Since so many readers and hockey fans in Canada have reacted on social media, TJHN has put together this extensive, yet not all inclusive list of reasons why Major Junior Players will never become eligible to play NCAA hockey.
Firstly, to address the rumor that there is a lawsuit pending to make CHL players eligible to play NCAA hockey. There is no lawsuit pending anywhere in the United States concerning this issue. None. No one in Canada can find one there either and Canada could not have jurisdiction over an NCAA issue. So anyone making this claim is simply not informed or just trying to stir the pot.
Canadians want to think that the new rules for NCAA athletes concerning Name, Image and Likeness mean that because some NCAA athletes can use these forms of compensation, that all CHL players are somehow now eligible. Anyone believing this clearly has zero understanding of the NCAA rules, or any understanding of how Major Junior players are categorized as employees.
Yes. Major Junior players ARE EMPLOYEES. The states in the United States where Major Junior teams are located have never said the players were not employees. The Provinces in Canada have never stated that the players on Major Junior teams were not employees.
What those States and Provinces said, by legislative action, was that Major Junior teams and leagues were only “EXEMPT” from meeting minium payrol and benefit packages. “EXEMPT’ is stating that players are infact employees, but that the employer has waiver to not provide additional benefits other than those provided.
The CHL lobbied the United States and Canada for that “EXEMPTION”.
Then there is the issue of the class action lawsuit brought by players against the CHL in Canada. The players by settling that lawsuit and receiving payment labled themselves as employees.
Employee’s of any hockey team anywhere in the world who receive compensation, are professional players. It doesnt matter if that compensation is one hundred and fifty dollars, or one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
Professional players are not allowed to play NCAA hockey. Period.
When you receive a tax document, and you file a tax return with that document from a team or a league, you are making the declaration to the federal government that you are in fact a professional athlete.
Name, Image and Likeness fall nowhere in the definition of being paid for athletic performance. While it can be argued that if not for that athletic performance, that Name, Image and Likeness would not be valuable, who is going to judge the value and when value is established?
NCAA athletes being compensated for Name, Image and Likeness, are only doing so after they enroll in an NCAA institution. Not while they are playing junior hockey or high school athletics. Major Junior players begin accepting compensation as early as fifteen or sixteen years old, thus making them professional and ineligible for NCAA hockey.
The NCAA, and all of it’s member Conferences, and those member Universities do not compensate athletes for athletic performance. Players can only receive reimbursement for, or the coverage of actual costs incurred during the course of performing their duties for the University. They cannot receive signing bonuses. They cannot receive performance bonuses. They cannot receive any other improper financial benefits.
Universities with NCAA hockey programs face a long list of compliance issues in order to maintain their good standing within the NCAA. Each University has their own academic and athletic admission standards. Each University is different in many regards.
When establishing an NCAA hockey program or any other program, the University must agree to NCAA standards. Those standards are well known. Specifically standards as they relate to professional athletes, and those relating to academic qualifiers.
If accepted by the NCAA, any University joining a Hockey Conference, then has to meet those Conference standards and requirements. Conferences can require any number of enhanced membersip requirements as they relate to athletic participation.
One such requirement many Canadian fans and players are not aware of is that any athlete not graduating from an acredited high school is ineligble for any NCAA participation. Meaning, players who get a GED (General Equivalency Diploma) are automatically “non qualifiers” for NCAA athletics.
While some would like to argue that Major Junior players with good grades should be allowed to play NCAA hockey, the definition of “good grades” is subjective. Each University has their own standards. So while you may qualify for admissions with a 3.0 GPA, the average NCAA hockey player carries a 3.5 GPA heading into Division one. Admissions offices are not going to take a 3.0 student before taking a 3.5 student who offers the same level of skill and competition to the hockey program.
The NCAA is its own organization. Teams and Conferences not only apply to join, but by applying and becoming members they submit to the exclusive jurisdiction and rule under the NCAA. As an independent body, the NCAA is not obligated to allow any student athlete to compete that does not fit within their rules.
The courts in eash State, and Province, have no juridiction over the NCAA or its rules. Period.
NCAA programs are designed and developed for strudents within the State where they are located first, other United States citizens second, and only then are international students considered. Canadians, Europeans and others who want to play NCAA hockey need to make their choice to have NCAA hockey their ultimate goal, or to play Major Junior.
There is a big difference in how players and parents in the United States and those from other countries look at and prepare for NCAA hockey.
From the time they are very young, players in the United States are shown that development takes time. They are told that getting their education first, and then maybe getting to the NHL or professional hockey somewhere is only for the very few. There is no right to it, and there is no “fast track”. Americans know and expect that any NCAA opportunity is not likely to come until they are twenty or twenty one years old. And if you know that when you are ten years old, you cant be disappointed at eighteen.
Outside of the United States, NCAA hockey does not exist. So, the educational component for young players is completely different. In Europe players are striving to play for their “Senior” team and National teams. University education is free so, NCAA is only something few of them think about. Thus only a few European players in NCAA hockey.
Canada, as a matter of tradition, has been built upon the Major Junior drafts. Players and parents think this is the golden ticket. While that used to be true thirty years ago, thirty years is a long time ago and things have changed. The only “fast track” to the NHL that exists, is the ones that players like Connor Bedard and others make for themselves. If you are not the dominating player before signing your Major Junior contract, you need to question why you are giving up NCAA opportunity.
NCAA Universities allow Major Junior players to attend and use their education packages from Major Junior teams and leagues. Those students though, cannot pass the NCAA clearing house for athletic competition at the University, Conference or National levels. It really is just that simple.
Thinking that Name, Image, and Likeness rules would somehow change the landscape of how players being paid to play hockey would gain NCAA eligibility is only something someone that with a complete lack of understanding of the laws and rules would do.
Are these laws and rules “fair”. Thats not under debate, and not up for debate. The facts are that everyone knows the rules. If you dont, then that is your problem, not the NCAA’s problem or anyone else’s.
NCAA hockey programs have no shortage of talented players in the United States, Canada and Europe playing within NCAA qualifying leagues to chose from. Major Junior makes the choice to not meet NCAA qualifying standards, its simply their choice. And its players and parents choice to play within Major Junior, or not.
You make a choice. Major Junior, or NCAA. Major Junior forces players and parents to make that choice very early in life. Still, its their choice. Potential NCAA athletes dont have to make a choice at all, they just have to take their time and work hard. If it happens it will happen, if not, nothing is lost.
The entire American Development Model is designed to move players through each level of hockey and allow them to find their own peak. That peak for American players is seen as being NCAA hockey in almost every case. Very few hold on to the NHL dream beyond high school, and those that do usually have good reason to do so.
Canadians are not developed the way Americans are. Nothing wrong with that, they still develop some of the absolute best players in the world. Those players though are focusing on the NHL, not NCAA. Those that fall short of the NHL are the ones usually doing the complaining about not being NCAA eligible. In that case they need to go play Canadian University hockey.
Stop blaming the NCAA and Universities for the choices players and parents make on their own. It is not the NCAA’s problem, and it is not their responsibility to change to make you happy or relieve you of your problems for making a choice that didnt work out.
Honestly, what are fourth, fifth, sixth and later round draft picks thinking when signing a Major Junior contract? If you are not one of the top twenty players in your Province in your age group what makes you think you are going to go play Major Junior and make big enough contributions that will get you to the NHL? Some people just want the Major Junior lable on their hockey resume that they have zero sense when making choices.
What are parents thinking when they allow a sixteen year old who is just a good player and not dominating his Province to sign with a Major Junior team? Can you really not see how good your child is and where he fits in?
Major Junior hockey is great hockey. Players get good education packages. Players need to use those packages instead of continuing to chase minor professional contracts when the NHL doesnt work out. Players need to take responsibility for their choices, and so do parents.
Its funny how coaches at every level talk about how important “decision making” and “hockey IQ” is to developing good hockey players. If its that important for hockey players, then isnt it just as important off the ice for taking your time to determine whether or not you should give up NCAA eligibility before you know if you are an NCAA candidate?