NCAA v. CHL: The Saga
Matt Lombardi of BC.
Alright, where do we begin?
I’ll be the first to admit my own biases: I’m American, both my parents attended hockey powerhouse Boston College and I grew up in the Boston-area, where the Beanpot tournament is on par with the Boston Marathon. I think college hockey is fast and exciting, not to mention leagues cleaner.
Would-be Beanpotter and Stars prospect Jamie Oleksiak announced just yesterday that he’d sign with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL, and play there over Northeastern. JT Miller, a Rangers prospect, announced last week that he’ll play for the Plymouth Whalers, instead of the NCAA. These are important choices, as there is no going back: once you play in the CHL, you forfeit NCAA eligibility. This has raised a firestorm once again. Here’s just a bit of it from Buzzing the Net. And tell me this piece from the USHL isn’t hostile?
First, off, hey, CHL, here’s an idea: why not forgo that $50 a week stipend? If that’s the compensation that’s holding players back from making a decision to go to college in the States at 18, heck, get rid of it. $50?!? Players are the first to admit it’s measly. It’s technically supposed to replace earnings players could make from part-time jobs but don’t because they’re traveling and playing on weekends. Get rid of it!
That said, the point of this post is to clear the air, but also change the language in which we discuss the NCAA v. CHL conundrum. Players have fewer options as it stands, the competition is fierce.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Stop using the terms “defection” and “bolting.” Yeah, this isn’t escaping the Eastern Bloc or tunneling under the Berlin Wall, folks. “Bolting” is used a lot when talking of players “bolting to the KHL.”
While we’re on the topic, I think it’s worth mentioning that proponents of the major-junior system take aim at Russian players the same way they do American ones: but stating continually that their development and draft chances would be improved by playing in the CHL. If it’s not one-size-fits-all (the individual should make the choice), then why insist this, across the board? Seems hypocritical.
2. Level the recruiting playing field. The NCAA has EXTREMELY strict regulations in terms of the number of contacts by phone, email or text that coaches and management of teams are allowed to make to players during the courting and recruitment process. What are the CHL’s policies? We don’t know.
3. CHL fans: drop the hypersensitivity. Major-junior is big business in Canada, and wildly popular. Nobody is accusing you of undervaluing the educations provided by these NCAA schools. But the truth is, well, it is a judgment. It’s not just a series of individual choices made by players, their families, their agents: you are judging the value of a four-year education.
4. Drop the Canadian jingoism and exceptionalism. We know Canada is number one at hockey. Nobody is contesting this. But the attitude is a real turn-off. Does the NCAA have a shorter season? Yes. Is the competition weaker? Maybe. Players can and do develop anywhere on earth. They can play anywhere.
5. This brings me to my next point: the best players will come through no matter what. Were Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise or TJ Oshie, to take some recent examples, ruined by UND? Hardly. Are teams afraid of drafting NCAA commits? The numbers don’t bear that out. The NCAA is a highly competitive environment.
The war between the two routes puts players and their families in a bad position: one of choosing between education and sport. The NCAA proves you don’t have to. Why not own that?