With Major Junior (CHL/WHL/OHL/QMJHL) Tryouts beginning within the next week, I have been bombarded with questions from readers, and so I present some of the important information regarding the common areas that players and families most often find themselves in conflict with.
A quick rule of thumb with regards to the NCAA eligibility rules and the ability to retain one’s NCAA playing eligibility:
1) Do NOT let the CHL/WHL/OHL/QMJHL pay for ANYTHING…. (including for family and/or friends)….
2) Do NOT accept anything for FREE – Equipment, sticks, hats, tickets etc… (including for family and/or friends)….
3) Do NOT play an official Game, exhibition OR Regular Season (Inter-squad is fine)
4) Do NOT sign any CONTRACT or Paperwork EVER
5) Do NOT use the services of an AGENT or an UNPAID FAMILY ADVISOR
If you carefully follow these ‘protocols’ you will likely not have to worry about the status of your NCAA eligibility. That being said, a number of these prohibitions are and can be GREY areas.
If you break any of these rules, don’t be surprised if someone ensures that the information finds its way into the hands of the officials of the NCAA.
Can you go to a prospect or tryout camp for free? Of course, as long as there isn’t a paper trail that can be sent to someone that shows that you have received any benefit not allowed under the rules.
In hockey terms, as long as you don’t play during an official game in which official stats and rosters are recorded, you will be OK!
DO NOT let the major junior hockey club pay for the hotel or give out any form of per diem.
Receiving a Team Hat isn’t 100% forbidden, but its a grey area, so why put yourself at risk?
If the players get food as a group, that’s more or less ok… but only during the first 48 hours….
The point is to NOT put yourself in a vulnerable situation. Following those 5 rules (above) can provide you with a certain peace of mind.
None of this may seem fair or reasonable, but the NCAA sets the rules.
If you want to keep the NCAA path as an option, you have to play by their rules. You need to realize that the WHL/OHL/QMJHL teams will do their best to get your rights secured in any way possible, and I have seen some very crafty methods that some teams have used to ensure that young players will never play NCAA hockey, including “having their physio-therapy clinic look at an injury” or “having our team dentist fit him for a mouthguard”, etc.
Here are the official NCAA guidelines:
ATHLETIC ELIGIBILITY – A. Amateurism
What is amateurism?
In order to compete in the NCAA student-athletes must be classified as “amateurs” by the NCAA. To remain an “amateur” you cannot compete or sign a contract with a professional team, accept money or gifts for athletic ability, retain the services of an agent, or receive money for educational expenses based on athletic ability.In order to compete in the NCAA student-athletes must be classified as “amateurs” by the NCAA. To remain an “amateur” you cannot compete or sign a contract with a professional team, accept money or gifts for athletic ability, retain the services of an agent, or receive money for educational expenses based on athletic ability.
How many years of athletic eligibility do I have to compete in NCAA athletics?
You have 4 years of athletic eligibility in the NCAA.
B. Major Junior (WHL, OHL, QMJHL)
Can I play games in major junior and still be eligible to compete in the NCAA?
The NCAA considers major junior hockey to be professional hockey. Therefore student-athletes who compete in Major Junior jeopardize some or all of their NCAA athletic eligibility.
Student-athletes will lose all athletic eligibility to compete in NCAA Division I hockey if they:
– compete in any major junior game after their expected date of high school graduation, or
– sign a contract (“WHL/OHL/QMJHL Player Agreement”) with a major junior team
Student athletes will lose some athletic eligibility to compete in NCAA Division I hockey if they:
– compete in any major junior game before their expected date of high school graduation, without signing a contract, or
– attend a major junior training camp for more than 48 hours while having their expenses covered by the major junior team
The only opportunity that a player has to compete in major junior and still retain NCAA athletic eligibility is to play an exhibition game before graduation without signing a player agreement. Any other competition in major junior. or using teh services of an agent or unpaid family advisor, will lead to the loss of all NCAA athletic eligibility.
Can I tryout for teams in major junior and still be eligible to compete in the NCAA?
Before enrollment in a NCAA university an athlete can:
– Tryout for any length of time, but not compete against outside opponents, with a major junior or other professional hockey team at your own expense
– Receive one expense paid tryout with a major junior team as long as it does not exceed 48 hours
Note that during a tryout, an individual may not take part in any outside competition (games or scrimmages) as a representative of that major junior team.
Does the major junior rule apply to Division II and III?
Although the rule varies slightly between divisions, competition at the major junior level jeopardizes eligibility to compete in all NCAA divisions. For more specific information concerning how the rule is applied to Division I and II visit www.ncaa.org.
Anyways, I hope that this information helps clarify some of the rules.
As I have mentioned many times, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding on certain paths….. just having the knowledge of what may lie ahead if one decides to undertake certain decisions along the way is important. You will notice in this issue of our newsletter that we have placed several NCAA articles within it, just to ensure that players have those options at the top of their mind as they make important decisions.
I always recommend that players should keep all options open for as long as possible.
And if (and when) it comes time to consider negotiating the terms of an agreement with a major junior team, what are the important things to ask for?
If you believe we can help with upcoming decisions, or provide any second sober thought, or help level the negotiation table at a crucial moment, please do not hesitate to write or call me at 1-866-577-1234.