There have been suggestions that I partake in “Fear Mongering”, after I wrote a recent article where I suggested that a number of 2000 born hockey players may have unknowingly turned their backs on the NCAA.
I will explain…..
I am not one who would want to place fear in someone’s head without facts, and so I will lay them out here.
And I apologize to anyone who I may have “blindsided” with this information…… It truly is why one needs to be so careful……
Once upon a time, there was an event, known as the Atlantic Challenge Cup. This event ran for players that were 13 years old, 14 years old, and 15 years old.
Young players from Atlantic Canada used to be placed on provincial teams by their local branches (HNS, HNB, HPEI, HNL), and gather in New Brunswick on Thanksgiving weekend, to play against each other.
In Nova Scotia (for example) the cost to participate was around $425 per player. This was a friendly little tournament, and allowed certain provincial bragging rights. It allowed players to be identified for future Hockey Canada national programs, and was part (of what was known as) the High Performance Program
In exchange for $425, players would receive some limited meals on the weekend of the Challenge Cup, and the balance went to offset the cost of the tournament (ice rental, referees, etc.).
In May of each year, there was an event known as “The CSR”, that was hosted by the QMJHL, and it was fully funded by the QMJHL. They would invite the top 120 draft prospects (approximately) to the event from Atlantic Canada and Quebec and the 18 QMJHL teams would interview the players and watch them play in advance of the Draft, and central scouting would weigh and measure them.
Each year, players who were invited to this event by the major junior league central scouting service, usually attended. Some players who did not want to play in the QMJHL did not attend, and those who were concerned that their “stock” might drop often avoided it (quite often players projected to be drafted in the first-round).
Compliance Officers at about 25% of the NCAA Division I schools would tell prospects that they mustn’t attend the CSR event if they wanted to keep their eligibility, and they relied on NCAA Rule Number 184.108.40.206, which states.
220.127.116.11 Tryout Before Enrollment – Men’s Ice Hockey and Skiing
In men’s ice hockey and skiing, a student -athlete remains eligible in a sport even though, prior to enrollment in a collegiate institution, the student-athlete may have tried out with a professional athletics team in a sport or received not more than one expense – paid visit from each professional team (or a combine including that team), provided such a visit did not exceed 48 hours and any payment or compensation in connection with the visit was not in excess of actual and necessary expenses.
The 48-hour tryout period begins at the time the individual arrives at the tryout location. At the completion of the 48 – hour period, the individual must depart the location of the tryout immediately in order to receive return transportation expenses. A tryout may extend beyond 48 hours if the individual self – finances additional expenses, including return transportation. A self –financed tryout may be for any length of time. (Revised: 12/22/08, 4/13/10 effective 8/1/10; applicable to student – athletes who initially enroll full time in a collegiate institution on or after 8/1/10)
The reason why a tryout for a major junior team is governed by this rule is that under Section 18.104.22.168.4 of the NCAA Rules, major junior teams are considered professional teams. Here is the exact wording…
22.214.171.124.4 Major Junior A Ice Hockey – Ice hockey teams in the United States and Canada, classified by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association as major junior A teams, are considered professional teams under NCAA legislation.
Now, I want to make it very clear, that in my opinion, the local provincial branches of Hockey Canada have no interest in having players go on and play NCAA hockey…., and that is okay. It is not the model that Hockey Canada has chosen to develop athletes.
There is nothing wrong with Hockey Canada’s model, but players and parents need to know that Hockey Canada, and the provincial branches, do not regard the NCAA as part of their plan or program, and so they make no apologies for not ensuring that their events are necessarily “NCAA friendly”, and so players and parents must if they wish to pursue that option.
It is up to players and parents to ensure that their best personal interests are always protected, and not left to chance, and certainly not left to those whose interests may be different than their own,
At one point, I was specifically told by an Executive Director of one of the Atlantic branches of Hockey Canada that “the Canadian model” does not include the NCAA, but rather the CHL. I was further told that he did not care about the rules of the NCAA when I talked to him about blatant disregard by a junior league under his auspices for those rules. His exact words were, “I don’t give a damn”…., as he slammed the door…… and told me to “get off my high horse”…..
Major junior teams are businesses first and foremost, and would like the most control and have the best players possible at their disposal (and why wouldn’t they). I say there is nothing wrong with that. Hockey is their business, and they are in the business of competing among themselves…. but also competing with the NCAA for players. In business one does what one needs to do to get the competitive advantage.
Perhaps a 4 day event that is touted as “provincial pride” is a convenient way to have players quietly removed from the radars of other options. How would a player know if he was quietly dropped from a “watch list” because of it.
In Atlantic Canada, there used to be two distinct events for 15 year olds. One, most players attended, and one event, some did not.
Fast forward 3 short years, and there is no longer a “Challenge Cup” in Atlantic Canada for 15 year old make players. There is still a Atlantic Challenge Cup event for 13 year olds and 14 year olds, and there is now also an event for 12 year olds.
The word “Challenge” is now used (for 15 year olds) by an event that most refer to as the “Q” Combine, but is really known as the Gatorade Excellence Challenge. The event website is no longer hosted on a branch website, but rather on the QMJHL website (see http://theqmjhl.ca/excellence-challenge/)
One used to apply to participate in the old Challenge Cup for 15 year olds in Nova Scotia, and you still do for all the other age groups, but today players are invited (by someone).
Last year, the QMJHL put out a press release that stated “The QMJHL launches third Gatorade Excellence Challenge”, and in their own words the article claims that “120 of the top prospects for the next entry draft will participate in the event competing in 6 teams. Each Maritime province will be represented (New Brunswick, Newfoundland / Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) while Quebec will participate with two different teams”.
Exact same format as the old CSR Event, hosted by the QMJHL, in the same location, on the same weelend.
On January 29th, Hockey New Brunswick put out a press release that stated, “Team New Brunswick Announced For QMJHL Gatorade Excellence Challenge”. There is no mistake that this event is run by the QMJHL as a combine event in advance of the upcoming midget entry draft.
The players were tested and weighed and measured by QMJHL Central Scouting officials at the event, and player interviews were conducted by major junior team scouting staff at the event.
So after speaking to a number of NCAA coaches, who were discussing the situation at the most recent American Hockey Coach Association meeting in Florida at the beginning of last month, and after speaking to many compliance officers who told me that this infractions would likely be seen as serious,….., I wrote the article. The result was that I had people call me…. and write me….. and call me names…..
It does not change the facts.
And the facts include that the decision to recruit one of the players is solely in the hands of the college coach, who will make that decision on his own, and behind closed doors (like all his other decisions as to whether a player fits into his program or not)….. we’ll never know the reasons for his decision. The coach needs to decide whether the risk is high, or not.
It is not up to us to debate. It will be the Infractions Committee of the NCAA who will need to answer that question.
According to the rule, a visit (unless self-financed) must not exceed 48 hours and any payment or compensation in connection with the visit must not be in excess of actual and necessary expenses (if the event is under 48 hours in length).
The Gatorade Excellance Challenge tournament, itself was a minimum of 4 days in length, plus time for other event particulars (weigh in, interviews, etc.). Including travel time, the team from Nova Scotia was gone for over a week.
The old format cost $425. The new event cost $675. The difference is $250 per player.
In the old days, for Team Nova Scotia (for example) each of the two events would involve 3 nights stay in a hotel. At one event, parents paid and at one event the QMJHL paid.
This year, for $250 extra dollars (more than that paid in the old days), players received 8 nights in a hotel, bus transportation to Quebec, and 8 days of food.
We checked with three bus companies, and the price would have been anywhere between $15,000 and $18,313 for bus expense for the event. Hotel rooms for 20 players would have cost a minimum of $7,000. Food Cost would have been on top of that.
The actual and necessary cost for each team would have exceeded $25,000, and simple math would dictate that participating players would not have paid for the actual and necessary expenses, being necessary because the event was longer than 48 hours in duration.
As another NCAA rule, players may not try out with a professional team in a sport or permit a professional team to conduct medical examinations during the academic year (including vacation periods) while a player is enrolled as a full time student.
Did you know that? And people are saying that I am “fear mongering”……
Our firm has prepared a document which we are submitting to the NCAA for consideration, explaining how some players may have been unwittingly caught up in a situation that was disguised as “Provincial Pride”, although they did know that it was the “Q” Combine (as everyone refers to it).
As the a family advisor who is a member of the American Hockey Coaches Association, we are also going to lobby that group, which is comprised of almost every college hockey coach, to take a stand in support of the young players.
Unfortunately, with college athletics, ignorance of the rules is not seen as an excuse, as many recent decisions will support. Remember the movie, “The Blindside”, and how stringent the NCAA Rules are enforced byy their compliance personnel.
It’s real…… and for players that are not careful, “it’s reality”…….
You see, I am not simply “fear mongering”, I have spoken of the real facts, and am taking steps to try to fix this injustice.
Where it will become very interesting is how players who wish to keep the future options alive for the possibility of playing NCAA hockey in the future.
Remember…. NCAA Rule 126.96.36.199 states; In men’s ice hockey, a student -athlete remains eligible in a sport even though, prior to enrollment in a collegiate institution, the student-athlete may have tried out with a professional athletics team in a sport or received not more than one expense – paid visit from each professional team (or a combine including that team), provided such a visit did not exceed 48 hours and any payment or compensation in connection with the visit was not in excess of actual and necessary expenses…… and I am going to suggest that the NCAA Infractions Committee does not take this sort of stiff lightly. They will not “brush it aside:, and that is what future teams need to worry about.
In this newsletter, I have included some articles regarding some of the harsh decisions handed down by the NCAA for infractions that you or I would seem to be minor, but they cost the affected programs and athletes dearly.
Most 15 year old players who still wish to keep their NCAA eligibility usually still attend a Main Camp of the major junior franchise (who drafts them) for 48 hours at the team’s expense and not play any exhibition games, not sign anything, and not accept anythin
If, at some point we can help get the NCAA Cabinet to rule that in this particular case, players may have been innocent victims and may be allowed to participate upon appeal by the potential respective college teams, under Rule 188.8.131.52, because they have already received this benefit from a team (or a combine including that team)…., will they accept the opportunity to attend an expense paid Fall Main Camp, at the risk of being in violation of the rule again?
Wishing you all a great week, I remain,
David MacDonald, SPAD
Hockey Family Advisor