However, the NCAA holds minor athletes accountable for decisions they make, as early teens.
The road to a professional hockey career has traditionally been via the CHL in Canada, and the NCAA and the USHL (and/or other North American Junior leagues) in the United States.
Players have to make very important decisions, as young as 15-16 years of age, regarding which route that they are going to take, if they hope to eventually play professional hockey.
If they make a decision to pursue the CHL route, they later cannot decide to play NCAA hockey, if the CHL path does not work out for them.
The CHL is a league in which young players are paid a small stipend.
Therefore, it is regarded, by the NCAA, as a professional hockey league, and so players who have participated with a CHL team (even in an exhibition game) are disqualified from future NCAA eligibility.
This is regardless if they ever personally received any money or benefits, or not.
To remain an amateur, according to the NCAA, a player must never have received any benefits that would not be available to the general population.
He must never have signed an agreement to play professional hockey (or for a league which is regarded as being professional by the NCAA).
He must never have used the services of “an agent”.
I will repeat this again, He must never have used the services of an agent.
An agent, is not defined by what title he has printed on his business card, or how he introduced himself to you. It is defined by what he does, and how he goes about receiving compensation.
NCAA Amateurism standards for hockey players are opposed to the standards of law.
In many cases, these decisions may have been made at the time that the player was a minor, but they will still effect the player’s ability to play NCAA hockey in the future.
Last week, I was talking to the father of a 15 year old client who told me that other players on his son’s hockey team have entered an agreement with a person who calls himself an “advisor”, and who has not charged them any fees.
He told me that the verbal agreement with his son’s teammates is such that they will only pay if the players eventually play professional hockey.
He told me that this “advisor” is currently talking to various OHL teams on behalf of these players.
He also told me of another player, who the same advisor is supposed to be talking to OHL teams on behalf of, in an attempt to get one interested in him in the upcoming entry draft.
The player, and his family, believes that there is no formal agreement, and that this fellow is simply being nice.
The truth is that just being aware that someone is marketing your athletic abilities (even though no official agreement has been entered into), is enough to disqualify a player from being able to play NCAA hockey.
He also told me that in both cases, the players are interested in playing in the NCAA, if they do not get drafted by an OHL team.
This is the job of a proper advisor: in this example, to help the player make an informed decision, based on the likelihood of a long career playing in the OHL, not on the long-shot of simply getting drafted.
He said that the “advisor” had told these players that entering an agreement with him would not harm their NCAA eligibility, so long as there was nothing in writing.
Why should you ever be afraid to put something in writing?
That suggestion, alone, should indicate, that something is wrong.
In one case, the parents of the player had signed a written agreement, but the agent told them that it would be “okay” as long as there was nothing signed with the player.
In the same discussion, this father told me of four other players whom this “advisor” took to dinner, in an attempt to talk them into becoming clients.
My response to him was, “the good news is that your son now has less competition to worry about for an NCAA spot…., the bad news is that your friends will never play NCAA hockey….
NCAA Bylaw 12.3.1 (General Rule) states that an individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate sport if he or she ever has agreed (orally or in writing) to be represented by an agent for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation in that sport.
NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 (Representation for Future Negotiations) indicates that an individual shall be ineligible per Bylaw 12.3.1 if he or she enters into a verbal or written agreement with an agent for representation in future professional sports negotiations that are to take place after the individual has completed his or her eligibility in that sport.
NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206 (Benefits from Prospective Agents) states that an individual shall be ineligible per Bylaw 12.3.1 if he or she (or his or her relatives or friends) accepts transportation or other benefits from: a. Any person who represents any individual in the marketing of his or her athletics ability. The receipt of such expenses constitutes compensation based on athletics skill and is an extra benefit not available to the student body in general.
Benefits are all encompassing, and include such things as representation, transportation, meals, practice time, gym memberships, etc.
In the case of these players, the fact that they did not pay this agent, other than possibly in the future (at the time they signed a professional contract) violates NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11 (Representation for Future Negotiations).
The fact that this agent bought dinner for players, is a violation of NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168 (Benefits from Prospective Agents).
Unfortunately, these tactics are often used by unscrupulous individuals to entrap clients.
I want to make it very clear that there are excellent agents, who explain the ramification of every decision, on their client’s future options, and then allow the client, and his parents, to decide what is best.
This discussion, should include absolute honesty, given the player’s unique set of circumstances, and his chances of success through each path, based on his competent professional advise and experience, and not just “hype”.
An agent’s business is a “numbers game”, and it is often in their best interest to have lots of clients with limited options, for various reasons.
Some agents will often identify 5-6 young hockey players (from a team) who may eventually be able to get paid to play hockey (if even for $200 per week), and they target these players to ensure that they become ineligible from college hockey, for a number of reasons.
In some cases, these individuals are chasing 100+ hockey players, all of the same birth year (different teams). They hope that one or two work out for them (meaning that perhaps they will sign a serious professional contract)
They will often initially talk to players about keeping their options open, while misleading them into believing that working with them (the agent) will still enable them to keep their NCAA options available to them (as in the above examples).
They will often speak of enabling kids to get on the ice training with their stars, at no or little cost, or at the gym, trying to impress them.
These are benefits, which would make a player ineligible for NCAA play.
A couple of years ago, we were asked to help a player who had practiced with professional players during the summer vacation, at no cost, which had been set up through his “advisor”.
This player had a $250,000 valued athletic scholarship to play Division I college hockey, and he could not get cleared through the NCAA Eligibility Centre because the NCAA final clearance investigation had showed that he had received benefits, based on his hockey skills (free practice time).
We spent several weeks with this player involved in this situation, and were eventually able to recommend a satisfactory resolution for the team, but it was a very stressful period for all involved.
As an advisor, I am always looking out for the best interest of our clients. See our Code of Ethics at https://hockeyfamilyadvisor.com/code-of-ethics/
In too many cases, some agents are not looking out for the best interests of those, with whom they have purportedly entered a relationship to protect.
Some agents say that everything will be okay, because no one will know (about the relationship) if there is nothing in writing. As stated, NCAA Bylaw 12.3.1 states that an individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate sport if he or she ever has agreed (orally or in writing) to be represented by an agent for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation in that sport.
I am often amazed by the number of people who will contact us, after using the services of an agent, and not having success, who tell us that it’s okay because “there was never anything put in writing, and so no one knows”.
I then ask what that individual was doing on behalf of the player, and they will tell me that they were making calls and talking to coaches about them.
My response is usually that both statements cannot be true. Either people know, or they don’t know.
Obviously, if the latter is true, then the person has not met expectations (which might be the reason why they then are calling for our help). Of course, the player has gotten what he has paid for (nothing or very little).
Often, agents do not want kids to go to college, because that may delay a pay cheque for them for 4-5 years, with risk of injury, or a change in career direction, and so often the two parties’ interests do not align.
An individual is not required to be an NHLPA certified agent to be regarded as an agent by the NCAA. One does not need to call himself an agent to be regarded as an agent, by the NCAA.
A person is regarded as an agent, based on his method of charging (or not charging) his clients for services performed, and by his professional activities on behalf of his clients.
According to NCAA Bylaw 12.02.1, an agent is any individual who, directly or indirectlt:
- Represents or attempts to represent an individual for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation for financial gain; or\
- Seeks to obtain any type of financial gain or benefit fromsecuring a prospective student-athlete’s potential earnings as a professional athlete.
Often, agents will have a hundred+ players in “their stable” of the same birth year.
As time goes by, these unscrupulous agents will work hard on behalf of the one or two who may show terrific future returns, and not return the calls of the others….., as they pursue the next year’s crop of young athletes…., and weed out those who show little promise.
We are aware of some midget coaches who receive a kickback for introductions to agents and teams, and often attend the dinners and social settings that would make their athletes ineligible for future NCAA play.
In some cases, these coaches are acting as agents, according to the NCAA (although there is no formal agreement with the player), because of quiet kickbacks that they will receive.
We are aware of some individuals who receive a small fee for providing advice (trying to get around the rules), but then enter an agreement to receive a larger future benefit, should the player later play professional hockey.
In writing or verbal, these agreements are not permissible, and it will be the athlete who will be left in the position of having to possibly tell a lie about this arrangement, and possibly under oath.
The agent will never be left in the position to tell a lie. Remember, he does not exist, The onus will be left to the player to tell the truth.
In the above scenarios, and the agent will have no relationship with the NCAA.
We are aware of these agreements existing . The NCAA is, as well.
Often, these players are automatically discounted by colleges as potential players, because the colleges know that they will have difficulty passing the final Clearinghouse process.
We recently had a player contact us about playing NCAA hockey.
Upon asking a few coaches why that player was being overlooked, they explained that it was because of complications they identified as potential hassles with the NCAA, and the fact that they did not want to have to deal with those.
The player would not have even been aware of those complications.
The majority of midget and junior players who believe that they are still eligible to play in the NCAA, unfortunately, are not.
Some will have received an NCAA Eligibility Registration Number, and believe that that means that they have been cleared.
It is not until the Final Clearance, as 20-21 year olds, that often these amateurism infractions are uncovered and athletes are turned down.
Every year, at this time of year, as we are talking to colleges on behalf of our clients, we are informed that they are still awaiting a particular player to be cleared to play.
Every year, NCAA spots open up fpr 20 year olds, because someone didn’t make it through the Final Clearance. This is usually because of Amateurism issues, like the ones described
Often players with NCAA Registration Numbers are rejected by colleges who do their advance screenings, and they will never know why they were not selected by an NCAA team.
Most often it is because of a decision that they made as a young teenager that they believed would actually put them closer to their eventual dream, but it has taken them further from it.
In some cases, we can suggest strategies to repair broken dreams, and in some cases there are noney.
So many young players have given up so much while chasing the dream. Through simple ignorance, often they are left with shattered dreams.
How about you?