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 kids information. While college players are given the chance at a 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 with 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. 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 major 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 prospect's professional development that could be enhanced in the professional game.
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 remain uncommitted to the complete college or professional games.
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.
Author: Stephen Heisler
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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