Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pointing the finger in the wrong direction

So when the news broke yesterday that Paul Kelly was stepping down as the head of College Hockey Inc.; it was like a signal to renew the same old arguments between supporters of the Canadian juniors and those who support US college hockey.

Quite frankly I viewed Paul Kelly as a polarizing figure in the hockey world than I did as a supporter/marketer of college hockey. In my eyes Paul Kelly was doing more to widen the differences between the Canadian juniors and US college hockey then help those he worked for.

The thing that got me more than anything else is that College Hockey Inc. is funded by the NHL via USA Hockey. I wish somebody would explain to me how the NHL on one hand is funding College Hockey, Inc. while suggesting to its own draft picks that their development would be better helped by playing in the juniors than going to school.

Some of the accusations that Kelly made such as Canadian junior teams paying under the table to some of the players were never supported by any proof. Had he provided some proof then maybe it would've added some real credibility to the complaints that US college hockey does have against the Canadian juniors.

I've said this before and I'll say it again; the biggest problem facing US ollege hockey today is not the Canadian juniors. It is a machine called the NCAA which so badly handicaps college hockey programs that it causes most of the problems that US college hockey faces these days.

I will acknowledge that I have a very serious dislike for that machine called NCAA but my dislike has zero to do with the current climate between the juniors and US college hockey. It's actually because of how the rules are set up for other sports where my dislike comes from (I live about 5 miles from the school nicknamed "Nike U" a.k.a. the University of Oregon).

The NCAA will allow football players to retain their eligibility if they go play professional baseball during the summer; it will allow underclassmen basketball players to explore the possibility of entering the NBA draft as long as they do not hire an agent.

But yet if a 16-year-old kid plays a 20 minute period of an hockey exhibition game for a CHL team then that young man in the eyes of the NCAA is now a professional hockey player and thus ineligible to play US college hockey. 15-year-old Devin Williams of the Erie Otters because of the rules in place is now ineligible to play US college hockey.

A 15-year-old teenager is forced to decide which direction he must take his life because of the way the rules are set. Asking a 15-year-old kid to decide whether you want to go to college or do you want play junior hockey is about as unfair as you can get.

Blame NCAA for that because Williams who hails from Michigan just might have made one heck of a prospect for any of the hockey programs in Michigan. Now he never will because he's a "professional hockey player" according to the NCAA.

By now I hope people have realized that I deliberately do not call US college hockey, NCAA hockey. I do that because college hockey in the United States should be governed not by the NCAA but rather USA hockey. In my eyes USA Hockey as a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation would be better suited to govern a sport that is unlike no other sport in North America (and yes, I do think the CHL should be governed by Hockey Canada).

Having USA Hockey governing US college hockey in my book would do more to come to a realistic solution regarding how to address the issues between US college hockey and the Canadian juniors. The chances of seeing agreements made and kept between all three (you have to include the NHL) increase because you have people who understand the sport running the sport.

I happen to love both junior hockey and US college hockey because each has something to offer that makes it entertaining and exciting to watch. But I have to be honest if I had a son who had potential to possibly play in the NHL; I would steer him towards the Canadian juniors under current conditions.

Oh don't get me wrong there are some serious things about junior hockey that I don't like either like playing 3 games in 2.5 days or living out of a bus for about two weeks. If you ask I will gladly list their warts too.

But the biggest difference between the Canadian juniors and US college hockey is how much NHL involvement there is. Once drafted an NHL team can offer more to help further the development of a prospect who is playing in the Canadian juniors then they can one playing US college hockey.

NCAA rules limit how much contact a NHL team may have with one of their own draft picks. Until recently NCAA rules limited how much time a US college prospect could spend at an event like the combine.

It was rather commonplace to see a US college player having to run from the combine after testing to avoid violating the time limit. I do not see what is wrong with allowing a prospect to attend a summer camp for draft picks/prospects at NHL team expense instead of making the prospect pay his own way.

I do not disagree about a prospect attending a team's main training camp and there is a gray area that would need some cleaning up in order to allow a prospect to play at a Traverse City. But what is wrong with say allowing Adam Graves to go up to a prospect and offer him some tips on how to improve his game after a game?

Who is that hurting? No money is changing hands and it benefits the school just as much as it does the prospect if his play improves as a result. But it's an extra benefit under NCAA rules (I also was once told by an SID that I couldn't offer a suggestion even though I do not work for the Rangers)

And to those who do support US college hockey while I understand your frustration when a JT Miller walks away from a signed letter of intent and goes to play in the OHL; ask yourselves this question.

Who is really to blame when it is suggested to him that playing in the juniors will help speed up his progression to the NHL; the player, his agent, or the NHL team?

Why make it even tougher on the young man by mentioning that if we sign you now that even if you wind up in the juniors that you can keep your signing bonus. Let us be real here and acknowledge that the NCAA would strip the young man of his eligibility before the ink is dry on the check.

With each passing year, more and more US college hockey players are leaving school early to turn pro than those who stay the entire four years. Why is that?

Now let me be clear I am not even suggesting that a US college player could accept any money from any NHL team. Do that and yes player should be declared ineligible but I do not see the harm in allowing more contact between the NHL team and the player.

I also don't see any harm in allowing a prospect to use or attend a prospect training camp at team expense. It boggles the mind that an airplane ticket, room and board and some team merchandise is so damaging to the US colleges.

Yet it is okay for players playing in a BCS bowl game can get a goodie bag that is worth a couple thousand dollars. Like I said US college supporters stop blaming the Canadian juniors blame the NCAA.

And I suggest that you start doing it sooner rather than later because you're going to see more players turning down US colleges unless the rules are changed.

1 comment:

Harry said...

Well said. Going through the list of "swag" that college football players receive at bowl game was mind boggling. They would receive expensive stuff even if they were playing on a team that was 6-6 and playing in one of the 25 meaningless games leading up to bowl week.