By Mr. G
For more than 100 years, college hockey has been a breeding ground for outstanding hockey players and people. Today college hockey players make a bigger impact in the NHL than they ever have, with more than 30% of the league in 2011-12 coming from the U.S. college ranks.
NCAA hockey is made up 59 member schools (D-1) across six conferences: Atlantic Hockey, Big Ten, ECAC Hockey, Hockey East, NCHC and the WCHA. The member teams range as far west as Alaska and as far south as Alabama.
There are a number of reasons to consider the college hockey path:
-Pro Opportunities: From Martin St. Louis to Jonathan Quick, college hockey consistently produces NHL stars and its presence in the league continues to grow.
-Player Development: With its style of play, emphasis on practice and opportunity for strength and conditioning, college hockey provides an unparalleled environment for player development.
–Education: Some of the finest institutions in the world offer college hockey, providing young players exposure to elite educational programs while pursuing their hockey careers.
–Student Life: The off-ice experience of life on campus, surrounded by fellow students in a supportive environment, is unmatched and often considered the best time of a person’s life.
–Special Events: Holiday tournaments, conference championships, outdoor games, the Beanpot and the NCAA Frozen Four provide college hockey players the opportunity to play in intense, high-profile special events.-
–History: With traditions unique to each school and a history that traces back to the 1800s, today’s college hockey players carry on a proud legacy.
College Hockey, Inc. believes there is no better place to build your skills than college hockey. That said we know young hockey players face difficult choices, and we hope this site helps answer questions you may have about such subjects as:
–Recruiting: The college recruiting process can be exciting, nerve-wracking and – sometimes – confusing. We provide some background.
–NCAA Eligibility: To play college hockey it’s important to succeed both athletically and academically. Find out what it takes to maintain your academic eligiblity.
–FAQ: We offer answers to many other common questions about recruiting, major junior, advisors and more.
Every Friday and Saturday night during the college hockey season, teams play in college arenas full of hyped-up fellow students, friends, family members and fans. Thousands of fans sing their school fight song after every goal. School spirit creates an atmosphere not experienced anywhere else in the world.
Those are memories college hockey players carry into their NHL careers and beyond. And all terrific reasons to Play It Smart. Play College Hockey.
Top 10 Recruiting Tips
Our very best advice when trying to attract a college coach’s attention.
It’s incredibly hard to make an NCAA Division I hockey team, and the deciding factor in landing one of those coveted positions typically comes down to your hockey ability. That said, there are a number of things young players and parents can do to catch the eye – and the interest – of college recruiters.
Here are 10 ways you can help your cause at the rink, in the classroom and beyond:
1. Be Proactive
College coaches are limited in when and how often they can contact recruits, and they can’t reach out to a player until after his 10th grade year. Players, however, can contact coaches at any time. It can help to let a school know that you are interested with a reminder of where they can see you play. See More: Writing a Winning Hockey Resume
2. Be Studious
The better your grades and standardized test scores, the more options you will have. Only 59 schools offer Division I men’s hockey – you don’t want to narrow your field further because your marks aren’t up to par.
3. Be Aware of Eligibility Requirements
Two key elements are part of determining a student-athlete’s NCAA eligibility: their academic achievement and their amateur status. Review the requirements at eligibilitycenter.org to understand what classes and standardized test you need to take. Don’t jeopardize your amateur status by signing a CHL contract or playing in a game.
4. Be a Character Player
Coaches constantly have to make tough recruiting decisions between equally talented players. What often breaks the tie is what they can see of a players’ character in a game. Is he a good teammate? How does he respond to a bad shift, or a bad call? Always assume that someone’s watching you – they probably are.
5. Be Committed to Improving
Many young players get wrapped up in playing every showcase event that they can. Coaches recognize, however, that development comes in practice, not games. Instead of signing up for every showcase, spend time working on a part of your game that has room for improvement – then show off those skills when you are back in the spotlight.
6. Be Consistent
Colleges have three coaches each who can watch recruits – they don’t employ scouts. Therefore, they can’t be at every game and they may see you on an off night. Do your best to give a consistent effort and rest assured, they see recruits multiple times before making any decisions.
7. Be Our Guest
The best way to find out whether a school is right for you is to take what’s called an unofficial visit (official visits are paid for by the school and only available once you are in 12th grade). An unofficial visit can allow you to see the campus, tour the facilities and even take in a game. Reach out to the coaching staff before you go and let them know you’ll be on campus. See More: The Benefits of Unofficial Visits
8. Be Inquisitive
As much as coaches want to find the right fits for their programs, they want to be sure their recruits are comfortable where they end up as well. They want to hear recruits asking questions – insightful questions – of the coaching staff, players, professors and others around their program.
9. Be a Supportive Parent
Never forgotten in this process are the parents and their significant role. It shouldn’t be too significant, however. Your son should be the one writing letters and reaching out to coaches. Coaches want to know that it’s the player’s ambition, not their parents’. Be supportive but not overbearing – coaches have to be sure they want you in their program for four years as well.
10. Be Patient
The last – and often hardest – piece of advice is to be patient. The recruiting process takes time, and prospective student-athletes can commit to schools anywhere from 15 years old to 21. Don’t get frustrated if you aren’t one of those select few who get an offer while playing minor midget hockey. Follow these other nine steps and the recruiting process can be a rewarding, exciting experience.
NCAA College Hockey vs. CHL Major Junior
Talented college hockey players face a choice at a young age as to where to pursue their dreams – two paths that can both lead to the NHL, but have a number of differences between them.
On one hand is college hockey, more specifically the 59 teams that make up NCAA Division I. On the other is major junior, or the 60 teams in the OHL, QMJHL and WHL that make up the Canadian Hockey League (CHL).
“That debate’s always going to be there,” said Ron Wilson, longtime USA Hockey and NHL head coach and a former player at Providence College. “I think the chances of playing in the NHL are just as great playing college hockey as they are playing junior.”
With that in mind, here are a few things for players and parents facing that choice to consider:
Because the CHL includes players who have signed professional contracts, the NCAA considers it a professional league. Therefore, players who have played a game – even an exhibition game – in the CHL are deemed ineligible for NCAA competition.
There are paths to have NCAA eligibility reinstated for players who have played a limited number of CHL games, but they are not guaranteed and must be initiated by an NCAA school.
A big reason college hockey is producing more than 30% of all NHL players is its success in player development. That stems from a number of factors:
Coaching and training staffs: College coaches are dedicated to their players and helping them achieve their fullest potential. Staffs include assistant coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers and equipment managers who give players the ideal environment to improve.
Facilities: College facilities are first-class and constantly being constructed or renovated to meet the needs of the student-athletes. College facilities typically include weight rooms, video rooms, hydrotherapy tubs and other features to help development such as off-ice shooting bays.
Practices and conditioning: The college schedule of approximately 40 games allows three or four days per week to focus on practice and off-ice conditioning work. Practice – with players getting more ice time and having the puck on their stick – has proven to be a much better environment for talent development than games. The additional time in the weight room allows players to add significant weight in muscle during their college careers.
Intense games: With fewer, more meaningful games, college hockey is intense and hard- fought. Alums often marvel at the intensity of their college games relative to their pro experience.
Older competition: College hockey features players ages 18-24, rather than 16-20 in major junior hockey. That older, faster, stronger competition helps players elevate their games.
Additional time: Since college players can remain in school until graduation – as opposed to having to sign pro contracts at 20, like major junior players – they have more time to develop. That allows players like Chris Kreider to jump right from college into the NHL, and also gives players who may not be ready at 20 more time to pursue their hockey dreams in a development system.
“In a word, maturity,” Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said of what he sees from former college players. “On-the-ice maturity. You get a player that’s had longer to develop physically and mentally.”
College hockey is played at some of the finest institutions in the world, and the NCAA model allows student-athletes to progress toward their degree while pursuing their hockey dreams at the same time.
While the CHL’s education program has made strides in recent years, it comes with restrictions that families need to consider. Expenses covered can be limited and packages can be eliminated if players sign certain pro contracts or fail to begin pursuit of their education in a certain timeframe.
A recent NCAA study showed that 88% of men’s hockey players earn their degree. Published reports have shown that fewer than 20% of major junior players go on to earn their degrees.
College students – not just hockey players – often call their time on campus the best years of their life. NHLers who played in the NCAA are no exception.
The ability to socialize with thousands of other students the same age, to make lifelong friendships and to live on their own makes for a great experience, and prepares college hockey players to be more mature when they move on from school.