I can see both sides of the coin.
Will there be teams that knowingly/unknowingly break the rules and don't get caught? I would say yes.
It's not fair, but it happens on all levels of sports. The ACHA has limited resources, so I imagine there will be things that slip through the cracks on occasion. I understand that.
That being said, if the ACHA is made aware of an infraction through the correct avenues and within a reasonable time frame, I would hope they would take the appropriate actions to rectify the situation. If an individual/team is caught breaking the rules they should prepare for and accept the discipline that goes along with it.
I feel for guys like @Birdman & @Sheriff because I do believe they are attempting to do the "right" thing, but because they've made themselves so involved in the process they have painted themselves into a corner at times.
This is based on what I've seen bandied about on this forum, so it may not actually be true, but it's definitely the perception that's out there.
It shouldn't be their job to determine how "sorry" a club/player is or what their true intentions were. Most entities that get caught are sorry...
Ultimately, we need to have good rules with predetermined, fair punishments that are enforced by those in charge.
This will help prevent the commissioners from having to make many judgment calls. On the other end, the ACHA should also be as transparent as possible, providding things like clearly defined flowcharts to clubs/conferences that help them determine a players eligibility, postseason requirements, ranking factors etc. for that season, that way there shouldn't be any questions.
If you play an ineligible player, you forfeit. If your conference doesn't hold it's teams accountable, you lose your bid. If you play teams outside of the ACHA, they don't count toward your ranking.
If your team/conference gets screwed and you want to improve the system, suggest a rule change and put it up for a vote and if everyone agrees that it should be fixed, it goes into effect at an agreed upon date.
There will always be winners and losers, but we should strive to have as equitable a playing field as possible.