Sunday Morning Coffee: Starman Gets It!
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by Bob Miller CHP Managing Editor April 1, 2012
Thoughts on a Sunday morning with coffee in hand.
Dave Starman gets it! His take on college hockey’s early departures and the NCAA vs. CHL debate over with our friends at USCHO.com is right on.
To briefly summarize (and you really should go over and read the full thing), Starman suggests that not all that many of the early departures are making the right choice and explains why. In his commentary, he further goes on to suggest that college hockey is more entertaining than the brand of hockey you’ll see at your local CHL rink.
Rather than repeat here the solid arguments he makes, I’ll add just a few of my own personal observations on the two subjects.
I am usually conflicted when I read about the latest early departure from college hockey to the pro ranks. I really do understand both sides of the argument. I agree that a player is going to get more games and more experience at a higher level in the AHL, even if that’s his original landing spot. And, I understand that some individuals just aren’t interested in school.
As someone who took his own unique path through the higher education system in both the US and Canada and lived to tell the tale, I totally support a kid’s right to go out and chase whatever dream he has in the manner in which he chooses.
Yet, I always come back to what I would tell my own son if he were in that situation. As someone who experienced the difficult task of going back to higher education after leaving the system originally, I know how easy it is to find reasons to put off finishing a degree. Without researching the exact numbers, I feel confident in saying that no more than one in five will achieve success as a pro. The others are really going to need that college degree sooner than they may realize.
One additional thing I’d tell my kid is that you usually only get one shot at enjoying the college experience. Having survived several decades of post-college life, I can attest to the fact that there’s a world of opportunity available, both on the ice and off, after that third or fourth year of college social life that one would forego to turn pro.
Regarding the CHL vs. NCAA debate, I am likewise conflicted. I cut my hockey prospecting teeth on the OHL (yes, even back all the way to the OHA) brand of hockey. I spent countless cold winter nights at Garden City Arena in St. Catharines watching future NHL stars play against our local St. Catharines Black Hawks. I was lucky enough to sit in the old Windsor Arena when a skinny blond-haired 16-year-old from Brantford named Gretzky had the puck follow him around the ice all night.
Yet, times do change. Even as recently as 12-15 years ago, I’d argue that the CHL brand of hockey was superior to the NCAA version. I would further argue that distinction is no longer the case.
The CHL rightly claims that more top prospects play in their three leagues, the OHL, WHL and QMJHL. NHL draft statistics bear them out on that argument. The upper tier of prospects in the CHL IS more populated by future stars in than in college hockey. But, that’s a thin veneer of upper crust that we’re talking about. Once you get past that handful of stars, you are watching inexperienced second, third and fourth line players who are 16 to 19 years old
My own eyes and the numbers on the line charts I read tell me that the college game is played by bigger, stronger, more experienced players. The steady improvement of the level of American hockey in regions outside of the Boston, Detroit, Minnesota historical base has supplied the college ranks with a depth that’s brought the game up to the standards to which the CHL used to claim sole ownership.
I am not arguing for one route, either NCAA or CHL, here. Both have their place. Just don’t be confused that the CHL’s argument that their players eventually (not now, necessarily) will outnumber college hockey’s contriubtion to the NHL in numbers means that the current brand of CHL play is superior to the NCAA brand.
I’m looking forward to next weekend’s Frozen Four in (gag) Tampa as much as I’m anticipating tracking the progress of the OHL playoffs and their annual draft next Saturday, a draft which will be covered extensively on these pages.