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Why The NCAA – Major Junior Gamble Is About Calculated Risk

This morning I read an interesting article at Along The Boards.  The writers opinion was well expressed, however I completely disagree with it because it is merely based upon the “stipend” argument, and does not address the real heart of the matter.

Stipends, whether the Major Junior variety or the new ones being allowed by the NCAA are peanuts.  They are not at the heart of the argument, and really are a very small part of it.

Players, and parents have a choice.  You can choose a path.  Major Junior or NCAA.

Players and parents can no longer claim ignorance to the consequences of their decisions. Everyone knows what happens when you go the Major Junior route, you give up NCAA eligibility.  Its simple.

Everyone also knows that when you walk into a casino, the odds are that you are not going to walk out a millionaire, and you will likely leave some money on their tables.

Major Junior provides for players to go to University after they are done playing.  The money is there.  There are also no rules preventing any player from attending class while playing, on line or in the classroom.  The fact that many players do not take classes is again another choice they make.

When players choose the major junior route, they can and often do receive other financial benefits other than the stipend.  Agents give money and gifts all the time.  Sponsors give gifts, and whether people want to admit it or not money has been known to simply land in peoples pockets in the past.

Major Junior players also play with and against other players under NHL contracts.  Some of those who have already received signing bonuses, and pay.  This makes them professional players in professional leagues.

Players who choose the NCAA path give up those Major Junior options.  They maintain the option to reconsider and leave school though.  Schools are the ones who should be saying that scholarship money should have to be repaid if a player doesn’t honor his commitment.  The NCAA could easily make that rule.

Why should an amateur player who has committed to the NCAA path lose his roster spot to someone who committed to the CHL path?  Why should a CHL player committed to that path lose his roster spot to an NCAA player who decides to leave?

Its called choice.  The only “out” that should be allowed for Major Junior and the NCAA is to enter the NHL, or AHL early.  That’s it.

The “indentured servitude” of Major Junior players not being allowed to go to the AHL until they are done with junior hockey again is a choice they make.

Finally, in Major Junior you sign a contract with financial terms involved.  NCAA letters of intent do not state what any additional financial aid may be provided.  That is decided by the financial aid department.  NCAA players, the majority of them, do not get full ride scholarships, and leave school with student loan debt to pay.

If you want to keep the option of playing NCAA hockey on the table, don’t play Major Junior.  Pretty simple.

Don’t whine about your decision after you make it.  You choose your path.  Either it works or it doesn’t.  Wanting people to change the system because you choose wrong only makes you look less intelligent.

Besides, anyone who thinks a third or fourth line Major Junior player is better than a player who committed to the NCAA path earlier probably hasn’t seen an NCAA game in a long time.  Fifty Five percent of all NHL free agent signings are coming from NCAA hockey.  Major Junior does not account for forty five percent either as Europe takes up a large percentage of those players.

Life’s gambles are about minimizing risk.  The path to NCAA hockey is slow, and calculated.  Major Junior is perceived to be the fast track when compared to NCAA.  Minimal risk is what financial advisers preach when initially setting out on the investing path for retirement.  The NCAA path would present a similar minimal risk proposition if compared to investing.

If people choose to take higher risk, again that is their choice.  But if you lose in the risk to reward gamble, you don’t get your money back in the stock market, and you shouldn’t get a “do over” in hockey.

Joe Hughes

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