This summer we’ve seen another exodus of young hockey players who have decommitted from their intentions to play in the NCAA. Most have ended up in the OHL. And to nobody’s surprise, former executive director of the NHLPA Paul Kelly, now head of College Hockey Inc., whose job it is to ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen, came out swinging in Fluto Shinzawa’s column in the Boston Globe over the weekend.
“Maybe it’s the way I was raised,” Kelly said. “I’m a believer that when you make a commitment, you stand by it and honor it. It is disappointing to me. It’s disappointing to coaches. When kids make a commitment, particularly when that commitment takes a more formal form in a letter of intent to attend that school, then you break that commitment, frankly, if I’m an NHL GM, it might cause me some concern – that a player I drafted can so easily walk away from a commitment he made.”
I feel for the Division 1 schools that have to scramble in the middle of the summer to fill in their rosters without ever being able to replicate the quality of player who’s walking away. It’s a tough spot, no doubt. But to imply that it’s a character flaw and poor reflection on the player is a little much for me.
Scenarios change all the time for these players, especially at that age. And many elite level kids figure if they’re going to get a shot to play in the NHL and have no intention to spend the full term at college, why not go to a league that more closely recreates the NHL experience? And while I’m not saying the CHL is better for every kid since each scenario is different for each player, most in the game (GMs, agents, coaches) feel the CHL route is superior and a faster track to the NHL.
Kelly goes further in the piece to suggest that money is changing hands and some CHL players and their families are being paid large amounts under the table to play Canadian junior hockey.
“As much as the CHL denies it, there are still instances where money is being paid to the family to lure kids away and decommit from colleges. It’s off the books, under the table, whatever you want to call it. If your dad is a fisherman, an out-of-work machinist, or a farmer, and a CHL program comes along and offers you $300,000 in cash, it’s tough for these families not to accept that type of proposal.”
Wow. That’s a huge accusation to make without producing at least one example.
Also, I’ve still yet to meet anyone who has been able to explain to me how full scholarships are not considered compensation? What’s a four-year ticket at Michigan worth?
Read the entire piece here.
Also, Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips has been compared to Scott Niedermayer by some. He’s draft eligible in 2012. Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida) and Mark Stone (Ottawa) looked solid towards the end of camp. Thirty-five players will be brought back for camp in December where the team will be whittled down to 22.
Interested to see where Ryan Johansen and Erik Gudbranson are at at that point. Speculation is both are ticketed to play the season with the teams who drafted them – Columbus for Johansen, Florida for Gudbranson. I can’t see either heading back to their junior squads (Portland and Kingston, respectively). But will the Blue Jackets and Panthers release them to play on the junior team?
And while we’re at it, Quinton Howden has an outside chance of making the Panthers and others have speculated that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be green-lighted to the Oilers if he impresses at camp, even thought the Oilers have four spots at centre locked up.
Name: Jason Kurylo
Twitter: @puckedinthehead – Website: www.puckedinthehead.com
Earliest hockey memory: Going to New Westminster Bruins games with my grandfather. Stan Smyl, Barry Beck and Mark Lofthouse were on Memorial Cup teams when I was five and six years old, but all I remember is this: an opposition team was spanking the Bruins one game, and as was par for the course back then, both teams cleared the benches for a lengthy dance. One of our guys lazily shot the puck into the empty net when their goaltender went the length of the ice to dance with our goalie. I hollered my six-year-old head off. My grandfather scolded me for cheering during a fight, and wouldn’t have any of my explanation; he took me home early, and we listened to the game on the radio on the way home. The Bruins came back to win the game in the third period, and I have hated hockey fights ever since. By the way, later I’d see guys like Cliff Ronning, Bill Ranford and Glenn Anderson come through New West before jumping to the big show.
Favourite YouTube moment: Has to be Trevor Linden putting Jeff Norton through the glass during the 1995 playoffs.
Here’s a nice little video about the 1976 Bruins squad (dig the tunes).
1947: Ken Dryden, born in Hamilton, Ont. Is it weird that my first memory of Dryden was the Hall of Famer and former MP for York Centre doing colour commentary for the Toronto Toros of the WHA while he attended law school?
1950: Former NHLer Greg Polis, born in Westlock, Alta. Nothing exceptional about Polis – he was an exceptional skater and a star in junior with Estevan – besides his nickname. How many other hockey players do you know whose nickname was ‘Pole Cat’? Oh here’s something, Polis was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins seventh overall in the 1970 draft; the Toronto Maple Leafs selected eighth and took some guy named Darryl Sittler.
1953: Montreal trades Ivan “The Terrible” Irwin to New York for Pete Babando and Ed Slowinski. Irwin was a fierce bodychecker and wasn’t shy about dropping his gloves, either (even with his own team – he once fought Lou Fontinatio in practice). While he played in the NHL (off and on from ’52-’58), Irwin was the only U.S. born player in the league.
1972: Keith McCreary, named first captain of the Atlanta Flames. A dependable two-way forward who finished his career attending the Calgary Cowboys training camp but decided the WHA was too unorganized, so he retired.
1977: Kings sign free agent winger Charlie Simmer. Los Angeles landed Simmer after the Cleveland Barons released their minor league players when facing bankruptcy. In fact, the team missed a pay period on Feb. 1, 1977, and got the players their money on the 15th, but it was from the league and not the team (the Phoenix situation isn’t exactly new to the NHL). Actually both the Players’ Association and the other NHL teams cobbled together funds so the Barons could finish the season. But I digress… We all know the stories about the Triple Crown Line, so what else is interesting about Simmer (other than he’s a fantastic person if you know him)? Well, he was only the second player ever to score 50 goals in a season without recording a single hat trick (Vic Hatfield in ’71-’72 was the first). How’s that?
1978: Kings restricted free agent goalie Rogie Vachon signed with the Red Wings. As compensation, L.A. asked for Dale McCourt after the Wings said no to Reed Larson, two first round picks and US$700,000 cash, while Detroit countered with Bill Lochead and Jim Rutherford. The arbitrator sided with the Kings, who offered McCourt a US$3 million contract. McCourt took the case to court and ultimately filed lawsuits against the NHL, NHLPA, the Red Wings and Kings to prevent him from having to report. McCourt played an entire season with Detroit while the case worked its way through the courts. McCourt lost on appeal but took the case to the United States Supreme Court, at which point L.A. traded McCourt’s rights back to Detroit in exchange for Andre St-Laurent and two first round picks, which turned out to be Larry Murphy and Doug Smith. This case paved the way for the NHL changing the way they handled free agent compensation.
1984: Vancouver trades Tiger Williams to Detroit for Rob McClanahan. Anyone else remember Tiger hitting Scotty Bowman over the head with his stick in the Vancouver/Buffalo series in 1980? Or how about the stick swinging incident with Dennis Owchar in ’76? Tiger’s stick opened a 50-stitch gash on the Penguins defenceman’s head and landed Tiger in court on assault charges? Remember kids, players used to have respect for each other and the game back then, unlike now where there’s no respect. Or so we keep getting told.
1995: Boston signs free agent Todd Elik. As a two year old, Elik was involved in a horrible car crash that saw him thrown out of his seat and through the windshield. His face had to be sewn back together. His father, who also played hockey, was involved in a car accident that resulted in him losing the use of both his legs.
1997: The Carolina Hurricanes trade netminder Jason Muzzatti to the New York Rangers for a fourth round pick. Anyone else remember the Muzzatti/Garth Snow fight in the AHL? Snow playing for the Cornwall Aces (coached by Bob Hartley who loves the scraps), Muzzatti with the Saint John Flames. Enjoy.