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Daily Dish: NCAA Should Reconsider Position on Major Junior Players Junior Hockey News

Published: Tuesday, 19 Feb 2019  
By: Stephen Heisler,

Has USA Hockey inspired the National Collegiate Athletic Association into keeping players from the Canadian Hockey League ineligible for NCAA competition?

NCAA rules in regards to hockey oppose those that protect minors. While the law generally protects minors from himself, his immaturity, and against other people, the NCAA holds minors accountable for decisions they make as early teens. The amateur standards for hockey are the opposite with the standards of law.

Is Major Junior Professional Hockey?

The answer is no. The leagues deny that they are professional hockey and present themselves as amateurs. Players receive a modest monthly stipend for spending money that they would otherwise collect from part-time jobs. The standard is $35 a week for sixteen and seventeen year-olds, $50 for eighteen year-olds, $60 for nineteen year-olds, and as much as $150 for twenty year-olds.

The only noticeable difference between what the Canadian Hockey League and the United States Hockey League is the stipend.  USHL players are permitted to use part-time jobs during the season to earn spending money. One would think that situation would fall under as much scrutiny as the team supplied stipend. Did the USHL player obtain the job opportunity because he plays for the local team or was it obtained because of an particular skill set for doing the job?

In reality, the major junior leagues are giving young players more time to concentrate on academics while the USHL is adding the extra pressure of a part-time job to the equation.

I can't help but think that the USHL system is subject to more abuse than that of the CHL. Having players work jobs in the same community as they are playing in could certainly become a problem.

The similarities between major junior and minor professional hockey end after length of the season and games played. Major junior players have minimal responsibilities, no expenses and are dependent on the team and billet family. In contrast, professional players live alone, with a teammate, or with their own family. They are responsible for their own bills, do their own shopping and cooking. Players at the professional level are able to earn enough money to provide for themselves and others. Many major junior players are still in school while professionals play hockey as a full-time job.

Why does the NCAA Determine Amateurism on a Sport by Sport Basis?

NCAA regulations allow an individual to play professionally in one sport and to maintain eligibility in another. Many minor professional baseball players have gone on to play college football. It certainly does not make sense to allow an adult athlete to collect millions of dollars from baseball to play football as an amateur while preventing minors who have collected slightly more than fast-food money from playing their sport at the college level. The NCAA is telling that minor age player, "you made a choice now live with it," while allowing a twenty-eight year old to win the Heisman Trophy (Chris Heinke)  after six years of playing professional baseball.

Who's to Blame?It's the entire system. From the National Hockey League to the NCAA. The NHL likes to sign players and return them to the major junior team. The NCAA equates this to feces in the punch bowl, and that the entire league is tainted. That's for hockey. At the same time, college players can play in pro-am golf and tennis tournaments, Division I soccer players compete against professional players and teams with club programs every summer. Why is it so much different for hockey?

Let's face it; USA Hockey is heavily influencing the NCAA's position. The issue is more about protecting the USHL than it is about punishing kids for getting hamburger money. If CHL players were eligible for NCAA Division I hockey there would be a lot fewer opportunities for American players. 

It would make much more sense to lock both schools and players into four-year agreements. If a player agrees to play for a school and wants to withdraw after two-years, he should be financially responsible for all expenses leading up until his departure. At the same time, the school needs to be responsible for all educational expenses for that same duration, regardless if the player makes the team or not. This should apply to all NCAA sports.

Author: Stephen Heisler from
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

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