Archive for the 'Recruiting' Category

Comedy from the WHL

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The comments today from Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison in the Regina (Saskatchewan) Leader-Post are a comedy of intentional naivete, with the newspaper allowing itself to be the co-conspirator.

Robison is responding to the recent comments and efforts from Paul Kelly, the Executive Director of College Hockey Inc. Kelly, of course, has been out and about, critical of the Canadian Hockey League’s practices (the CHL is the governing body of the Canadian Major Junior system). All of the issues were summarized in our recent article and Q&A with Kelly.

Kelly has been admittedly aggressive in his condemnation of many of the Major Junior leagues’ practices. It’s true that, to a large extent, the CHL is doing nothing wrong, and is simply winning the recruiting war. However, Robison “hey, don’t blame us” attitude, leaves out numerous specific things the Major Juniors did to hamper NCAA efforts, as the NCAA had begun making major inroads. Robison makes it sound like they’re just the better option, so of course players would go there.

Well, no.

“We have never attacked or been critical of their programs whatsoever. If (going to the NCAA) is what a player chooses to do, we respect that. Our position has been simply to continue to raise awareness to the fact that in addition to having a great development league we also have an outstanding education program.”

Yeah, that great “education program” has been torn to shreds. Is that what Robison means about just making sure players have the “right information?”

The paper writes:

“We’ve always been the leaders of the development area, the leading supplier to the NHL and the national team programs. Consequently, the appointment of Paul Kelly to College Hockey, Inc., is a response to the success the Canadian Hockey League is having.”

In other words, when you’re on top, there’s always someone trying to knock you down.

Yeah, so that’s why they implemented a transfer agreement with USA Hockey that essentially cuts off U.S. kids’ options? That’s why they changed the draft age in the WHL to 14 from midget? That’s why they changed the Jr. B and Tier II rules to cut off the NCAA’s supply lines?

C’mon.

The Regina paper should take a hint from Jeff Hicks, the writer at the Waterloo Record in Ontario, who is the only Canadian writer I’ve seen consistently present all sides of this issue accurately, with seeing things through Major Junior-colored glasses, or regurgitating the party line.

From the Creator of ‘Bad Idea Jeans’

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

If you don’t know what the headline references, click here and make sure your speakers are on.

Someone in the Minnesota Legislature has a bad idea, and it could affect all college sports, including hockey (primarily women’s).

Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, and Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, introduced legislation on March 2 that would ban state money from being used directly or indirectly for an athlete who is not a citizen of the United States.

“We just feel that if we’re going to give state using taxpayers money that we want the opportunity for students in the United States first,” said Dettmer.

Shouldn’t scholarships be awarded based on merit and not residency? After all, no one is stopping United States citizens from applying to attend any university they want, and no one is stopping them from getting all the financial aid they would need.

University of Minnesota system schools do not use state money to fund athletic scholarships. If this bill is passed, it would have more of an effect on St. Cloud State and Minnesota State. SCSU athletic director Morris Kurtz pretty much nailed the counterpoint to this bill.

“They are wonderful additions,” Kurtz said. “We welcome them, their backgrounds, their cultures and their differences, and we learn from them. So it would certainly disappointing not only from a student athlete standpoint, but just from a student point.”

It would also be disappointing from a fan standpoint. Paying customers generally don’t care where the players on their favorite college team hail from. It doesn’t matter if St. Cloud State’s star forward went to high school in St. Cloud, Duluth, Roseau, Madison, Boston, Los Angeles, or Helsinki. They just want to see their team win, and they want their university to be represented well.

It’s not surprising that these lawmakers hail from Gopher Country. Like the men’s team, the Gopher women’s team recruits primarily in Minnesota. Because the pool of talented high school girls hockey players in the state isn’t quite as deep as the boys yet, it’s necessary for all the Division I schools in the state to recruit outside the border. Minnesota-Duluth has been highly successful bringing in European players, and they have four NCAA championships to show for their global recruiting. That would be double Minnesota’s total titles.

I guess, if you can’t beat them, take away their players.

Don Lucia’s Wrong on This One

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Yes, I have broadcasted 128 Minnesota-Duluth men’s hockey games.

Yes, I am continuing to support the program as a season-ticket holder.

Yes, I despise the Minnesota Gophers with every fiber of my being.

However, I am not an idiot. My respect for Don Lucia’s work as a college hockey coach is as high as it gets. Evidence can be found here and here.

The fact that he is a great coach and a wonderful ambassador for the sport doesn’t change the fact that he is capable of being dead wrong.

Evidence of that can be found here.

“I have never discouraged or encouraged [playing football], but that may change now in light of what happened to Zach (Budish, Gopher hockey recruit who suffered a torn ACL playing football) and what happened to Garrett, too,” said Lucia, who also watched recruit Garrett Smaagaard of Eden Prairie miss his senior year of hockey after tearing his ACL in the 2000 Prep Bowl.

Budish’s injury and Lucia’s stance underscore a growing conflict between the two sports. Overlapping schedules, competition for varsity spots and the growing trend of specialization have the relationship between football and hockey, as Hill-Murray activities director and hockey coach Bill Lechner said, “at an uncertain point.”

Kim Nelson of Edina and Vince Conway of Hill-Murray, who coach football at schools where hockey is king, worry that Budish’s injury might make hockey players — particularly elite-level players — reconsider playing football.

Their concerns have merit. Just weeks after Budish’s injury, Lucia received a verbal commitment from an athlete who played both football and hockey.

“We had a talk,” Lucia said. “I said, ‘It’s time to be a hockey player, not a football player.’ He agreed and he’s not going to play football next year.”

I’m all for coaches advising their recruits. I’m not all for coaches telling their recruits not to play football. High school is a time for enjoyment, a time for hanging out with friends, and a not a time to be specializing in one sport over anything else.

To me, coaches who try to steer their recruits to a single sport are afraid. They’re afraid that the kid will start to like a different sport and want to play that instead.

Such fears didn’t overcome anyone in the Minnesota-Duluth program after Matt Niskanen committed there in 2004. Niskanen was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing hockey for the co-op Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl program, and playing football and baseball for Mountain Iron-Buhl. He continued to play football and baseball in his senior year, and was a top-notch player in all three sports.

Listen, I’m not trying to hold up Niskanen as some sort of evidence to a greater rule. And I’m not trying to make Scott Sandelin out to be automatically smarter or a better coach than Lucia because he didn’t try to keep Niskanen from playing those sports in his senior year.

But if you ask Niskanen, and I have, the fact that he played all three sports made him a better hockey player and a better person. And you can’t argue with the outcome in either realm. Not only is he one of the better young defensemen in the NHL, but he’s also one of the nicest people you could ever meet, and he truly hasn’t forgotten his roots.

And Lucia is not alone. Around the country, there are coaches trying to dissuade their kids from playing other sports as they grow older. For every Don Lucia, there is a college football coach practically begging his recruits to stop playing hockey or basketball or baseball. And there are high school coaches who go so far as to demand their star players not play any other sport.

These things happen. And they need to stop.

We can’t be in such a hurry to get kids through the developmental stages of sports that we don’t allow them to be kids. Yes, there will be kids like Aaron Ness, a Gophers freshman defenseman who accelerated his high-school education so he could graduate and join the Minnesota program as quickly as possible. But Ness didn’t do that because Lucia told him to. He did it because he wanted to.

And that’s how this should be done. Not with pressure, threats, or even subtle requests from college coaches. If a high-school kid wants to play three sports and star in all three, that should be his decision and no one else’s.

Yes, there is risk.

But there’s also risk in letting that same kid drive to school every day. You don’t see coaches banning their players from driving, do you?

Silly? Absolutely. So is a hockey coach worrying about a potential star recruit getting hurt while playing football, or any other sport.

Glass Houses

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

No, not the Billy Joel album. A perusal of the Sunday news brings this reminder about the old adage courtesy of the Union Leader of Manchester, N.H.

Kevin Provencher, UL beat writer for the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs, takes U.S. College Hockey Online to task in a column this morning for a recent article raising questions about the Monarchs’ parent club, the Los Angeles Kings, and their treatment of college hockey players.

Provencher writes,

College ice hockey’s worldwide web bible, U.S. College Hockey Online, earlier this season claimed through Michigan coach Red Berenson that the evil empire NHL is doing everything and saying anything to entice college players to leave school early (or not attend at all).

The story became a story, or so USCHO thought, when center Trevor Lewis bypassed Michigan altogether after he was drafted in the first round (17th overall) by the Kings this past summer. Lewis attended the Kings training camp and was assigned to the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL (where he already has 14 points in nine games). Lewis gives up his NCAA eligibility by playing in Canadian juniors.

The classy and well-respected Berenson spoke emotionally to USCHO after losing Lewis, and rightly so.

“I think (the Kings) took advantage of a kid who wasn’t getting good advice and signed him so that they own him, and they can do whatever they want,” said Berenson to USCHO.

But, had USCHO spoken with Lewis, Kings GM Dean Lombardi or assistant Ron Hextall, the story would have been dramatically different. We know Hextall wasted no time after the story came out and spoke directly with Berenson to inform the coach on how exactly the situation had played out.

Provencher mentions USCHO six times in his column.

There’s just one problem.

The story in question, the one that Provencher takes to town for being critical of the Monarchs’ parent club…wasn’t written by USCHO.

It was picked up off a wire service that USCHO and many other sites subscribe to called U-Wire, from the student newspaper at the University of Michigan, the Michigan Daily. For reference, here’s the story as it ran in the Daily.

Oops.

It’s hard to imagine how Provencher could not have known this, because it says right at the top of the article where it came from — just like stories picked up off the AP wire, Reuters, etc.

Maybe it was an oversight, or maybe if Provencher had spoken with USCHO, the story would have been dramatically different.

Nonetheless, it is what it is, and Provencher and the Union Leader certainly appear to owe our colleagues at USCHO quite a big apology.

Wow. Just Wow.

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

skates.jpgChris over at Western College Hockey really digs up some gems, but this one has to be seen to be believed.

It appears that Michigan has a verbal commitment from 14 year old Jon Merill for the 2010 season. Even recruiting guru Chris Heisenberg has it listed on his recruiting page, so I’m assuming it must be true.

While, I understand the need to recruit a little younger, at some point someone is going to get burned here and I suspect the NCAA might step in. Then again, it’s not a true commitment unless it’s in writing.. I think.

In other news, my son should start skating in a year or so. Scouts are welcome to attend the session if they’re looking to get a jump on the 2019 recruiting cycle.

Uh. 2009 is like THREE YEARS AWAY.

Friday, September 1st, 2006

The folks over at Western College Hockey have taken note of some interesting recruits being picked up for the 2009 season as reported by the illustrious Chris Heisenberg

A quick glance at the list shows Nebraska-Omaha picking up two players already for the 2009 season. Let us remind you that those players are probably 15-16 years old. How much is a verbal commitment worth at this stage of the game? Is it really worth anything if the player turns into a blue-chip recruit and bolts for Minnesota, or if he bombs out and the team doesn’t want him anymore? Or will all teams just start establishing their entire rosters four years in advance and Nebraska is just getting a head start?