After reading about Seth Jones choosing major junior over NCAA hockey – a fine choice for the talented young buck – I felt the need to weigh in with my thoughts on The Choice, and share the path I took to come to a decision. Hope you enjoy, or at the very least, learn something about the process you didn’t know before.

***

I tried out for the Kelowna Rockets, one of the premier programs in the Western Hockey League, in the fall of 2000. I was 17 years old, although in the junior hockey world I was considered an 18 year old because I was born in 1982. I was coming off of a successful year of Midget AA, having been captain of a team that won the BC provincial championship. But being that I was that old and undrafted, I was a definite longshot and I knew it.

The thing is, I had a really good camp, and sometimes you catch people off guard. I scored twice in a heavily attended low-scoring intra-squad game in Kelowna’s Prospera Place, and was invited to travel with the team to Kamloops to play the Blazers in the first of a number of exhibition games. They had already made a great many cuts by this point.

As a young player, you deal with a range of ideas and emotions: I’m from Kelowna, so if I could walk onto the hometown Kelowna Rockets and make it…I have to do that, right? (By the way, the Rockets won the Memorial Cup in the next year or two. Dammit.) But, I was also a gangly kid who got cut to house hockey his first year of Bantam, got better (read: bigger) in a hurry, and had figured out that you can get your entire undergrad education paid for if you play junior A puck. I also knew that if I played one game – even an exhibition game – at the major junior level, I was ineligible for at least a year of that NCAA hockey (plus a game for every CHL (major junior) game played, I believe), making that dream scholarship less likely.

My parents and I sat in the room and listened to The Most Important People in the Rockets Organization at the time and tried to gauge how likely it was that I would make the team while trying to make the decision to go for it or not. Essentially, it was down to myself and large, fellow right-winger Randall Gelech (a player far better than I, who would’ve likely played in the NHL for years by now had he not been drafted/buried in the Red Wings organization when they were on top of the world for years). We told them our concerns about NCAA eligibility. And they told us “how this works”: just play/tryout, and we’ll rip up the rosters after the game. If you make it – and you have a good chance – cool. If you don’t, you’ll be fine. I’m not sure if it still does, but it seems this is a thing that occasionally happened at the time.

My parents didn’t want me to play. Between all of us, a college scholarship was the goal. If I got an education paid for then the investment in gear, practices, and time would have amounted to something. Yes, you can get Canadian college hockey paid for after playing major junior, but it’s suuuuper rare to advance, hockey-wise, beyond that. You’re basically saying it’s NHL or done-by-20. NCAA puck gives late bloomers (like myself) years to develop against incredible talents to see what you can become.

At 15 or 16 or 17, a young hockey player has to a make a decision that will forever change his career and his life: take your shot at Major Junior or commit to the college path.

I played Junior B hockey that winter, led my conference in points (beating Chuck Kobasew’s team record), and finished second overall in the league to Andrew Ebbett. That summer, I signed a card with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL, trained my butt off, and committed to earning that scholarship.

I scored 131 points over my 120 game Junior A career, and we won a BCHL title. After fly-down visits to three different NCAA schools, I accepted a full Div. 1 scholarship (to the University of Alaska Anchorage) just like my family had hoped – just like I had hoped.

So here I sit, with a primary education in hockey, but a different title on my business card, and I couldn’t be happier. I got an education (an education your love of hockey forces you to get, if you want to play), found my best friends and really, myself. College was an experience I can’t explain, an experience I’d never give back. I was fortunate to have the opportunity. (I was more fortunate that I lived with guys capable of installing a keg-orator line from the garage to the kitchen sink, giving us water taps labelled hot, cold and beer.)

When most players have to make the decision between major junior and college, they take what they can get. Most don’t reject one for the other; their talents, age and size direct them one way or the other. Only a lucky few get to choose.

Either one works. There is a hockey cliche that “If you’re good enough, they’ll find you”. And it’s true. They’ll find you in Timbukfuckingtu if you’re NHL calibre. It’s insane. Few are overlooked.

As someone quickly approaching their 30th birthday thinking about what I’d do if I were a young player now deciding between the two, I can’t help but think: I’d have to be awfully damn good to choose major junior hockey over college. It’s not taking anything away from those who choose to go the CHL route, it’s just that one way seems a little more all-or-nothing than the other. Both seem like flying down the highway on a motorcycle, but one affords you a helmet.

As a further college hockey pump-up: going that route isn’t exactly a hockey dead end. During my years in the WCHA I faced some great players – Zach Parise, Tomas Vanek, TJ Oshie, David Backes, Matt Niskanen, Alex Goligoski, Kyle Okposo, Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Andreas Nodl, Jonathan Toews, Chris Conner, Matt Greene, Keith Ballard, Matt Carle, Paul Stastny, Joey Crabb, Ryan Potulny, Ryan Stoa, Brandon Bochensky, Brian Lee, Matt Smaby, Drew Stafford, Rene Bourque, Adam Burish, Brian Elliot, Tom Gilbert, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Suter, Travis Zajac, Ryan Carter, Jason Garrison, and the toughest to play of all of them all at the time, 5’7″ Hobey Baker-winner Ryan Duncan (AHL). I was also teammates with Curtis Glencross, Jay Beagle and Nathan Lawson. You can develop at that level, and you can still make it big.

For the big guns, major junior is great too: it’s more pro-style puck, it’s great exposure, and it’s comparable to the NHL schedule.

Nobody can say for certain what’s the best route – each player has a different set of developmental needs, and each league fulfills those differently.

But for those who could use a little more time to develop and miiiigghht just want to hedge their bets on the future with an education, college hockey is the way to go.

Comments (62)

  1. If they told you you were 100% going to make the Rockets would you have played? I find the wall between playing a few CHL exhibition games and going to the NCAA is horribly restrictive to players, especially when you’re still 17 and a year away from going to university.

  2. Seriously, you should at least be able to find out if you could be on the team or not. And yes, I would’ve in a heartbeat. It was my hometown team!

  3. Oh god, beer from a sink? That sounds absolutely incredible.

  4. The real question is what beer was hooked up to the faucet? Having Alaskan IPA hooked up sounds divine, but if it was Bud or something similar… that’s just cruel.

    • And how did you keep it cold in the pipe going from the garage… oh yeah… it was Alaska… :-)

      Thanks for the great post. As a Dad with a couple of hockey-mad kids, it was great info.

  5. Great Read , but I gotta ask , what were the other colleges that offered you deals and why choose UAA over them ? we again have a crop of SJHL and BCJHL kids coming north to fill the ranks of the recently graduated . Same old thing here at UAA

  6. It’s one of the dirty and despicable secrets of major junior hockey – they bait the hook, get a kid to play a few games to mess up their college eligibility and the kid is stuck with the decision. Nothing motivates a player like a desperate lack of options.

    (And don’t get me started about the concept of peeling a kid out of him hometown/family environment at 15 or 16 to have him live 1,500 miles away, attend school part time and basically live a semi-pro hockey life that few can sustain when their junior days end.)

    I’m not saying the CHL is all bad. It’s a fantastic apprenticeship for future pros (or kids who have no college aspiration or potential). And the junior leagues have become much more progressive about establishing scholarship programs that help kids who want to attend a Canadian university do that after their junior career ends.

    But for the adults who own, manage and coach junior hockey teams, it’s a business. Their futures and their salaries are tied to winning, winning, winning – not graduation rates or developing great people. And sometimes, the best interests of the kid becomes a secondary concern.

    • The more I think about the “Yeah, you have a good chance at making the team” conversation, and how unlikely it actually was, the more i feel like it was a bit of a trap. “Welp, you’re a major junior guy now. …If we need you.”

  7. Thanks for sharing Justin. I never played hockey and my son “lives, breaths, eat, sleeps” hockey. With all the different levels out there as the kids age its nice to know what some of the decisions are. We know the Littles(current WI Badgers) and as my son gets older I will be leaning on them for some guidance. It is absolutely amazing to me all the different avenues to the pros.

  8. great article. Unfortunately I didn’t quite make it that far, but at one point in my life that choice wasn’t too far away, even though it didn’t work out. Like you, I got an education and I would not trade it for anything.

    Also, I wish my buddies and I had thought of/been capable of rigging that beer tap setup. that’s next-level awesome!

  9. Clearly I’m a pro-NCAA guy, but I never think of a Blue-Chip NHL Prospect that commits to an NCAA program, and then at the last minute a few months before he’s to arrive signs with the CHL as a bad thing.

    Many think it’s because the CHL provides a better path to the NHL. I don’t find that the case at all. You add up the Kelowna Rocket’s top 5 alum’s in the NHL right now:
    Shea Weber: (C) $7.5M Duncan Keith:(A)$8M Jamie Benn:ELC $.67M Tyler Myers:ELC New $5.5M cap hit (rediculously overpaid) Luke Schenn: $3.6M

    Then you take top 5 from a NCAA team like the Fighting Sioux: Jonny Toews (C) $6.5M : Matt Greene (A) $3M: Zach Parise:(C) $6M Drew Stafford:(A) $4M Travis Zajac: $4.75M

    Granted both teams have had success at placing top tier players in the NHL, but clearly UND has put more leadership type players in the NHL, with a couple Captain’s, and some A’s littered in the bunch, plus UND has had success after hockey too as well. No Kelowna Rocket has ever went on to become a Billionaire like Ralph Engelstad, if they did, my apologies, but they should be more philanthropic, like bestowing a few world class arenas..

    Success after hockey is a little tough to gauge as we never seem to hear about the CHL player’s after they left Kelowna… But UND has went on to place players like Dave Tippett into very successful jobs.. If the Devils make it to the Finals, another Fighting Sioux Alumni will once again be guranteed to hoist the Cup!! #BecauseItsTheCup #BecauseItsTheNCAA Sioux Alumni are 30-16 in this years 2012 NHL Playoffs #Winning

    • The Rockets have only been in Kelowna since 1995… not quite the longstanding history as UND so not quite as many huge success stories in their later years. WHL teams certainly do have them though.

      • Which is why I only took from Freshman Class 2002 from UND which is the past 10 years. Figured the NHL is getting younger, and could only help Kelowna’s figures… (figured somebody would mention that)

        Either way you slice it, you can’t say Kelowna has been outproducing the 1 NCAA School the past 10 years, 5 years, etc

        • And what degrees did the guys you mention get from UND ? Oh right, Zero. Not oneof them graduated from University. You guys want your cake and to eat it to. bogus argument, try another angle.

    • Comparing one NCAA team with one CHL team and concluding that players from one of those leagues are more successful is very flawed. Anyone could “cherry pick” one team from each league to show just about any results they wanted.

      I’m not saying that your conclusion is wrong, but you need to compare the players from both leagues as a whole if you want a fair comparison.

  10. Here’s another example of how some prospects are told Major Juniors is the better route, like JT Miller did over UND from Schlossy:
    In reading the coverage and the comments about Miller’s decision to go to the Plymouth Whalers(OHL) instead of UND(NCAA), you will see two overriding themes.

    First, you’ll see a lot of people saying that it’s the right move, because major juniors is the route to go if you want to play in the NHL (and it’s the fast route to the NHL). Second, you’ll see speculation that the New York Rangers pushed Miller to go to the OHL.

    This is a battle that UND and other colleges continue to fight — the perception that they won’t develop a player as well as major juniors.

    The numbers don’t necessarily tell that story.

    In fact, UND’s Zach Parise has scored more NHL goals than every player that the Plymouth Whalers have produced in the last eight years combined (and Parise missed almost all of last season).

    Among players produced in the last eight years, UND more than doubles Plymouth in every category.

    NHL games: UND 2,648. Plymouth 1,245
    NHL goals: UND 551. Plymouth 154.
    NHL assists: UND 794. Plymouth 259.
    NHL points: UND 1,345. Plymouth 413
    NHL players with 100+ games: UND 10. Plymouth 4.
    NHL captains/alternates: UND 3. Plymouth 0.

    If you want to look at things from a New York Rangers point of view, the Rangers have produced two 30-goal scorers in the last five years (UND has produced eight). Jagr did it once, Gaborik did it once — neither of which played major juniors. You have to go back a decade to find the last time a major junior player has had a 30-goal season for the Rangers (Eric Lindros).

    So, if the rumor that the Rangers pushed Miller to go major juniors is true, that is at least a little bit mysterious, because it’s not like they’ve been hitting home run after home run with guys coming from the CHL.

    • But why only use players from UND and Plymouth for your numbers ?

      Using that same logic, I could just point to Crosby, who has more goals and Parise, and that would mean Major Junior is a better path to the NHL than College hockey ?

      It’s just not that simple to evaluate which league is better at developing players. There are so many factors involved. How can we know if a player that didn’t make it, would have made the NHL had he went to Major Junior instead of going to College, or vice versa ? Or if a player would have had more success in the NHL had he made the opposite choice. We can’t go back in time and see what difference it would have made. Personally, I think both are fine paths to the NHL, and if a player is good enough to make it, it won’t matter if he plays Major Junior or College hockey.

    • Sure, now tell me what undergraduate degrees all the guys you mentioned that went to UND attained ? I will wait for your response UND fan inSTL. Thanks, can’ wait.

  11. Justin, I thought you went the NCAA route to play in front of huge crowds:

    Top 10 in average attendance in North America in 2011-12

    1. NHL 17,455
    2. WCHA 6,386
    3. AHL 5,638
    4. WHL 4,716
    5. ECHL 4,281
    6. Hockey East 4,071
    7. Central Hockey League 4,042
    8. OHL 3,915
    9. CCHA 3,494
    10. QMJHL 3,489

    Maybe some kids don’t want to crumble under the bright lights?
    This is my envious face of JB playing in front of passionate fans… #LotzaHottiesOnTheGlass

    • It would be nice to see what the total attendance is between the NCAA and CHL. The London Knight have played 44 games at home not including preseason. I’m not sure exactly but I’ll estimate that Boston College played about 30 at home? That’s close to 50% more home games for a team from the CHL.

      • Great question, the CHL doesn’t like to openly produce the number’s, but looking at London’s arena, it’s max capacity states 9,000 fans: http://www.ohlarenaguide.com/knights.htm

        UND Fighting Sioux on 4-24-2012 stated the following:
        http://www2.und.edu/our/uletter/?p=25399
        North Dakota is the nation’s most-watched college hockey team in 2011-12
        Posted by Editor • April 24, 2012 •The UND men’s hockey team punctuated another highly successful season by leading NCAA Division I men’s hockey three attendance categories in 2011-12.

        North Dakota led the nation in total attendance (419,981) and average attendance (9,999.5) for all games – which includes home, away and neutral – and also led the country in total home attendance (249,501).

        UND’s average home attendance of 11,341 fans per game ranked second nationally behind only Wisconsin’s 11,772.9.

        “Our fans show up in large numbers and give our team an added boost in every building that we visit across the nation,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol. “Here are Ralph Engelstad Arena, they have been a huge part of developing a dominant home-ice advantage over the past 10 years. Their passion is truly amazing.”

        UND averaged just under capacity in the 11,634-seat Engelstad Arena in 2011-12, selling out 11 of 22 home games and eight of the last 10. The Sioux played in front of two of the five largest crowds in program history when 12,065 turned out to watch a 1-1 overtime tie with Michigan Tech on Feb. 18, and 12,029 witnessed a 3-0 win over Minnesota State in the regular season finale on March 3. Those two crowds ranked as the fourth and fifth-largest in program history.

        Average Attendance Leaders (All Games)

        1. North Dakota, 9,999.5

        2. Minnesota, 9,272.4

        3. Wisconsin, 9,174.3

        4. Boston College, 8,268.6

        5. Michigan, 7,055.7

        Total Attendance Leaders (All Games)

        1. North Dakota, 419,981

        2. Minnesota, 398,715

        3. Boston College, 363,820

        4. Wisconsin, 339,448

        5. Michigan, 289,284

        Total Attendance Leaders (Home Games)

        1. North Dakota, 249,501

        2. Wisconsin, 235,458

        3. Minnesota, 219, 401

        4. Nebraska Omaha, 141,544

        5. Colorado College, 135,078

        Complete NCAA Division I men’s hockey attendance leaders can be found at http://www.collegehockeystats.net/1112/nationald/d1m.

  12. Great piece, keep up the good work.

  13. fighting souix fan in st louis.

    ncaa is the league i get to watch. i’m a fan.

    but hockey starts even younger, before college or major juniors.

    case in point: und was fed by shattuck saint mary’s out of minnesota. und is blessed that way. that is a hockey factory pipeline. not all ncaa programs compare.

    shattuck is the reason. research shattuck saint mary’s!!! this prep school is a hockey powerhouse. 10% of the nhl captains are alumni.

    und just seems to end up with them when they leave shattuck.

    just because a nhl pro comes thru und doesn’t mean und produced him. those guys were groomed before they got to und. your stats don’t tell the story accurately enough. sorry.

    a more accurate comparison would be BOTH of JUSTIN’S choices to see how his decision worked out: kelowna and alaska anchorage.

    • Mike,

      I’m very well aware of SSM. You’re adding even more considerations that we’re not going to get into, because it’s not what the debate is about. I’m fully aware that UND has plenty of hockey players from SSM that travels to the Ralph Engelstad Arena for a recruitment visit. (I have pictures of a young Crosby, who tagged along with some shlep of a player named Ryan Duncan whom drove together from SSM to REA.)

      Regardless these players only play a year or two at SSM, depending on what age they come in at? But because of the success both schools have, they’re almost identical in what they’re trying to produce, and many players have felt that about the programs. UND usually is considered poaching mainly older Canadian Kids/Thugs, Minnesotan’s don’t like to admit UND has out recruited there beloved “U”

  14. As always, some of the best and most interesting writing on our favorite sport–good thing you went to college ;-)

  15. Great job. Each player’s situation is different and I think a realistic hockey goal needs to be established. Obviously if a player is a “Can’t Miss” NHL prospect Major Junior is the best way to go to prepare for the NHL. Having said that, the percentage of those type of players is very small so if you can cut it academically as a Student Athlete College is the way to go. The average professional hockey career will last maybe 3-4 years so if you can get all or a large percentage of your education paid for, do it.

    • Major Junior is the best way to go to prepare for the NHL if you’re a “Can’t Miss” NHL prospect??? hahahaha that’s interesting..

      If you’re a can’t miss NHL prospect you should be going the NCAA ranks at age 17, and getting a feel for what it’s going to be like in the NHL at 18.. (seems to be a proven track record there.)

      • Realistically, if a prospect is labeled “can’t miss”, then you’re not going to expect them to stick around in the NCAA for all four years. Thus, they go to major junior. I know John Gibson, he of the Kitchener Rangers, decided that he was going to go to the OHL because realistically, he knew that at best he’d play 2 seasons at Michigan.

    • Just came across this exchange and it’s fabulous. But your comment on the major jr. route being the best one to the NHL leaves out one piece of information…the end of the rope for maj. jr. is 20 years old. For NCAA, a player can begin school at 21…meaning he’s got until 25 years old to develop ( and many do just that). I have known plenty of players whose families chose the maj jr. route, only to realize that they have no where to go if they haven’t ‘ripened’ on the shorter vine. An NCAA player can leave early (or not) if he’s offered a pro deal before graduation; thus he has choices! Choices are preferable to a closing window…NCAA players will have time to play longer and ripen on that longer vine…hopefully for the picking at the end by an NHL team. Just my two cents.

  16. So, from what I’ve gathered from Sioux Fan in STL, UND has developed some better players over a certain period of time than a couple of cherry-picked Major Junior teams over a period of time.

    Fascinating stuff.

  17. We have just made those decisions with our son who is currently playing with a Junior A BCJHL team. Parents whose kids dont have grades. Dont despair. A player can only upgrade one class prior to writing his Sat exam and to meet NCAA requirements. But he can upgrade as many classes as he wants for the individual universities. Usually players enter Junior A doing Grade 12 and the second year then can upgrade.
    My advice is dont give up on Junior A over grades. Most players go to university their 3rd or 4th year of Junior

  18. One thing that I’ve read is that some players don’t care about academics. I know it maybe applies more to western Canada, as that’s the main area that was pointed out. They say that players who aren’t as guaranteed to make it past the major junior level, if at all, may have jobs lined up on the family farm, for example, and care more about that than say going to school. I’m not trying to single anybody out here, but there are more factors at work than what’s been talked about.

  19. Not all kids WANT to go to college, nor are a lot of them ELIGIBLE for college. After graduating high school a lot of kids opt to work instead of going to even a community college/JC. I’m sure a lot of kids that choose the Major Junior route wouldn’t go to college regardless, so it’s not really an issue.

    If academics aren’t your strong suit, you got poor grades in high school, a low SAT score, and the kid just generally doesn’t like/excel in school, what sense does it make to have them float around an NCAA d1 program for a year or two constantly being academically ineligible and burning out?

    While NCAA d1 puts a huge emphasis on athletics, the academics are just as big. Major Juniors gives you 1 door to choose, NCAA d1 gives you 2 doors to choose.

  20. Awesome piece. Why can’t YOU run College Hockey, Inc.? You are extremely witty and entertaining and you sell the college game better than just about anybody.

  21. Thanks for all the great information about the 2 different routes a young player faces if gifted enough to play at this level.
    My advise on this subject is as follows. Each route offers good and bad. Major junior is usually more about hockey and less about school , but does offer a good education package if used. Also its more business than the college route. If your a top player and I mean a top player , say drafted in in the top 10 in the bantam draft, go this route. If not continue playing in leagues where you can be recognized for the college route. Remember only 20 % of these players get scholarships, so you have to be pretty good at this level.
    Also you will never lose with a college education and honestly like said before if your good enough you will play in the show ( NHL ) ,with an education just like David Jones Brandon Yip,and soon to be Justin Scultz and the list goes on and on. Good luck to all .

  22. I was a sports fan and studious type in high school 25 years ago. I always wondered why kids chose CHL over trying for a scholarship from Canada. The problem in reading Justin’s message in 2012 is the new reality from 25 years ago. In 1985 a borderline OHL or WHL training camp attendee would almost certainly be NCAA division 1 material. Today, that same Canadian kid will rarely land a scholarship in D1. So, unless you are truly a special talent that is destined to be an overachieving late bloomer, I’m afraid to say the cost-benefit gimme is no longer there for most Canadian kids on the fence. You might land on a partial half-scholarship in D1 Atlantic Hockey (the low end of the totem pole), but more likely you’ll be recruited to D3 hockey which will try to help you with financial aid as they don’t hand out scholarships. So, while Justin had a great time at the University of Alaska Anchorage (which resonates to Canadians as much as Brock University resonates to Americans) in truth he did not gain that much. Those college relationships he made at the UAA are of course, similar to the relationships everyone makes when they attend university. While I wouldn’t tell my son to shoot for the CHL, unless he was a potential NHL draftee, I would have to tell him the stark reality of what the chances are of a free education down south. I’d much rather sign a contract with my son, and tell him if he chooses to play CHL, he can only play as long as he is a full-time student and he can only play for a hometown team. If he gets traded, he promises not to report and he can just play a lower level of junior hockey. Let him graduate high school on-time, play his last year or two of CHL eligibility while taking part-time university courses, and then when he’s done CHL I’ll pay for whatever it costs to attend university in Canada post-CHL subsidy.

    • Peter,

      I’d say you are way off. First a border-line training camp attendee wouldn’t be D1 material. At what age? If you’re border line at 16, I’d say your chances are good at making a Junior A team. If you can play well at the Junior A level for two years, you could be off to a D1 school on a full ride at 18, worse case 19. Go look at all the BCHL commitments.

      As for your son only playing CHL if he’s a full time student, he has to be if he’s in high school.. Furthermore, he’ll have no say of playing for the hometown team if he’s drafted by one on the other side of the province. And If you’re going to tell your kid, “if you get traded, you can’t report and you have to play Junior A” then what’s the point of even going to the CHL in the first place and killing his NCAA eligibility?

      Don’t forget, or in case you didn’t know, your kid will get one year of free tuition, student fees and books for every year played in the CHL. Four years in the CHL can be four years of CIS and a degree afterwards.

      • Shaun,

        You mis-read my post. 25 years ago a borderline CHL training camp attendee would be D1 material. Better stated, a lower round draft pick (8th round or later) would almost certainly have been D1 material back in the late 80s. Today, 100% I agree that the same caliber CHL prospect is no longer D1 material, unless the kids is a late-bloomer over-achiever.

        As for where he plays, I agree he has no say if he is drafted or traded elsewhere in the province. If that is the case, he most certainly can play at the best level of lower tier junior and what difference will it make with his life? He’ll still be good enough to play CIS hockey in Canada, which has to be D3 and possibly Atlantic hockey caliber. Why would I consider a $5K-7K tuition assistance benefit with the CHL as something that would allow my child to become a piece of meat? Cleary, I would just plan to save and pay that $5K-$7K tuition as a parent so that I can ensure they are keeping education as a priority. I expect the kids will also have part-time jobs and also save towards their education as well.

        I look at NCAA elgibility in a different light. If you can crack an Ivy League school, or even one of the prestigious D3 schools (Bowdoin, Amherst, etc.) then sure that would be great. But go ahead and look at those rosters and see exactly how many Canadians there are at those schools. In today’s age, they tend to land in Atlantic hockey and they land in D3 at places like Plattsburgh State hockey. And as 20 or 21 year old freshman.

        As for looking at the commitments page of the BCHL, I have very much checked that, I have checked the players ages, and I have checked the players commitment years. The commitments are often stated for either next season or the following season. I find the latter is often the case. I have even seen guys delaying by a season to play D3!!! For what purpose? So that you can start your post-high school education at 21?

        You know, I am thinking of going through Atlantic hockey roster and doing an extensive audit of the Canadian kids and how old they are to give people perspective. Then I would go through ECAC and pull the same numbers and info. Then I’d go through D3 hockey and see the same info.

        What I am trying to say, is it almost makes no sense for a borderline Canadian kid to shoot for the NCAA today. The odds are not great that you end up at a prestigious school that means something. Sure you will have a great experience at Anchorage-Alaska, Alabama-Hunstville or Plattsburgh State. You will make lifelong friends. But what will you have tangibly gained over just going to play CIS hockey? A NY resident going to Plattsburgh State pays ballpark the same tuition an Ontario kid would pay going to Brock University. What the heck does he gain? Access to some old-boys network of Plattsburgh State alum?

      • By the way, the real solution to this is for Hockey Canada to work with CIS in an effort to make CIS hockey something Canadian kids aspire to. That is really what is missing here. Once you are done with the CHL, there is no reason to try your hand at the ECHL. If you are not good enough to go straight to the AHL, why fight the odds by playing ECHL? What is needed to fix the “major junior vs. NCAA” dilemma for the Canadian kid is a stretegic investment between Hockey Canada and CIS to grow the prestige of the Canadian university game. The CIS game would then be a strategic hockey development path in Canada.

      • One other thing about you saying all CHL kids are in high school. I remember the discussion I had in 1989 at university with a kid that played for the Belleville Bulls and was in school with me. He said his rookie year, there were 25 kids on the squad and 18 kids were enrolled in school at the beginning of the school year. By Christmas they were down to 10. He’d come home from class and his roomate would be in his pyjamas watching television. Anectodal information, but given the odds, if you are playing major junior hockey you had better keep a very disciplined approach to the rest of your life. Unless you are cracking a CHL spot at 16 and being a significant contributor, your odds at a pro career are so slim you’d better have your priorities straight.

  23. I have a question. Do Major Junior teams draft from lower junior levels, such as Junior A, B…? Or is that a whole different process?

  24. Great post – very well-balanced but with no punches pulled!

    My son was Top AA D in Major Bantam. He decided it was AAA this year (he’s played the level successfully before) or bust. Unfortunately for him, it is not my dream, so I left it to him to contact coaches (with my support and advice if he needed it). He found that he was contacting teams that were already fully committed, even though “tryouts” were two months away. Anyway, he decided to play high school football and varsity hockey.

    Two of the top five MM AAA teams contacted him to join in the fall, based on injuries; he went for some skates and kept up fairly easily, despite no skating since last April. But he decided that he couldn’t abandon his football team, because he was a starting OLB, and the team made it to the high school championship game.

    What intrigued me about your article was the fact that you were a late-bloomer. Although I have never been through it, I don’t know what advice to offer him, if he decides that he still wants to try to take hockey to the next level. What would his route be now to pursue hockey at the next level, if he still wants to? What was important to you to keep the journey going even though you weren’t in the “regular stream?”

    • Andrew, hopefully Justin responds. But I think as a borderline AAA minor midget player, you sonr would have to over achieve by an extreme amount and that would definately be a very rare occurance. I don’t think Justin overcame odds that were that high. Justin tried out at 17 for the Kelowna Rockets and likely would have made that team. He led his Jr. B conference in scoring. The way you describe your son, he would likely have to over-achieve and improve at an even more impressive rate. Given that he is only playing high school this season, I would suggest he play a season of Major Midget AAA next year. Then the following years he must play junior. If he can make a BCHL lineup as a 20 year old, I’d say he’d have a shot to get recruited to a D3 school. Depending where he’s at as an 18 or 19 year old will let you know if over-achieving is feasible at that point.

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  29. Why is it that most other power conference commissioners seem to say things of substance and Bowlsby says nothing? We would like a championship game but we wouldn’t. We are discussion expansion but don’t want to. We are stable but we are discussing scheduling alliances to fend off further expansion. Obviously speaking in absolutes isn’t possible with these topics, but c’mon…..say something or say nothing, not both.

  30. I remember a tiny story related to fishing when I was a little girl. It was in rainy season and it rained for almost everyday. I was visiting my relatives who lived quite far from the city, a suburb area, actually. In front of the house, there was a strange dry long canal and a wooden small bridge. I have always wondered what it was for and then, after a few days of constant raining that I realized “ahhh… now it is a actually a water-filled canal!” It was for fishing. It was such an amazing experience for me to go fishing in such a small stream of water! I mean, where did the fish come from? Was the canal connected to any river? Even there were many questions in my head, I did not ask. I just went with the flow, sit on the wooden bridge, holding the old-fashioned fishing equipment which was an old long piece of bamboo stick, hooked with a worm as a bait. There were 5of us, my brother and I, cousins and my daddy. He taught us how to do the fishing. It was quite boring at first but suddenly, my cousin screamed out loud with joy and said “I got one! I got a fish!”. My eyes were wide opened to see a fish hooked up. I was not happy,though. It seems like I was hurting the fish and the fish does not deserve this. So, I asked my dad if we could let it go back to the water and he agreed. Hence, we just sit there playing around, fishing and letting the fish back into where it was. It was a great day,though. I am also finding a place to start this joyful activity,too and waiting for the answers from other people just like Mister ambassador. Thank you for reading my childhood story. It is kind of childish but it was so much fun and I just wanted to share. Thanks again,

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  32. Watch the NHL draft and see where the players played and came from. That will give some indication on what the CHL offers. Remember some players make a living outside of the NHL as well. Europe is filled with players making a good living. Its not all about the NHL and there is nothing wrong with a Canadian degree if you end up using it. The thing is most people don’t really use it in terms of direct job use but more in life experience. No different in the USA. It just costs more.

  33. Hey Justin,
    Great insight and also comments.
    A friend at work just asked me about something you may or may not know.
    Her son was taken by an Alberta team in the WHL Bantam Draft, late in the first or early in the second round last spring.
    They live on the Coast.
    They attended a camp in Alberta last summer which was quite expensive.
    Then they decided to go the NCAA route if possible.
    Their son played Major Midget as a 15 year old last season and has made a Lower Mainland Junior ‘B’ team this season with invitations to 3 Junior ‘A’ main camps.
    The dilemma is whether to attend the Major Jr. teams camp in August at considerable expense. They don’t want to burn bridges but also feel like they’ve made a decision and don’t want to spend the money.
    Not sure why they asked my advice cause I’m basically a rec hockey player with a passion for my local Junior A team.
    At any rate, I’ve read about the PPL and stuff like that. I figure the comment you made about if you’re good enough, they’ll find you, to be basically what I told her.
    What’s your opinion? Should they be honest with the Major Jr team and just stick to the path they’ve chosen. I also said that if he eventually made a Junior A club and was just too good for the BCHL he’d still have the opportunity to move to Major Jr. but, like you said, one game and your NCAA elibibility is basically ruined.

    Can they ask to be taken of the PPL or would the team just decide how long they wanted to keep him on it? It seem to me they still might want to hold on to his rights cause he has 2 more years before the 18 yr. old draft and if he blossoms, they probably wouldn’t want to miss out on him?
    Your thought please?
    Thanks
    Luc

  34. Hi, the first letter was sent to my billing address, not my shipping address. I don’t know if it is just me or other folks had this difficulty but I just planned to let you guys know. It was definitely disappointing not getting the letter where I am suitable now!

  35. Great read. I hear these kinds of stories from parents and players all of the time and it’s why I wrote a whole book on the subject. I’m glad there is more info out there for parents to make more informed decisions with their sons, for NCAA or Major Junior.
    http://www.juniorhockeybook.com/free-guide-giveaway

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