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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oh Canada

This story has given me several areas of personal debate.  First and foremost being should I include this on this blog.  I have decided that it can and potentially does impact Scouting Ohio High School Hockey.  It opens a seemingly endless can of worms related to hockey, that changes directions faster than rabbit being chased by a bobcat.

Simon Fraser University (SFU), pictured above, is located in the eternally beautiful British Columbia.  SFU is the first ever, international institution to receive NCAA status and the ability to compete in DII, for all NCAA titles.  SFU's entrance is a pilot program, but clearly we all know the NCAA is a business.  While operating under the guise of protecting amateur status and the athletes, has elected to pursue political issues and matters of personal choice.  So with out beating that dead horse to much, we can only ask, Why have'nt College athletes formed a players union?  A players union to protect their interest from the NCAA and University establishments.

So what does this mean for hockey?  SFU has hockey, as seen above.  It means a lot, in many areas of hockey.  The more I think about it, the more I find.  Do not take me or these my thoughts as the definitive word, but the following thoughts I have had, as have others and much has been kicked around, and much more has yet to be tossed about.  The first and seeming logical places this path leads are to the establishment of the NCAA as an international entity.  Impacting not just US athelets and institutions.   The next goes to the NCAA game.  Is it good or bad for NCAA hockey?  How would travel to BC impact travel costs?  Baring in mind teams currently travel to both Alaska schools and Alabama.  This year  will see a contingent of Hockey East members all up in the last USA frontier.  Which confernce picks up SFU?  WCHA, NHC look to be the most likely to me.  Maybe SFU plays independent while waitnig for 5 more BC area teams to follow suit, for that matter 5 more Canadian colleges and the establishment of the ACCHC( All Canadian College Hockey Conference).

There is big money currently abound  BC in hockey.  The NCAA's elite programs are constantly competing for what are considered the most elite amateur hockey players available.  Yes Team USA gets pounded for those youngsters.  I am speaking of the best NCAA eligible Jr players in Canada.  The best NCAA eligible player league, not single team.  The BCHL.  The BCHL consists of 16 member teams.  Teams with names like power house Penticton Vee's, Trail Smoke Eaters, Vernon Vipers, Couqitlam Express, and Powell River.  The BCHL has been a leader in producing NHL talent and is only now being matched by the USHL.  So imagine the recruiting impact, the instantaneous recruiting impact that has.  Every kid has two dreams in college hockey, no 3.  One to maybe make the nHL, but to play for his favorite team, and to play near home are the two I am thinking matter most.  think about the impact if kids from BC can stay and play NCAA hockey in BC.  Then compete against USA kids.  No rivalry's there.
Yet we can then not look past some speculations on the single elite jr league going.  The CHL, Canadian Major Junior Hockey.  Some in these parts refer to the CHL, which is the name equivalent of the NHL, as our nearest conference, the O, or Ontario Junior Hockey League.  The CHL is composed of the W-Western Junior Hockey League, The O as noted above, and the Q- Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.  All three battle each year for the memorial cup.  One can only ponder, would the big money in the W crush SFU's attempt at an NCAA d1 team?  Why think that in the first place?  Major Jr is big money.  For those who don't know these teams draw on average 8,000 fans, 12000+ in the memorial cup.  Players are paid salaries of $100- to over $400.00 a week and they receive cash in exchange for time played to pay for college tuition, have all their paid for, housing, transportation meals etc.  These are 16-20 year olds.  It does not sound like a lot of money 100-400 dollars a week, but if these kids hit NHL rosters, and they do more often than any other league, and stick its $525,000.00 a year to $1,000,000.00.  So these are your 1%ers more than less.   These teams make big money.  They are well established.  They wont look lovingly at anyone "steeling" their players.  This leads to another aspect.  The fledgling CHL players Union.  Would the players shape the Union to alter their compensation to a situation where they may retina NCAA eligibility?    I would think they should, I would think the NCAA and that being in the best interest of the NCAA would be offering those words of advice.  Advice which would in turn benefit the CHL owners and ownership groups.  There is no other industry in the US or Canada that profits from the hard work of 16-20 year old kids.  Is there the potential then I ask, for these 60 more or les CHL clubs to then establish, relationships with Canadian Colleges and establish self funded hockey clubs.  Where the Self Funded Varsity sport is now the new model?

All of the above is of course pending SFU finding or having the funding to pursue NCAA d1 hockey. Or entering in to the last stated thought of some how merging with a CHL club. Having been admitted as D2 they are prohibited from playing d3 and must then petition for D1.  They have a 2,000 seat facility, which is in the smalle end of NCAA rinks, and is a troubling.  Troubling until you look at the landscape and see the 15,000 seat Pacific Colosseum down the street.

We then enter the concept of watering down the sport.  A very real and potential issue.  We see the ramifications all the time with the perpetual state of flux in Jr hockey.  To many teams, to many played lacking real skill, and then the loss of teams.  The mentioned melding of CHL and NCAA hockey in Canada has potential.  Potential only if the right people can continue to profit as they have.  Potential in that the Canadian, US hockey rivalry is hot, Fun and booming.  This coupled with noted talks of expansion in the soon to be established B10 hockey conference in both womens and mens circles is very positive.  Any expansion creates opportunity for the Ohio player.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jr hockey Brief

Austin Gryca, has two shut outs in his first two Jr outs in the Preseason Jamboree with the Laconia Leafs.  Ben Torchia puts up 6 pts in two games for the Leafs as well, coming as one goal and 5 assists.
In the NAHL Nolan Culver of the K-Wings tallies his first regular season goal and has a Face off win % nearing 80%.  Dalton Carter who appeared in two games in the Blain Showcase is sitting on 2 pts from 3 shots.  His preseason numbers were outstanding and he is staying on that pace.  Matt Wurst back on the Blue for the K-wings is +3 with 3 pts coming from a goal and pair of assists.  Whats more he has broken up more offense and turned the puck back up far more, creating chances for the K-Wings to score.  The K-Wings are being credited for being the most skilled team in the NAHL, and are being considered as Robertson Cup contenders, its great having so many Ohio HS Stars contributing on the same team, getting those accolades.
The real monster here is Connor Frey is 3rd in Bulls scoring with two goals and one asset, is +3 on just 6 shots with 11 PIM.  Now hear this he is 5th leading  NAHL D in scoring, and the offensive D man Frey is only 4 games in to his rookie season!  Frey is positioned well the Bulls and the Bulls are in a position to once again the winningest regular season team, and return to the Robertson Cup.  Word on the street is Frey will be visiting one the NCAA's elite programs in the coming weeks coming out of Blain, congratulations Connor. and all the former Ohio HS players chasing their dreams.
Connor Frey  is a marked man.  The offensive defenseman has been singled out by not one, not two but three TOP TEN NCAA D1 programs.  Programs noted for their consistent showings in the NCAA Championship and for players advancing to the NHL, which is also closely following his progress.  Once his selection is made we will hopefully be the first to publish his pending decision.  Another with a looming decision is Culver, the 93 FWD out of Sylvania Northview, currently with the K-WIngs.  Strong indications of the power house Hockey East Conference.  Further congratulations of Columbus Blue Jackets MM, McDonald who made his verbal commitment to BGSU,  the 6'2" RD man has plenty of time to fully mature before joining the Falcons shortly after they join the newly renovated WCHA.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pre Post

It was a weekend where we saw a cleveland struggling against Columbus, the Sylvania 16u playing the 18u and Toledo vs Toledo.  There was good hockey, some good players, some players not playing up to their potential and others not playing at all.  Its difficult at best to long term projection when any number of variables is impacting the game.  Prepost is fun for some, development for others, and the off season for others.  Yet Im making my list.  Checking it thrice, I will find out who's nasty and nice.

In this moment I have my Sr's well pined.  Its this group of 96's, that I keep finding pulling me in.  competitive, driven, skilled and responsive.  Playing good heads up hockey, making hits that need to be made, good puck movement, moving with purpose.  Yes these are core of Ohio's next stars.  Sure Geither will move on, Estrell, Crandal, Suter, and host of others from the state.

I hope to post my initial list, and rankings by or in early December.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The road ahead

Stricken with the flu over the weekend. I was unable to attend the puck drop on the pre post season.  I hear, and see, as reflected in the scores that once again Cleveland  put together some very solid teams, and for a seemingly 3rd year in a row, Sylvania.  We are again seeing a nice spike, that was anticipated, in the depth of the 96's.  Which is mirroring past cycles of about 3-4 years. It should be a good pre-post season.

We still need our states HS coach to band together and make a stand at the state level.  Fixing the hockey model.  Where it is imperative there be establish two division and two titles.  As well as rule changes and clarifications.  We have some serious officiating issues, those being directly related to the fact that Ohio has elite level players.  Who just because they skate faster, are far more advanced, are better along in fitness levels, hit harder.  Hitting hard is NOT a penalty.  Hitting a player with in moments after he dishes the puck is not a penalty ( and  if his head snaps and hits the player its NOT CONTACT TO THE HEAD, one could well argue that, that is a head butt).  The next issue no one is going to like, its a third rail, but here goes.  Fighting, needs to be allowed.  Why?  Fighting prevents injuries, and in no way am I referring to the inglorious pre scripted bouts that are abound in Jr hockey and pro, just the in the moment bouts that come from cheap as hell play and stick work.  I am seeing way way way more nasty uses of the stick than ever before, cross checks to the back of the head and  a good fight will for most of these players  be an abrupt end to the issue.  The issue being those who are hacking away at ankles, and legs, or spearing and butt ending will learn quickly just how intolerable their seedy dirty play is, head on, toe to toe.  The Rule on fighting should be... 1. first offense in a game a 5 min roughing.  2. Second offense in a game 2 and 10min roughing and 3 3rd offense delay of game, 2 min, 10 fighting major and game misconduct and ejection.
Next its on the docket that the NCAA will be going to visors.  HS hockey should mirror this move, for all the same reasons.

Aside from another season of more of the same, and living under  state set of guidelines for a sport that is not run by hockey minded people, we will have a good season and make due.  I will make one preseason prediction right now.  That being, that this years state champion will be from Cleveland, and will be a public school.  Even with Ignatius on the war path, and the St Johns day schoolers at their best.

As I was looking over the protected lists from the various Jr hockey leagues this weekend a few things jumped out.  One, lots of Ohio players and Ohio HS in particular have made the leap, far more than in years passed.  This is a statement to the hockey world that Ohio HS and its broad scope of modern coaches are developing talent, but more so still, that the teams are not just watching, they are seeing the same.  That two, and we see this written all the time.  There are good Jr hockey leagues and bad, and that you can not advance if your not playing.  Case and point the NA3HL.  The NA3HL, which has special provisional tenders with he NAHL, that do not count against the 9 tenders each team posses out right at the start of each season, had only 2 players matriculate to the NAHL this season.  The EXACT same number of Ohio HS players.  So its a nasty double edged sword, but one where the player is left wielding the blade.  Work hard and you can advance from anywhere, but its far better to start some where, and to do so you only need to look a franchises- coaches-leagues track record of historical placements.

Ohio's early spotlight players coming in the next submission.