The rumor of Major Junior players somehow being made eligible to play NCAA hockey in the future has once again reared its ugly and nonsensical head. While we understand many Canadian families and some Canadian hockey fans would love to see this happen, it never will.
Since 2013 this rumor has been floated through Canada in various forms. It usually starts with some fan wishful thinking, or someone wishing to get more social media followers.
This time it is starting based upon NCAA rule changes regarding athletes being compensated while playing NCAA sports. This time the rumor shows that the people startung it actually have no understanding of NCAA rules, and the new rules regarding compensation for athletes.
Here are the facts;
NCAA student-athletes are amateurs and cannot have played for a professional sports team prior to enrollment. In hockey, specifically, this means that anyone who signs a contract with or plays for a team in the Canadian Hockey League (OHL, QMJHL or WHL) forfeits their NCAA eligibility.
What makes a player professional is not only actually receiving money for athletic efforts, but also playing with and against players within a league that have already played NHL or AHL games. These players having played in NHL and AHL games are professional players, and playing with or against these players makes others professional players. It is no different for European players who play in those professional leagues and receive a financial benfit for playing.
The NCAA rules regarding compensation are very clear. The new rules state that athletes cannot get paid for their athletic contributions, or activities based upon their athletic skill. They may get paid for their likelness and receive money for marketing and other business ventures such as endorsements. Schools may also compensate players for real costs incured in the performance of their commitment to the NCAA program.
One very important caveat being that players in junior hockey, or coming out of high school for any sport, cannot have received compensation prior to attending an NCAA program.
While the CHL has lobbied for over a decade to get the rules changed, the NCAA is not changing them because they do not need CHL players. It really is just that simple.
Those CHL players can use their education packages and go to Canadian universities. Why does anyone think that American Universities funded by State and Federal taxes, should accomodate Major Junior players?
There is a movement among many State and Federally funded universities to eliminate scholarships for non United States citizens now. Why would any State or public university give money to any family that hasnt paid into those taxes? This is a real question for University regents in todays political climate.
The USA Hockey, the USHL, NAHL, NCDC and every Tier 3 league in the United States would put a stop to any potential move to allow CHL players into the NCAA so quickly that it would take years for the courts to determine who wins.
The development of NCAA hockey into an NHL player development powerhouse has taken twenty years of massive efforts in education and programing at the youth and junior hockey levels in the United States. Players playing NCAA hockey now, committed to that path when they were just finishing learn to play programs.
Most important is that the NCAA does not need CHL third and fourth line players. When CHL first and second line players usually move on to other pro leagues, it is only the lower level players that remain. There are plenty of players equally as good or better in the USHL, NAHL, NCDC and other Canadian Junior A programs.
Another issue is academic eligibility. A majority of players who would want to try to make this happen simply would not qualify for NCAA admissions. Unfortunately, high school grades and test scores in the CHL take a back seat to CHL competition. The classroom is sacrificed for a shot at what people think is a fast track to the NHL.
But we all know, that only the Bedards, McDavids, and other generational players are really able to fast track to the NHL through the CHL. The overwhelming majority of CHL players never get a sniff of the NHL. Thats life, and life is hard.
For those who want to continue the rumor, you might want to ask yourself why CHL players arent even allowed in ACHA hockey? The answer is the same, the ACHA doesnt need them either.
The NCAA education system is funded by State and Federal money intended to benefit United States citizens first. It is not a Canadian education system. So the idea that the NCAA institutions receiving public money would change rules to accomodate Canadian citizens over Americans doesnt even make sense.
Everyone in hockey understands why the CHL would love to see CHL players be allowed to play NCAA hockey. Because NCAA hockey is turning into a just as good, if not better path to the NHL than the CHL. Seventy percent of all NHL free agent signings come from NCAA hockey.
The answer to the problem is simple. If you think you may one day want to compete in the NCAA and get a great education, then dont be too quick to sign a CHL contract.
Why would any organization ask a 15 or 16 year old to make a life altering decision at that age? Why would any parent to a player not as skilled as a Bedard even think of limiting their childs opportunity based on the parents old belief system?
CHL players get great education packages today. There are many great Canadian universities across the country. There are some top shelf Canadian university hockey programs that these CHL players can and do go to. This is how the CHL and Canadian university hockey is designed. And frankly, its a pretty good design for those CHL players who take their education seriously.
Any players who have committed to the CHL plan, need to use that plan. Instead of being tempted by low paying minor professional contracts, and later abandoning their education money, players should be committed to getting that education. If you dominate Canadian university hockey, those lower level and European pro opportunities are still going to be available after you graduate.
Finally, CHL players make a choice, or their parents make that choice for them to give up NCAA eligibility and play in the CHL. No one should be rewarded with a second bite at the apple because their first option did not work out for them.