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Caustic Undertow
05-13-2010, 05:03 PM
Don't look now, but the NHL playoff stat leaders have a distinct air of education about them. The goal-scoring leader is Michigan's Mike Cammalleri with an eye-opening 12, and in second place with 9 is red-hot Joe Pavelski of Wisconsin; you could argue Pavelski trails Cammalleri only because he has played three fewer games. 20 is the top total in the point category, and that number is held by Jonathan Toews of North Dakota, with Cammalleri in third at 18. Fans of college hockey as a sport must be proud that these players are succeeding at the highest level, much the same way college alums like Toews, Ryan Miller, and Zach Parise were key players in the Olympics.

Most of these players come from what I think of as a golden era for NHL prospects in college, the very late 90s through the middle of the aughts. Before then, most of the best college hockey players were guys who could scratch out middling careers in the NHL at best; since then, many of the best prospects have fled for Major Junior (see: Kane, Patrick). Teams that rely on pro prospects to fill their rosters, such as Minnesota, are having a much harder time competing in today's environment.

Is this good, or bad? The importance of college hockey "growing" is often a sticking point in debates about alternative Frozen Four venues or television coverage. Some like college hockey the way it is: four-year players getting degrees, small arenas and crowds, intimacy. Others want it to "grow" and gain new fans, rightly thinking that it is an appealing product.

None of us want it to shrink. We all want college hockey to thrive, but under what model? Bigger, more fans at Frozen Fours, sold out football stadia, top prospects playing at big-name schools for a year or two? Or is the ideal a 4,000 seat arena with energetic fans and players whose next step is not the NHL but graduate school?

Or is there room for both? What should college hockey be?

SteveF
05-13-2010, 05:45 PM
Toews succeeding on the Canadian team was a surprise, for sure, considering all the other players they had to pick from. but the usa team was mostly ncaa all the way through; with kane being the obvious exception. the only other junior players were callahan, brown, ryan, langenbruner, and gleason.

even the alternates had a big ncaa presence... scuderi, hainsey, goligoski, carle, oshie, gionta. and that doesnt even count martin and komisarek who withdrew with injury. I dont think this was in anyway a political move in protecting the ncaa, but it certainly didnt hurt to have such a profound representation.

anyway, imo, as far as why NCAA may be losing out on pro prospects to major junior has little to do with the size of college hockey, and a lot to do with the reputation of the sport as not conducive to NHL success. factors like season length, rules differences (fighting, icing, cages), and the whole amateur status thing will always sway recruits who don't think the education is worth the gamble.

the NCAA can passively counteract this by having the above players continue to shine and take the stigma away from some of the perceived differences, or they can actively counteract the Canadian leagues by becoming more like them. which i believe was the initiative in bringing in paul kelly.

the other thing(s) the USA needs to do is protect their own and bring kids like the next cam fowler, john carlson, and pat kane back to NCAA; while continuing to scour canada and find the next Toews, Turris, or Cammalleri

SoCalSiouxFan
05-13-2010, 06:29 PM
Toews succeeding on the Canadian team was a surprise, for sure, ....

If NHL players continue to be allowed to play in Olympics I wouldn't be supprised if next Olympics he is the captain of the Canadian Olympic team.

cycledown
05-13-2010, 07:06 PM
College Hockey needs to expand, hockey has been growing tremendously at the high school level in the US for many years now. But the current definiton of Title IX has created a bottleneck of stagnation for any amount of expansion coming from the high school levels. If there was some sort of a modification clause to dissolve the bottleneck then you would see rapid growth/expansion in US college hockey.

jdr1
05-13-2010, 07:25 PM
Crosby and alex the great are good players but I would take Toews or Kane anyday over them two. Imho Toews is the best player in the nhl right now! And it does reflect on college hockey and is great for everyteam in the ncaa! College hockey players playing in the nhl are making themselfs known more than ever right now. See toews, parise, miller, rafalski (sp) and all the other stars from the olympic games.

Caustic Undertow
05-13-2010, 08:52 PM
Does college hockey need the best players? It seems that the very best prospects are going to major junior. I question whether all college hockey fans want the sport to get "more" prospects and fans. Many seem happy with college hockey as it is. Pro prospects don't stay for four years, they don't take school as seriously, and they have greater potential for regulation baggage.

People will sometimes complain about the largesse of college football and basketball; I enjoy college hockey's relative accessibility.

A common thread in the debates regarding the Ford Field venue was that some people did not want college hockey to grow; they were happy with it the size that it was. I disagreed with the sentiment, but I see where they are coming from. Why bother making the sport bigger when it is good the way it is? Ford Field was bigger, and for some people that meant worse views and a less enjoyable experience.

bearsFan93
05-13-2010, 08:53 PM
College hockey doesn't need to change, but it would be great if more teams were added. More fans, more television coverage, there was almost no discussion about the teams during the frozen four, in between periods they showed sportscenter, and the selection show was and is a joke. The expansion of college hockey doesn't necessarily mean more frozn fours on football fields, that was a bad idea, and I hope that they do not do it again. As for arena size, Cameron Indoor seats under 10,000 and it housed the best basketball team in the country. The harder it is to get a ticket the more presitigious a program appears to be. And regarding talented players, I personally think that watching a prospective NHL superstar play is more exciting than watching some kid that will not make professional leagues. I enjoy checking up on players that went to the school that I support, and I gain a sense of pride when one of them is doing well in the NHL. If college hockey does start bringing in a better class of player though, two years minimum before the pros should be required.

Stauber1
05-13-2010, 10:23 PM
...the selection show was and is a joke.

Who the hell cares? Seems to me all the hoopla over the bouncy-ball selection and the subsequent shows are the result of media pumping up their product so that they can beat it like a dead horse for ratings. Fine with me if that stays away from hockey.


The expansion of college hockey doesn't necessarily mean more frozn fours on football fields

Not necessarily FFs on football fields, but those are the kinds of gimmicks you can expect if NCAA hockey is pushed as a product to a larger audience.


And regarding talented players, I personally think that watching a prospective NHL superstar play is more exciting than watching some kid that will not make professional leagues

You are certainly not alone in that opinion. But for me, the highest level of play is not why I fell in love with college hockey, and it's not the reason I have a set schedule for every Friday and Saturday night Oct-April. If I wanted to watch the best players around, I'd watch the NHL. I don't.


If college hockey does start bringing in a better class of player though, two years minimum before the pros should be required.

Can't have it both ways. If that type of regulation were (somehow) enacted, you would see less of the top-end talent. More early round draft picks in the NCAA means more 1 or 2 and done players, across the board. Not just at the Minnesotas and the Wisconsins.

This really does seem to be an ideological divide among fans, and has really developed in the past decade as college hockey has begun shifting toward becoming a professional feeder league, a la NCAA basketball. My position on the subject has been consistently obvious over the past 5 years.

4four4
05-14-2010, 12:47 AM
If NHL players continue to be allowed to play in Olympics I wouldn't be supprised if next Olympics he is the captain of the Canadian Olympic team.

Never going to happen. There is this overrated star who plays in Pittsburgh who is the next coming of Jesus who will be the Captain of team Canada for years to come.

The Rube
05-14-2010, 01:31 AM
I would love for college hockey to grow, however, one big thing I didn't see mentioned is the rookie max cap salary.

Before, a rookie could up his pay by staying another year or two in college, shining brightly, and then going.

Now, when a team offers the max (doesn't matter if that means that guy plays in the minors for a year, or two, or forever), that player flees. There's no point in playing the college game anymore once you hit the max.

While it's good for the pro game, it does hurt the college game.

TimU
05-14-2010, 07:36 AM
But for me, the highest level of play is not why I fell in love with college hockey, and it's not the reason I have a set schedule for every Friday and Saturday night Oct-April. If I wanted to watch the best players around, I'd watch the NHL. I don't.

Right on.

unhpuckfan2001
05-14-2010, 07:49 AM
I personally think that watching a prospective NHL superstar play is more exciting than watching some kid that will not make professional leagues. I enjoy checking up on players that went to the school that I support, and I gain a sense of pride when one of them is doing well in the NHL. If college hockey does start bringing in a better class of player though, two years minimum before the pros should be required.

I disagree with the first sentence here . . .

I look back most recently to James van Riemsdyk, who's doing pretty well in his rookie season with Philly. He played for UNH for two years, then went pro.

Exciting with the puck on his stick, and a very creative offensive player, he always struck me as lazy in the neutral and defensive zone, and this drove me nuts. On top of that, you could tell he often tried to protect his body (not that I blame him) and refused to his skating / strength to his advantage along the boards (again, I think JvR I think lazy). As the #1 overall pick, there was no doubt he was going pro.

Contrast that to recent Hobey Baker Finalist (and I maintain he should have won) Bobby Butler. Butler signed an amateur contract with Ottowa after UNH's season ended, but before that, he was totally undrafted. Leading the NCAA in goals last year, Butler was a true two-way player; there were games that he single handedly turned around with his work along the boards, he was the top UNH PK-er, etc etc etc . . . he couldn't measure up to JvR on talent alone, but his work ethic made him exciting to watch.

I've been following college hockey since 1999 (what a year to start being a UNH fan), and I've learned it's about the laundry, not the player. For college hockey, IMO, it's about representing your school well, by playing hard. When a player goes pro and does well, it's just a bonus.

I don't think the two year minimum would work; too many players, and too many teams, would balk at the idea of being forced to wait. Too many more chances for injuries, and if a team wants to call up a player in April after his first year, if he meets or exceeds expectations, they will want to be able to. Imposing a 2-year minimum, combined with the other rule differences, will push more players towards Major-Junior, I betcha . . .

Kepler
05-14-2010, 08:18 AM
No. No. Next?

FlagDUDE08
05-14-2010, 08:44 AM
We should be more worried about keeping the programs we already have and getting them to a near-profitable status before we think about expanding. Iona, Fairfield, and Wayne State have recently folded their programs, so I don't think expansion is the answer. Heck, we lost a conference! We also almost lost Alabama-Huntsville because of that conference fold. Let's build the programs we have now, get them even more popular, and then try to expand.

RedFreak
05-14-2010, 09:27 AM
While I would like to see college hockey grow in the number of teams playing the sport, and really think it's important that we don't contract, I most definitely would hate to see it turn into bouncy-ball lite.


Seems to me all the hoopla over the bouncy-ball selection and the subsequent shows are the result of media pumping up their product so that they can beat it like a dead horse for ratings.

And people eat it up. I've never understood that.


Not necessarily FFs on football fields, but those are the kinds of gimmicks you can expect if NCAA hockey is pushed as a product to a larger audience.

I've always considered it a joke that people would flock to a basketball game played in an arena so large that there's no way you could see the game from half the seats. And then they went and tried it for hockey.


I personally think that watching a prospective NHL superstar play is more exciting than watching some kid that will not make professional leagues
You are certainly not alone in that opinion. But for me, the highest level of play is not why I fell in love with college hockey, and it's not the reason I have a set schedule for every Friday and Saturday night Oct-April. If I wanted to watch the best players around, I'd watch the NHL. I don't. .

Ditto here, too. Season tickets both Friday and Saturday night. Yet it's not the skill level that draws me. The level of hockey in the NHL is, obviously, in another galaxy compared to college, yet I rarely watch it. The player I most appreciate watching is the fourth year guy that I barely noticed as a frehman who turns into a solid player at the end.

blockski
05-14-2010, 09:47 AM
Don't look now, but the NHL playoff stat leaders have a distinct air of education about them. The goal-scoring leader is Michigan's Mike Cammalleri with an eye-opening 12, and in second place with 9 is red-hot Joe Pavelski of Wisconsin; you could argue Pavelski trails Cammalleri only because he has played three fewer games. 20 is the top total in the point category, and that number is held by Jonathan Toews of North Dakota, with Cammalleri in third at 18. Fans of college hockey as a sport must be proud that these players are succeeding at the highest level, much the same way college alums like Toews, Ryan Miller, and Zach Parise were key players in the Olympics.

Most of these players come from what I think of as a golden era for NHL prospects in college, the very late 90s through the middle of the aughts. Before then, most of the best college hockey players were guys who could scratch out middling careers in the NHL at best; since then, many of the best prospects have fled for Major Junior (see: Kane, Patrick). Teams that rely on pro prospects to fill their rosters, such as Minnesota, are having a much harder time competing in today's environment.

Is this good, or bad? The importance of college hockey "growing" is often a sticking point in debates about alternative Frozen Four venues or television coverage. Some like college hockey the way it is: four-year players getting degrees, small arenas and crowds, intimacy. Others want it to "grow" and gain new fans, rightly thinking that it is an appealing product.

None of us want it to shrink. We all want college hockey to thrive, but under what model? Bigger, more fans at Frozen Fours, sold out football stadia, top prospects playing at big-name schools for a year or two? Or is the ideal a 4,000 seat arena with energetic fans and players whose next step is not the NHL but graduate school?

Or is there room for both? What should college hockey be?

There are two distinct elements here that I think you're mixing in your post - one is about college hockey as a developmental track for the pros, and the other is about the overall economics and experience of the sport for fans.

On talent development, I don't think college hockey needs to change all that much. College offers a unique development track compared to Major Junior. As you mention, I think it has an excellent track record for developing the talent that it gets, even if it's not getting the lion's share of the overall talent. There are some great coaches and excellent programs that do a great job of not just turning blue chip prospects into NHL players, but also in taking diamonds in the rough and turning them into legit pro players.

On that level, I'm plenty happy with the talent level, the numbers of kids who stay 4 years versus those that are too talented to complete a degree - I think most coaches at the schools that get big-time talent have found a balance between the two - you don't really have a choice but to find that balance.

In terms of the economics of the sport, however, I think college hockey has no choice but to grow. I say that because the current state of the game isn't stable or sustainable. The shuffling of dominoes between the WCHA and the CCHA could very well end with the loss of a couple of programs, to say nothing of the ones we've already lost over the past decade - and these were the kinds of programs that would fit the '4,000 people in the rink watching 4-year players' mold you spoke of.

I can appreciate the sentiment for that kind of college hockey experience, but aside from places that already have an established tradition, I don't think that model is economically sustainable - and instead we'll be stuck with a college hockey universe that's slowly collapsing in on itself.

Puck Swami
05-14-2010, 01:19 PM
Blocksi is right as usual. I can add the following points:

The biggest change in getting more collegians into the NHL is when more ex-college players move into senior management of NHL teams as GMs and Director's of Player Personnel/Scouting. These guys tend to prefer what they know, and will tap their college networks, just as the Major Junior grads who run NHL teams do now in tapping their junior networks.

As for college hockey growth, the biggest tipping point will come when big brand name schools add hockey as a revenue generating sport. Title IX is an issue, but the even bigger one is financial. To do hockey right, you need a few million to start a team and millions more if you don't have a suitable facility. Once you get a big SEC school to add hockey in a big way, I think the other SEC schools will eventually follow for competitive reasons. Likewise for the Pac 10, etc. If I were Paul Kelly, I would be concentrating on those big brand name schools, and showing them the business case of how college hockey can add revenue. Frankly, the NHL should also be looking at helping start these programs to help hockey grow outside the core market.

TigerFan86-87
05-14-2010, 01:47 PM
As for college hockey growth, the biggest tipping point will come when big brand name schools add hockey as a revenue generating sport. If I were Paul Kelly, I would be concentrating on those big brand name schools, and showing them the business case of how college hockey can add revenue.
Exactly!
It always makes me scratch my head when I read threads about college hockey expansion and such a large percentage of the talk is about programs like Grand Valley State, Lindenwood, Liberty, and the like. I of all people certainly don't have a problem with D-II and D-III schools playing up in hockey. Part of the charm of the NCAA D-I hockey world (to me, at least) is that schools like Ferris State can regularly compete with Michigan, Merrimack with BC, St. Cloud with Minnesota, etc... (some better than others). However, adding more of those types of schools (while not a bad thing in and of itself) does little or nothing towards truly growing the sport nationally for interest, popularity, recognition, and genuine fan-base size. It just adds more teams.

beaverhockeyfan
05-14-2010, 01:56 PM
I remember hearing former Beaver Andrew Murray, who is now with Columbus, say once that college was the perfect route for him. You actually get to work on things in practice and then try to put them to use in a game. In Juniors, it seemed like you were always on the bus or in a game situation, so you had very little time to "hone your skills". Major Juniors would have been pretty much the same thing.

BoomGoestheDynamite
05-14-2010, 02:07 PM
Blocksi is right as usual. I can add the following points:

The biggest change in getting more collegians into the NHL is when more ex-college players move into senior management of NHL teams as GMs and Director's of Player Personnel/Scouting. These guys tend to prefer what they know, and will tap their college networks, just as the Major Junior grads who run NHL teams do now in tapping their junior networks.

As for college hockey growth, the biggest tipping point will come when big brand name schools add hockey as a revenue generating sport. Title IX is an issue, but the even bigger one is financial. To do hockey right, you need a few million to start a team and millions more if you don't have a suitable facility. Once you get a big SEC school to add hockey in a big way, I think the other SEC schools will eventually follow for competitive reasons. Likewise for the Pac 10, etc. If I were Paul Kelly, I would be concentrating on those big brand name schools, and showing them the business case of how college hockey can add revenue. Frankly, the NHL should also be looking at helping start these programs to help hockey grow outside the core market.

Perhaps you're simply dealing with hypotheticals, but I don't see either conference ever adding hockey barring some change in the grass roots component of the sport. There are a number of other mens sports these conferences would move to add before hockey. The fact is despite the growth of hockey outside its traditional markets, the actual participation rates in the West Coast and the South are miniscule.