct and not a typo: 110-9, an average of more than 7-1. Ouch. Tartan went on to finish third in the State Tournament, losing only to eventual champion Chisago, which also didn't field an A team...

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