Saturday, July 30, 2011

Caught In The Middle

For New York Ranger fans there really is no real concern where they get their prospects from just as long as the prospect develops into a productive NHL player who improves the Rangers. And that right there is the one angle that those who favor the CHL or the NCAA just don't understand.

Why should Ranger fans care where they get their prospects from anyway? See that is the hardest part of trying to explain why I am not trying to favor either the NCAA or the CHL.

I happen to enjoy brands of hockey because each offers something to me that at times not even the NHL can match.  Sure there is way more coverage of CHL prospects but that has to do more with that the CHL plays about 20-30 games more per team in a season than an NCAA school does.

And yes living in WHL land also plays an influence on why I give more space to CHL prospects. No offense was intended towards the college game yesterday but I can on 3 straight days see 3 different games involving 6 different teams.

It is a matter of economics not favoritism that rule where I go to watch hockey. And to be honest if you had a Beanpot out west I would kill to attend something like that annual tournament.

But it does not matter if I am at a Portland Winterhawk game or a Michigan Wolverine game as the bottom line is hockey in North America has 2 very different systems that are broken.

See the CHL advocates they can understand when I am saying "Money rules" whether it was JT Miller backing out of North Dakota, North Dakota forming a new super conference or a college coach leaves for the NHL and leaves behind 10 kids he recruited.

It is money which rules all decisions and no despite what you may think is 3 separate issues; sorry it just is not. It was money which caused the Chilliwack Bruins to move to Victoria after the WHL said that "no we want relocation to be used as a last resort" when they had targeted the Victoria market.

What I do see is that there is a system that is broken and in the end the losers are not just the prospects but the overall health of the sport. It does not matter whether it is North Dakota or Baie Comeau; money is going to be what decides the fate of this sport like it or not.

What is wrong is both the CHL and the NCAA (via their College Hockey INC) go out of their ways to trash the other in order to attract players. Neither side is willing to sit down and work out their differences in order to help the sport as a whole.

Really the best description to use with the CHL and NCAA is that one is the GOP and the other the Democrats. Both have their own agendas and neither is willing to put the good of the sport or the prospect ahead of their own wants.

You really could make a case that just like the gridlock in Washington can be used to describe this hockey war. Ah who cares if a 18 yr old winds up in the wrong situation for his life because the CHL and NCAA want to show the other who is right?

What is so sad is if both sides would just stop fighting long enough to realize that both could help the other out then the sport wins. But it seems that both sides would rather cut off their own arms and legs rather than help each other.

As our friend Andy Kemper the voice of the Portland Winterhawks wrote at his After The Whistle:

The main argument that you hear from NCAA proponents is that the players receive a better education than heading the CHL route. And, while they are in school, that is a valid argument, but it also is a valid argument that very few of the top players in the NCAA stay for a complete four years. Granted, some finish school later on, but it doesn’t hide the fact that given the opportunity to sign a pro deal, the players (more often than not) take that opportunity.

For me, I would like to see some changes to allow a bit more flexibility (so we don’t get issues like those that happened to Julien Laplante this summer) and make it so a player doesn’t have to make a decision at 15 or 16 on what they want to do with their hockey future.

Julien Laplante is the goalie who lost a scholarship to Union College all because he played ONE 20 minute period in an exhibition game for the Portland Winterhawks. Now here is how Union College coach Rick Bennett was quoted on the matter in an article written by Ken Schott:

"I found through a second party that he had 20 minutes of major junior," Bennett said. "When I caled the player about it, he confirmed that he played 20 minutes of an exhibition game. I said that's not how we run the program, and that was it."

So he pulls a scholarship of a kid for playing 20 minutes of an exhibition game when he was 16 years old for the Portland Winterhawks. Yes that is a really fair system to penalize a kid but when I dug a little deeper; Rick Bennett looks more like a bully who wanted to get rid of someone he did not recruit.

See while Rick Bennett is showing how a strong follower of NCAA rules he is what is left out was that Laplante was recruited by the coach Bennett replaced at Union. That is because there are always 2 sides to a story and because Laplante while losing an entire year of eligibility was able to transfer to Providence College.

If Laplante is officially announced as a member of Providence, he will be reunited with the coaches who originally recruited him to Union.

This past spring, head coach Nate Leaman and assistant coach Ben Barr left Union to take on the head and assistant coaching positions at Providence.

Laplante was officially announced at Providence but you want to bet how both the CHL and the NCAA will use this to say how much of a bad route the other is to take? But see tomorrow there is going to be some CHL coach who is going to tell a 15 year old see what they will do to you with all their rules?

But to NCAA supporters they fail to see that what they see as three separate issues is really just one issue; Money. What they are not seeing is that those 3 different issues are all going to be used against them when a CHL coach comes knocking on the door of a 14-15 year old prospect.

When the super conferences start playing then it will give the CHL another  fourth weapon to use against the NCAA. As the CHL will beat up on those schools left behind in the CCHA and WCHA saying they are inferior 2nd rate schools like Western Michigan.

And in the end nobody is going to win with either broken system as eventually you will see schools discontinue their hockey programs or in the case of the Lewiston Maineaics of the QMJHL fold.

All because both sides would rather beat each other up than sit down at a table and iron out their differences.  But down the road again the New York Ranger fan is not going to care where JT Miller develops just as long as he does and shows up on Broadway.

That is the message we are trying to say to both sides, wake up and fix yourselves before there will be fewer of both.

After we posted this our friend Gregg Drinnan of Taking Note pointed out a great article from Chris Peters (another great guy) regarding the same subject. Please take a read

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