Thursday, February 12, 2009

NCAA/CHL Border War

Good news for Canadians who would like the chance to watch more NCAA hockey on TV. Starting on February 20th, Rogers Sportsnet is going to be showing games out of the Hockey East Conference with the first match being Boston University against New Hampshire.

The press release was posted at the BCHL's official website and has some really inflammatory comments attached to it coming from BU head coach Jack Parker. Here is the release.

This will be interesting on a few different fronts. We've seen a growing number of players leave the NCAA in favor of the CHL including Adam Pineault and Jim O'Brien. The OHL has definitely plundered the pre-NCAA drowd with guys like John Carlson and Trevor Lewis in recent years. Earlier this year it happended to Cornell when a committed recruit, Jordan Escott, jumped ship to the QMJHL's PEI Rocket.

Coach Parker might have good reason to complain about the competition for players that NCAA schools are getting but as Dean and I have argued in the past, perhaps the NCAA should think about changing the way it restricts players so that 18-year-old and younger kids from Jr. A and Major Junior could still have their NCAA eligibility.

The other aspect of this which will get interesting is broken down well by Greg Drinnan HERE.

Millard pointed out to me that some NCAA hockey can be found via the Big Ten (channel 57 on Shaw Digital) but someone smarter than me can figure out which schools in the Big Ten Conference also have hockey programs and what conference they play in (I'm guessing mostly CCHA?).

Of course the NHL Network also has provided a little NCAA hockey coverage this year, mostly CCHA but mostly matches of the ho-hum variety as Bowling Green seems to be a favorite team (Although Yale vs Union is on this Friday if that catches your fancy).


Brock Otten said...

I think that is great news for the NCAA, and for fans of junior aged hockey. It shouldn't mean competition for the CHL in terms of an audience, but it gives fans a chance to see some exciting and competitive hockey.

That being said, BU Coach Jack Parker sounds like a bitter fool in that snippet. He makes it sound like the CHL 'steals' players from NCAA commitments because they fear the competition they provide. When in fact, the average fan could a rats ass about CIS hockey, let alone the NCAA. CHL clubs go after some NCAA big fish in order to improve their clubs and to make their product more entertaining. I highly doubt the Hunter's in London say to themselves "Ha, we just stole John Carlson from the NCAA, our league is so much more superior, down with those NCAA bastards!"

Also, if you are trying to build a new market, I'm not sure the best thing to do is to attack the current market leader. A lot of people in Canada are CHL fans for a reason. Because it's exciting hockey. If you want people to watch your product, perhaps it would be best if Parker would have simply said that the NCAA is great hockey, named dropped a few good players in Hockey East, etc.

Regardless, I'll still be watching on the 20th.

Guy Flaming said...

Some good points Brock.

The part that bugs me is that some, not all, but some of the guys that choose CHL over NCAA are doing it because they get wooed by bucks.

O'Brien and Pineault left the NCAA for more playing time in the CHL, I'm not sure that money was their motivation. The WHL is pretty tight in regards to not being able to offer cash windfalls to imports or such but that's not my impression of the OHL and the Q.

You're out there, you tell me: Do OHL and Q teams back up the truck to get Euros and Americans to play for them?

Brock Otten said...

I think that their is absolutely no question that some OHL teams throw money or some sort of "reward" at potential incoming players. The London Knights, in particular, have been accused of this. For instance, I've heard some pretty crazy things about the type of money and other things given to Pat Kane for choosing to play for London. Obviously none of this has ever been proved, but most OHL insiders and fans believe that their have been a substantial amount of 'backdoor' deals completed.

And I agree, I think the system is flawed. However, I'm not entirely sure how you correct it.

That being said, even with the likes of the Knights throwing mass amounts of cash at potential players, I'm not sure their intention is to screw over the NCAA as BU's coach states.

I think that NCAA hockey and CHL hockey have one major difference that we don't really think about a lot. The CHL is a moneymaking business. We have owners who are trying to put a competitive product on the ice and who make a large profit from their CHL involvement. The NCAA differs in that the money goes to the University, rather than to an ownership group. It's still a money making business, but teams make money for their institution, and play for pride in representing said institution. The CHL is essentially a professionally run league with amateurs playing in it. I bet the London Knights (although I'm not sure how I'd prove it), make more money than a few NHL teams. The fact that a few individuals have so much to possibly gain with a strong on ice product makes it different from the NCAA, and it's the big reason why you see some of these teams throwing cash around 'under the table.'

Anonymous said...

Pineault sat out most of his freshman year at Boston College and was restricted from playing in the under 18 World Championship while he sat in the stands during the playoffs. Pineault left BC for more ice time because his goal was to make the NHL someday. The CHL continues to produce more NHL players then the NCAA.

Guy Flaming said...

Thanks for agreeing with me about Pineault, I said 2 comments above that he left for more ice time.

Dwight said...


Currently five Big Ten schools have hockey teams:
Minnesota (WCHA)
Wisconsin (WCHA)
Michigan (CCHA)
Ohio State (CCHA)
Michigan State (CCHA)

Last Friday's Gopher game was on the Big Ten network against Wisconsin, but I know there has been a game against St. Cloud State on the Big Ten network as well, so I don't know what kind of games the network has to choose from.

DJ Powers said...

I'm going to chime in on this because I think Parker is being unfairly treated here.

First off, let's look at Jack Parker's success as it related to producing players who successfully make it to the NHL. The list is very long, so I'll list only a portion:

Chris Drury
Rick DiPietro
Mike Grier
Shawn McEachern
Keith Tkachuk
Tony Amonte
Jay Paandolfo
Scott Young

I'd say that is a pretty darn good track record of producing NHL talent.

The sentiments expressed by Parker are not unique nor is he the first NCAA coach to express them. There are have been a number of others who have as well. Some have been more blatant about it, while others have been less so.

I actually wrote a piece for Future Considerations magazine last season about this very topic. While some changes have been made, it hasn't been enough. The CHL seems to always manage to stay a step ahead.

The thing that bothers me most about all of this, and it is a rule that I really wish the NCAA would institute (and should) is the honoring of signed and submitted NLIs (National Letters of Intent). These are binding agreements that potential students sign guaranteeing them an athletic scholarahip. There have been players who have signed and submitted them and because of a loophole, have been able to break them without consequence. Case and point is Josh Unice. I lost a lot of respect for Unice when he renigned on his NLI to Bowling Green so that he could go play in the OHL. Frankly, I don't care where Unice decides to play, but if he wasn't absolutely sure that he wants to go the NCAA route or have some reservations about honoring the NLI, then he shouldn't have signed and submitted one in the first place. I'd have more respect for him, if he merely gave BGSU a verbal agreement. Verbals are non-binding and are broken (or changed) all the time. I would love to see the NCAA close this NLI loophole because it puts teams in a bind when players renign on them, especially when it happens near the start of the year, as was the case with Unice.

The bigger problem here for the NCAA is that this situation is longer happening just in Canada. It's also happening in many parts of the US.

I wrote a piece for Hockey's Future back in November about how the sport has grown here in my home state of California. The WHL has been able to grab many of the top kids before the NCAA even has a chance at them. And what may surprise you all is that it isn't just the NCAA coaches that have a problem with the WHL recruiting here in California. A number of the state's top youth coaches also do as well because they feel that the WHL is trying to rush their development. Now we're talking about 15, 16 and 17 year olds here.