A gentleman from one of the NCAA sports recruiting sites was commenting, during a telephone conversation about junior hockey, why hockey is so much different than the other NCAA sports.
It was hard for him to understand why it has become so important for players to play junior in order to be ready to play NCAA hockey.
I spent the best part of an hour explaining why college hockey requires a player with an elevated level of maturity. Hockey is an emotional game and those that can keep their emotions in check on one hand, and able to channel them in a positive way on the other, are the exact kind of players needed to have success at the college level of play.
A question I cannot answer was why other NCAA sports don't do the same thing? Think about it, would a college football player starting at age 20 be more prepared for the rigors of college life then an 18-year-old? Of course he would. The same goes for NCAA basketball.
I'm not sure I like what college sports have become, seeing players come in for a year or two before going professional is discouraging. I kind of miss the old days when players were there for four years or more.
Maybe a junior hockey type of developmental system would weed out a lot of professional prospects from the college level of play. That would certainly create more opportunities for athletes that are also dedicated to the academic process.
I know this, if the other major sports were able to give athletes a few years to fine tune their craft before going to college, the competitive product would elevate substantially.
Yes junior hockey players are a little further along by the time they get to college then incoming freshman from other sports. Maybe that level of maturity explains why college hockey players stay in school at a higher rate than athletes from the other major sports.
Could you imagine the chaos if 15-year old high school football players and basketball players were plucked from their schools to developmental programs. It's already happening with some sports. IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida is getting serious money from families all in the interest of enhanced development.
Maybe it is time for other sports to take the lead from hockey.