February 20, 2012 PRINT Bookmark and Share

COMMENTARY: Kelly's Resignation Not Cause For Alarm

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

The Internet blew up today after it was announced that College Hockey Inc. chief Paul Kelly resigned. But there is very little to be alarmed about.

If John Doe had resigned from the same position, the move would have elicited little more than a yawn. It's a big deal because everyone in hockey knows Paul Kelly. The position itself is not ultimately powerful enough to get alarmed over his resignation — which is ultimately the likely reason why he resigned in the first place. College hockey will be the same with or without him — which is not necessarily a good thing, but it is the truth.

Kelly did about as well as he could do, but college hockey still has many challenges whether it has a big "name" at the head of its marketing arm or not.

And this is not a knock on Paul Kelly whatsoever. He most certainly did his best. But there's only so much he can do, and only so much the next person can do.

Kelly was named the first Executive Director of the new organization in November 2009. The organization was created as a way for college hockey to market the sport and educate potential student-athletes on its benefits, particularly vis-a-vis the Canadian Major Junior system. Getting Kelly was seen as a coup because of Kelly's "name" factor, coming off his stint as head of the NHL Players Association.

But would the position really have been non-credible without the name recognition? What Kelly brought was pizazz, not necessarily efficiency.

Ultimately, there is nothing that the next Executive Director can't do that Kelly was doing, and for a lot less money. The position does not demand someone of high name-recogition. It demands someone who can get in the trenches, travel around, educate and market college hockey. That is what Kelly was doing, but so can many other people. What College Hockey Inc. needs is a good recruiter, not a good lawyer. What's Grant Standbrook up to?

The timing seems odd, but dollars to donuts there has been talk of changing the nature or emphasis of the position, and Kelly saw the writing on the wall. (Note: Later reports indicate Kelly was pushed out after he'd used an end around to seek more authority, which certainly plays right into what we're saying here.)

There were times that Kelly acted as though the position was more than it was, although this may have just been for public appearances. The reality is, the head of College Hockey Inc. isn't really in charge of anything. College Hockey Inc. does not have the authority to make any major decisions. That's not really its purpose.

Writers who don't understand, particularly those north of the border, would speculate with Kelly on conference re-alignment, new programs being added to Division I, and what could be done to change recruiting rules — not understanding that Kelly didn't have one iota of authority to do any of that.

Kelly, obviously, knew that too, but the lack of authority likely frustrated him, just as it's bound to do to anyone caught up in the NCAA machine.

So if the position doesn't have that kind of authority, its only use is in marketing and education. You don't need a big-name, hockey-guy lawyer to do that job.

This is an opportunity now for the Hockey Commissioners Association to re-tool things, re-assess what exactly is needed out of the position to make it as efficient as possible, and not worry about the name recognition. There is only so much someone in that position can do, but there probably are better fits out there.

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