When two completely different levels of play
are in competition for the same level of player, the battle is going to be
fierce. College Hockey, Inc. was formed to combat the three leagues that make
up the Canadian Hockey League and their grip on exceptional hockey talent.
The CHI's mission is to encourage high
school-aged players to choose college hockey over the CHL. The professional
success of players like Justin Faulk, Zach Parise, and many others have had
after playing at the college level is often used as an example of why the NCAA
is the smarter option.
The war for talent has intensified after the
formation of CHI. Major junior teams are no longer the only source feeding the
information. While college players are given the chance at an education, major
junior teams give younger players a stipend of $50 per week. Some veteran
players can get up to $150 a week. Anything beyond that is considered against
the rules. But enforcement of the rules is questionable. The CHL also offers
year-for-a-year educational packages to players that go onto school when their
major junior career comes to an end.
If the CHL was ever able to standardize the
stipends and enforce the rules, they could steal CHI's thunder by becoming
fully compliant within the NCAA's rules. Now we know how USA Hockey and the USHL
would react to that.
The biggest argument would be the culture
that surrounds major junior hockey. Rumors of $500,000 payouts to prospects,
combined with the fact the college hockey loses a number of prospects to the
CHL every summer, only intensifies the battle. Yes, National Hockey League
signed players are peppered throughout CHL rosters, but that is the same
situation with soccer, basketball and other sports.
The CHL's product is fantastic and I do not
see a major change if the organization were to take the steps to become fully
compliant with the NCAA. Let's consider the alternative for prospects... there
would be none. In the end, the major junior teams will see a serious boost to
the bottom line while talent would have developmental options that do not limit
their educational opportunities.
The CHL would also need to release their grip
on adult players that may have the opportunity to play at the professional
level. I believe that the CHL is selfishly limiting many prospects' development that could be enhanced at the professional level.
College hockey also needs to put an end to
the recruitment of players that have no desire to play more than a season or
two at that level. High end prospects need to stay in junior hockey if they are
uncertain about staying in school for the duration of their eligibility.
The two sides continued escalation of the
battle will cost a small fortune. Lawsuits, rumors, and raiding rosters will
only force a greater separation. Prospects are the only loser in this war. If
the CHL was able to clean up its act and force CHI's hand, everybody would come
out ahead...especially the players.
If both sides don't get it straight, more players will just follow the path that Auston Matthews took to realize their hockey dreams.
* Disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Stephen Heisler, and not necessarily the views of JuniorHockey.com. JuniorHockey.com does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.